Better views

I was at Galena Creek SP this morning as the sun rose. The car was frosty and the wind chill made itself felt but there were a few birds on view. Yesterday there had been a report of Black-headed Grosbeaks in Carson City so I hoped they might have made it up here but no, not just yet. As I walked one of the trails a movement caught my eye and a White-headed Woodpecker shinned up a bare spike and began to sun itself. It was some way off the trail but I got a better shot than last time, I even got a record shot as it hit a lower trunk and began tapping. It may be that it was excavating, I saw another bird nearby, a pair, so I’ll keep an eye on that spot next week.

This evening it had become windy and cold but clear so I checked out the Carot Lane pools near the hotel. One Yellow-headed Blackbird, 40 Cinnamon Teal (I bet they taste of Chicken though) and 10 American Avocets were the highlights in a brief foray. Tomorrow, who knows where I’ll wash up, watch this space. Below two shots of the pecker, not briliant but certainly an improvement on last time.

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Three owls a grebe and a pigeon

Yesterday we had 80mph wind which was a challenge to bird in! Not surprisingly yesterday was birding light and I didn’t see that much. Today the wind had dropped and so I headed south to Washoe Lake and the Franktown Road area, it was pretty good. The lake had five Eared Grebes, always a treat to see if you live out east.  A little tour of Franktown Road turned up around 100 or more Evening Grosbeaks all feeding on the ground in a rather large garden. A short way along a wet field had a minimum of 350 American Robins, quite spectacular in its way. Just as I approached the highway to head into work two Bald Eagles flew over, an adult and a first year bird.

This evening I headed south again after work, pausing at Washoe where I added Band-tailed Pigeon to my growing Nevada trip list, then a Peregrine flew over – which was nice. My evening destination was Silver Saddle Ranch river trail to try to see one of the Western Screech Owls there. I was a bit late arriving due to the work thing and only had about 45 minutes of birding time but I still turned up three owls. The first was a Barn Owl, roosting in a split tree just right of the parking lot.  At just the right spot for a Western Screech Owl, one was sat out watching the World go by, a little distant and in virtually nil light but no complaints. Back at the parking lot a Great Horned Owl seemed to be staking out the Barn Owl but soon flew off when I tried to creep up on it.

The weekend is hurtling towards us and I have pans for my last two full days of birding in Nevada, perhaps ever but who knows. Here are a few photos, bad  owl shots, a Western Scrub Jay and an American Magpie. UK readers, of  which there appear to be surprising few, might wonder what distinguishes American Magpie from the Ubiquitous version found throughout the UK, well, they sound very different, seem longed tailed and are, in the case of this bird, around 5,000 miles from the possibility of hybridising with anything similar!

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Into California

Today I headed for the Sierra Valley which is north-west of Reno and in California. I optimistically thought that I might get a look for Mountain Quail as well but, on reaching the summit of the nearby range, there was no real access except for the roadside which was not in optical habitat.

Last July when I visited the area the most impressive thing about the valley was the abundance of Red-tailed Hawks. There were plenty this time too but perhaps a quarter of the July count. The descent into the valley was accompanied by a Golden Eagle but before getting into California you have to go through a checkpoint. I suppose they have to check your tan and see whether your Austrian accent can cut it before they let you in. I don’t recall any checkpoints when passing from state to state out east although I’m sure we keep seeing the same cow in Vermont so perhaps they are an equal opportunity employer there.

I checked out as many lanes around the valley as I could find, especially driving the length of Hot Springs Road. Sandhill Cranes were in many fields and Mountain Bluebirds present in clumps of two to five. At one spot a couple of Sage Thrashers made a fuss and Western Meadowlarks appeared to be on every post. I only added three species to the trip list but had a pleasant few hours birding with few cars to bother me.

After a midday hiatus I headed first to Galena Creek – hardly a bird but two Turkey Vultures seen on the way up. Then to Washoe Lake where dogs and their owners had pushed the birds way off. It had also started to get breezy and so I headed back in but not before getting a look at a Eurasian Collared Dove – I know, but they are not shown as present in Sibley but they most certainly are.

Below a selection of photos. A Sandhill Crane, of course. Western Meadowlark, Mountain Bluebird and a Horned Lark with its horns on view and clearly showing why it is called a Shore Lark!

The trip list is now 102 – 99 in Nevada.

Today was my lovely wife Sandra’s birthday so, Happy Birthday wench.

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