Two full days birding

So my working week came to an end and two full days of birding lay ahead, time to search for target birds. I wanted to visit a wetland, in the desert right! and I wanted to try for the montane species found in the area that I`d not seen, White-headed Woodpecker, Williamson`s Sapsucker and Mountain Quail. Anything else was a bonus although I expected to pick up Sage Thrasher somewhere while out in the Sage Brush wastes. It has to be said, July is not the month to be searching for many of these species – apart perhaps during the first couple of hours of the day and then with a huge slice of luck.

Saturday 14th July I headed east out of Reno as far as Fallon and the Springwater Wetlands. I was perhaps too early and had to wait while the sun came up before seeing birds along a 16 mile long rough track called Fort Churchill Road. The birding was pretty good at times and I added a few species to the trip list but no Sage Brush species. I checked out a few water areas which were heavily used by boaters and water skiiers which naturally kept the birds away. One small bay that was not infested turned out to be pretty good and I got fairly close to a Clark`s Grebe which was napping. I eventually got to Springwater to find it pretty dry. The draught which is affecting many places has resulted in reduced snowfall and therefore less water feeding into the various riparian corridors. I did find a few small lakes, the most interesting of which had 100+ Wilson`s Phalaropes on. As I was leaving I came upon a fellow birder with a flat tire. I pitched in and helped change it and was rewarded with finding a tree nearby containing eight Common Nighthawks, I`d have missed the photo op if I hadn`t stopped.

The day was pretty reasonable, no ticks but good birding and a few dragonflies, which was nice. Later that night my emails had sopmething from the Nevada Yahoo group. Meg, the lady who`d had the flat had checked her regular Sage Thrasher site and scored, she gave me excellent directions and so that was to be my first priority the next day. She also saw a few things that I didn`t and so we must have visited different bits of the preserve. it is a big place, about a quarter the size of Nottinghamshire!

The next day I had to choose between Lake Tahoe, where I`d already been for a quick look and decided that it was a very scenic version of the M25, also, the information that one of the roads was `clinging high above the lake, dynamited out of the sheer rock`made the choice easy, go to Yuba Pass in the Sierra range, albeit in California. I was out early again and followed Meg`s directions straight to a Sage Thrasher. Now my eye was in I was to see about ten more during the day but the first is always the best unless you are talking cars and you first car was a Fiat Uno!

Sandra and I have a Megellan Roadblind SatNav which we call Maggie. She appears to be the embodiment of a 90 year old spinster with the map upside down sometimes but gets us from A to B, often unexpectedly visiting C, G, N and P in the process. She also cannot see some things that have been there many years, like Bassett`s Station motel and eaterie, my first stop. I found it by accident and cursing and had a good look at the only hummer feeders for 100 miles, or so it seemed. I saw my target, the diminutive Calliope Hummingbird straight away, time for a hearty breakfast. Next was Yuba Pass itself with a few roadside stops on the way. It was warming up by now and I had more or less resigned myself to a no woodpecker day, I was right. To cut the story shorter, I checked a lot of places and saw some nice mountain birds including a lifer Prairie Falcon but peckers, nope. I dropped down into a nearby vast basin and birded the area, it contained a nice wetland and some hillside scrub and kept me busy for a couple of hours. Some of the birds were quite cooperative, others not so. I had hoped to check Frenchman`s Lake for the sapsucker, campers only when I got there I`afraid and I`m not mincing for anyone. I also checked a river valley that I`d, because of Maggie`s eccentricities I`d passed earlier. I looked for Lewis`s Woodpecker but they`d had a recent burn and none were around.

I`m now writing this from Reno Airport, looking out at the desert hills and forested peaks knowing that there are birds that I`ve never seen out there. The sun is up and Reno starts a new week. I have really enjoyed visiting, even if much of the trip was work which I actually enjoyed. I hope to come back again one day, get back into the mountain and nail those wood scuttling  devils.

Here are a few random images. I`ll post the other stuff from home but be aware that these are the best I managed.

American White Pelican – common around the reservoirs and lakes.

A Male Lazuli Bunting, common along the riparian corridors.

Sage Thrasher – nothing much to look at but it`s Mother loves it.

Three of the eight Common Nighthawks from Fallon.

Western Kingbird – common in open areas.

Clark`s Grebe – sleepy and then wide awake.


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