Birds of the jungled and manicured bottom of the Mojave Desert

Observers: Chris McCreedy
Email: cmccreedy@prbo.org
Remote Name: 63.164.145.198
Date: 10/09/2005
Time: 04:58 PM -0400

Sighting

I spent the last few days in Death Valley National Park, and at the Amargosa Canyon near Tecopa. On October 5th, I camped at Wildrose, and found a Long-eared Owl roost of seven or eight owls. They flew like moths and seemed to enjoy looking at each other. There are California Quail at Wildrose, which I found remarkable, since there are only Gambelís Quail at Tecopa, only 60 miles straightway. I would like to know where one stops and the other begins. Somewhere over the Panamints, but where? On the 6th, I flushed up LeConteís Thrashers in Nemo Canyon, everything was gold and dry up there. Stovepipe Wells was overrun with blackbirds and ravens and P. domesticus. At Furnace Creek, the golf course was closed for horticultural reasons, and the pros graciously let me bird the course. I got some practice on my ducks at the par 4 third hole, one hundred feet below sea level. In a still pond swam a pair of Redheads, Eared and Pied-billed Grebes, a pair of Ruddy Ducks, six or seven Ring-billed Ducks, and a male Greater Scaup. I am using the shape of the head (very sleek, not blockheaded) to ID the scaup. While I would expect a GRSC to be less common than a LESC this far inland, you can get within 20m of the fowl and really stare at them. A juvenile Greater White-fronted Goose (black around the base of the bill, not white) stood with Mallards on the sidelines. A pair of American Wigeon dodged coots in the adjacent pond. Also on the course, a male Red-naped Sapsucker drilled a tamarisk, and I saw my first Myrtle Warbler of the fall (along with many Audubonís). Also, a late male Yellow Warbler fed voraciously on small insects in the tamarisk shadows. There were large flocks of Red-winged and Brewers Blackbirds, with around 10 Brown-headed Cowbirds thrown in. On the 7th, I birded China Ranch, and I was struck by the great number of Song Sparrows lurking Willow Creek, since they did not breed there this summer. In the nearby Amargosa Canyon, I saw both coffee/grey Song Sparrows (northern breeders and migrants here), as well as red-brown local residents. But at China Ranch, I only found migrant Song Sparrows. At China Ranch, I also found Barn Swallows, a Long-eared Owl, a lone Northern Mockingbird, many Crissal Thrashers, and a Canyon Wren. On the 8th I worked in the Amargosa Canyon. Strange birds included a late female Black-throated Gray Warbler and a male Wood Duck. A flock of Barn Swallows and Violet-green Swallows swarmed in the late afternoon, and I found a Verdin building a nest. I would guess that it is a winter roost, it is hard to imagine them sitting on eggs on Halloween. The entrance to the nest faced north.