Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Big Trip 2012: NEVADA

After leaving Matty and the wine country of Sonoma, we headed back east across Nevada for the first leg of our trip back home. Having done a little research about the birds of Nevada, I kept my eyes peeled for water and other good desert habitat.
I thought we were seeing salt flats, as they looked so chalky; however, a little taste of the dirt yielded only... dirt. No salt. Blegghh! I looked everywhere for birds but found none on the ground.

Still, the skies yielded some nice results:
Update: I was pretty sure this is a Rough-legged Hawk soaring over the Nevada desert, but my first call of Red-tailed Hawk was actually correct, per John of DC Birding Blog in the comments. Still, it kinda looks like the dark variant in my Kaufman Field Guides to Birds of North America, which is one of the best field guides I've ever used! More on that later. But I figured -- every time I think I have a cool hawk, it's just a red-tail. Hmph.

I stopped at a nice little creek bed:
the Salmon River in Nevada, where I saw some holes in the banks where (maybe) Bank Swallows roosted -- but I never saw any -- and a Spotted Sandpiper bobbing along.

One of dear Niblet's cousins posed for me.

By now, we were nearing sundown, and birds were getting a little more active in the cooling temperatures. Near the border of Nevada and Idaho on Hwy 93 near Jackpot, Nevada, there's a rest area called the Salmon Falls Creek Rest Area -- what a great place to bird! The rest area had rocky hills blocking the setting sun and the creek flowing through it:

It was beautiful, and it was alive with bird life!

I saw several Black-billed Magpies -- lifers!

What a great bird -- just look at those ridiculously long tailfeathers!

Also saw lots of Common Nighthawks -- not a lifer, but I was excited to get a decent photo for my lifebirds collection:
And although I didn't get a photo, there were several White-throated Swifts there -- another lifer! Their little white throats and body-long white belly lines were obvious, but danged if I could get a photo. I didn't even get a blurry one. Dangit! Still, I was now on two lifers for the rest area, and up to seven for the trip -- for a total of 346! Almost to 350!

We didn't stop a lot in Nevada, as we weren't going anywhere near any known hotspots for the state (we traveled I-80 to Hwy 93), and our real destination was Twin Falls, Idaho. Still, two birds during the blistering pace wasn't too bad and the scenery was beautiful.

Next time: we visit a place I've wanted to go since I was a kid watching the moon landing and wanting to be an astronaut (until I ran up against a mean math teacher in 5th grade who turned me off to the math/science track).


Elizabeth said...

One of the best things about living in Utah is all the Black-billed Magpies. They are such spunky birds.

One time I saw two of them picking on a squirrel. One would attack in the front and as the squirrel got distracted, the second magpie would attack his tail. Funny, mean birds.

John Beetham said...

I think your hawk is a dark morph Red-tailed, based on the reddish undertail coverts, lack of a terminal tail band, and bulging wings. Rough-legged Hawks generally have narrower wings, and the dark morph tends to be a cold brown without the Red-tailed's warm tones.

dguzman said...

Elizabeth--they were funny; when we went to the Badlands (later post!), there were LOTS of signs about not feeding them because they would become "aggressive beggars." Hee hee.

John--Thanks, as usual! I need to start scribbling your comments into my field guides; yours are more helpful than any of the guides I have!