Friday, 20 July 2012

The Other Las Vegas

In Florida they have a campaign for the natural areas of Florida, the places away from all the Disney Style theme parks.  They call it The Other Florida.  Well the Nevada Tourism Commission needs to steal the idea and play up The Other Las Vegas, which is 25 miles in every direction of The Strip.  There are mountains and dessert scrub and birds galore.  On Tuesday, I spent the morning birding The Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve where I was welcomed. once again, by the ever present Verdins, and picked up two new species for the year: Yellow-headed Blackbird, a summer resident, but one that is not often seen, and the Abert's Towhee.  Oh, and lots of American Avocets, Coots - young and old - and 4 White-faced Ibis!  I did miss out on seeing what was supposed to be an easy bird, a Crissal Thrasher.

From there it is a short drive to the maze-like Wetlands Park, where, once again, I got lost - due to lack of signage,(something they say they will correct) - in 95 degree heat, but also was able to easily hear and eventually find a Yellow-breasted Chat.  In fact, at times it seemed as though I was surrounded by them, a symphony of their beautiful calls in 3D stereo sound, better than anything Dolby could ever produce.  The place was ripe with birds, but in early afternoon most were hard to see, but one Chat did alight atop a tree,(I like how that sounds), and I was able to get a photo, though it wasn't doing it's usual call,(not that you'd know that from the photo).  Seems these guys also are quite clever and skilled at imitating other bird calls, which is unusual for warblers.

I then drove out toward Mount Charleston, 25 miles north of Las Vegas and drove up to Corn Creek, over a very bumpy, gravely road that was making my brain bounce around in my head, and if you know anything about me, I do not need anymore brain bouncing!  I did remember an episode of Mythbusters where they tested the myth that driving fast over a bumpy road actually makes the drive smoother.


At Corn Creek Natural Wildlife Area I birded in absolute isolation, as the place looked to be deserted, except for a small cabin in the woods that looked like it belonged to some Survivalist and there was no way I was knocking on the door and having the next "Uni-bomber" greet me in his fatigues with an uzi in his arms.

That not withstanding I walked the short loop about half a dozen times picking up new birds on each loop including two new birds for the year: Broad Tailed Hummingbird and the coolest find of the day, a Western Tanager, while I was actually stalking a different bird, I never did identify.  The Tanager landed in a tree and I was able to get photos.  Reminded me of a scene in The Big Year, when the character played by Jack Black hears one and then falls to the ground chasing it for a photograph.  I understood his excitement.  On my last loop I finally found an American Roadrunner in Nevada, after missing it on my last trip.

I spent the rest of the day, prior to heading to the airport, up at Spring Mountain where the temperature dropped from 95 to 67 as I drove to 8000 feet above sea level.  I saw lots of Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, and heard what were probably Mountain Chickadees, but never laid my eyes on one to confirm it.  I did find an Olive-sided Flycatcher near the entrance to the Lower Bristlecone Trailhead, bumping my total for the year to 452!  My other miss on the mountain were Western Bluebirds that had also been reported in the area.  All in all, I would say Nevada is an under birded, birders paradise and more birders should include it on their western swings.

Here, now, random pictures of the day, including Yellow-headed Blackbird,(both male and female), White-faced Ibis, Yellow-breated Chat, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Abert's Towhee and Western Tanager and Olive-sided Flycatcher:

Abert's Towhee

American Avocet

Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Eared Grebe:

White-faced Ibis


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