Great Basin Regional Report
Winter 2000


Ted Floyd, Great Basin Bird Observatory, One East First Street Suite 500, Reno, NV 89501 (

Mark Stackhouse, Westwings Inc., 1432 Downingtown Avenue, Salt Lake City, UT, 84105 (

The winter was mild and fairly dry in northern Nevada and Utah, which boosted the Truckee Meadows, Pyramid Lake, and Carson City Christmas Bird Counts to all-time record highs. The downside of the mild weather was that visitors from the north were in scarce supply. In the southern part of the region, temperatures were about average and precipitation was somewhat above average. As in the north, the general pattern in southern Nevada and Utah was geared primarily toward lingering winterers and early migrants.

Abbreviations used in this report: H.B.V.P., Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve (Clark, NV); W.B.L., West Bountiful Landfill (Davis, UT). Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) referred to in this report include: Elko (Elko, NV), 30 Dec; Fallon (Churchill, NV), 15 Dec; Pyramid Lake (Washoe, NV), 1 Jan; Salt Lake City (Salt Lake, UT), 17 Dec; Truckee Meadows (Washoe, NV), 16 Dec; Walker Lake (Mineral, NV), 29 Dec. Records marked with a dagger (†) are subject to review by the appropriate state records committees (Nevada Bird Records Committee, NBRC; Utah Bird Records Committee, UBRC).

loons to ducks

Up to 4 Pacific Loons were at L. Mead, Clark, NV, 6 Dec – 25 Feb (RS et al.), 3 were at Katherine’s Landing, Clark, NV, 15 Jan (MSm), and 1 was at Quail L. Res., Washington, UT, 14 Jan (SS). A Yellow-billed Loon (†) at Nelson’s Landing, Clark, NV, 3 Dec (MC, JCr) was reported without details by two very experienced observers. Small numbers of Horned Grebes were reported from 4 NV locations, and a Red-necked Grebe (†) was at L. Mead, Clark, NV, 26 Jan – 10 Feb (ph. CT, RS et al.). An American Bittern made the Walker L. CBC, and 1 was at Farmington Bay WMA, Davis, UT, 13–24 Jan (v.o.). A Great Egret returned to Reno 16 Feb (LW), and a Green Heron was at H.B.V.P. 26 Jan (RS). A few White-faced Ibis lingered until the Fallon CBC.

An impressive concentration of 1,580 Tundra Swans was noted at Lemmon Valley Marsh, Washoe, NV, 13 Jan (TF et al.). A Bewick’s Swan (†) also was reported from this location on the same date (NB) but could not be confirmed during subsequent visits to the marsh. Although the record must remain hypothetical, it was leant some credibility by the large number of swans and other surface-feeding waterfowl in the area, as well as by the observer’s brief but diagnostic written description. The only Trumpeter Swan report was of a single bird at South Fork Res., Elko, NV, 2 Dec (MP, LP).

Greater White-fronted Geese were reported from 5 NV and 2 UT locations with a max. of 9 at H.B.V.P. 13 Feb (TF). A "Blue" Goose was seen in Reno 23 Dec (MM), and single Ross’s Geese were reported from several spots in Reno 16 Dec – 17 Feb (v.o.). Canada Geese of one or more of the small races were found at 3 northern NV locations, with a top count of 8 at Reno 17 Feb (TF, MM).

Wood Ducks were present at the usual spots in Churchill and Washoe, NV, and the top count was 15 at Reno 17 Dec (TF); the top count in UT was 12 at Provo, Utah, 22 Jan (BP). Drake Eurasian Wigeons (†) were found at Provo, Utah, UT, 18–24 Jan (v.o) and at the following 4 NV locations: Reno 16–23 Dec (DM et al.); Fort Piute Reservation, Clark, 15 Jan (MSm); Genoa, Douglas, 3 Feb (TF et al.); and the Clark County Sanitation District ponds 30 Jan (CT et al.). The first date for Cinnamon Teal in n. NV was 17 Feb in Reno (TF, MM).

Greater Scaups at 2 NV and 4 NV locations were led by 12 at H.B.V.P. 13 Feb (TF). A White-winged Scoter was at Pyramid L. 13–21 Jan (LW, JW). Single Long-tailed Ducks were noted at Farmington Bay WMA, Davis, UT, 27 Dec (BF) and at Deer Creek Res., Wasatch, UT, 1 Jan (JBe). Barrow’s Goldeneyes were reported from 6 NV and 6 UT locations, and the top tally was 6 at Lemmon Valley Marsh, Washoe, 17 Feb (FP, GP). In addition to the usual reports in far western NV, a single Hooded Merganser was at Floyd Lamb S.P., Clark, 18 Feb (RS). Red-breasted Merganser sightings came from 3 NV and 2 UT locations, and the best count was 10 at L. Mead, Clark, 12 Jan (RS).

raptors to woodpeckers

Reports of wintering Ospreys, all from Clark, NV, included 1 at Big Bend State Recreation Area 12 Jan (RS), 2 at Las Vegas Wash 30 Jan (CT et al.), and 1 at Fort Mojave Indian Reservation 23 Feb (RS). Bald Eagles were reported in small numbers from at least 17 NV locations (v.o.), and the top count was 6 in the Carson Valley 25 Feb (JW et al.); in UT, massive numbers staged at Farmington Bay WMA, Davis, UT, and the top count exceeded 300 birds (m.ob.). Single Red-shouldered Hawks were at Provo, Utah, UT, 16 Dec – 13 Jan (v.o.) and at 4 NV locales during the reporting period (v.o.). Multiple Merlins were present in Reno all period (v.o.), and single birds were noted at 3 other n. NV locations; in UT, a bird of the black race was seen at St. George (Washington) 15 Jan (KW, RF).

A Common Moorhen lingered at Fallon, Churchill, NV, until 1 Dec (BH), and up to 5 were at H.B.V.P. 11–19 Feb (CN et al.). At least 20 American Avocets lingered for the Fallon CBC, and 4 were still at Farmington Bay WMA, Davis, UT, 13 Jan (HG et al.); the earliest return was a single bird at Reno 16 Feb (LW). A Greater Yellowlegs remained in Reno until 19 Dec (TL), and the first spring arrival was a single bird at Washoe L., Washoe, NV, 23 Feb (JW). A Spotted Sandpiper was at Fort Mojave Indian Reservation (Clark) 23 Feb (RS); the species is occasional during the winter months in NV. Least Sandpipers were present at 5 widely scattered NV locations during the reporting period, with a high count of 200+ on the Fallon CBC. Lingering Dunins included 77 on the Fallon CBC and 7 on the Walker L. CBC. A small flock of Long-billed Dowitchers was present throughout the period at the rather northerly locale of Reno (v.o.), and a single bird at H.B.V.P. 13–17 Feb (TF et al.) was at a more expected location.

It was an undistinguished winter for gulls in NV, but UT produced some good records. The only Bonaparte’s Gull in NV was a single bird at L. Mead (Clark) 9 Dec (MC, JCr), while the top count in UT was 50+ at the Antelope Island Causeway (Davis) 3 Dec (AR). Single Thayer’s Gulls were reported from L. Mead, Clark, NV, 16–29 Jan (MSm et al.) and from Fort Mojave Indian Reservation, Clark, NV, 23 Feb (RS), and 2 were at W.B.L. 27 Dec – 2 Jan (v.o.). A well-studied possible Iceland Gull (†) was at W.B.L. 22 Dec – 6 Jan (DSh et al.); the possibility of a hybrid or an aberrant Thayer’s Gull could not be ruled out, however. A Lesser Black-backed Gull (†) was at W.B.L. 2–6 Jan (CNe et al.). Single Glaucous-winged Gulls were reported from W.B.L. 4–9 Jan (JBe et al.) and from the following NV locations: at Pyramid L. (Washoe) 10 Feb (TF et al.); at L. Mead (Clark) 11 Feb (MC, JCr); and on the Walker L. CBC. Single Glaucous-winged Gull ´ Western Gull hybrids were found on the Walker L. and Pyramid L. CBCs; the Pyramid L. bird remained throughout the reporting period (v.o.). At least 3 Glaucous Gulls were at W.B.L. 6 Jan (MS, DW), and 1 was at Utah Lake State Park, Utah, UT, 13–22 Jan (v.o.).

A northerly White-winged Dove (†) lingered at Fallon, Churchill, NV, until 16 Feb (v.o.). At unexpected locations were a Western Screech-Owl at Las Vegas 9 Jan (CT et al.) and a Northern Pygmy-Owl on the Fallon CBC. At least 10 Anna’s Hummingbirds wintered at 6 Las Vegas area feeders (v.o.). Single Costa’s Hummingbirds were at North Las Vegas, Clark, NV, 30 Dec – 18 Feb (RS) and at Boulder City, Clark, NV, until 20 Jan (SG). The only Lewis’s Woodpecker report was of 2 birds at the Gilcrease Ranch, Clark, NV, 6 Jan (MC, JCr). A "Yellow-shafted" Flicker was at Salt Lake City 13 Dec (JBe).


flycatchers to finches

The status of Black Phoebe in northern NV remains poorly understood; this winter, reports of single birds came from Mason Valley WMA (Lyon) 3 Feb (DS) and from Carson City 19 Feb (JWa). Northern Shrikes were reported from 2 NV and 6 UT locations (v.o.). Single Western Scrub-Jays at H.B.V.P. 19–24 Feb (NB, JC) and at Las Vegas Wash, Clark, NV, 13 Feb (CT et al.) were far from the mountains. Lowland Pinyon Jays included 1 at H.B.V.P. 16 Dec (RSa) and 100+ at Carson City 24 Feb (NB).

Swallows occur so early in the year in s. NV that it is hard to know whether they are migrants or winter residents. Some 100+ Tree Swallows were at Big Bend (Clark) 15 Jan (MSm), and a Rough-winged Swallow was at Las Vegas Wash (Clark) 9 Jan (CT et al.). Meanwhile, Barn Swallows were back at Las Vegas Wash (Clark) 13 Feb (Ct et al.). A handful of Mountain Chickadees on the Fallon CBC were far from the highlands and foothills in which they are normally resident. Single Winter Wrens at Provo, Utah, UT, 16 Dec – 12 Jan (v.o.) and on the Walker L. CBC were the only reports. A Black-tailed Gnatcatcher at Big Bend, Clark, NV was carrying nest material on the early date of 15 Jan (MSm).

More than 100 Mountain Bluebirds gathered at Indian Lakes Road, Churchill, NV, 13 Dec (AC). Single Varied Thrushes were reported from the following locations: Provo, Utah, UT, 6–22 Jan (MMo et al.); Pyramid L. 29 Dec (fide JT); Walker L. CBC; Ogden Nature Center, Weber, UT, 11 Jan (LS, PS); and Alamo, Lincoln, NV, 8 Feb (SG). A flock of 10 Bohemian Waxwings was at Elko 25 Dec (MP, LP), and 18 were present for the Elko CBC. A northerly Orange-crowned Warbler showed up at Reno 30 Jan and was present until the end of the reporting period (LW et al.). "Myrtle" Warblers were reported from the Fallon and Truckee Meadows CBCs; the wintertime status of this bird in NV is not well known, and further study is needed. A Yellow Warbler at H.B.V.P. 1 Dec. was quite late (RS), and a Black-and-white Warbler was at Mathis Park, Washington, UT, 21 Dec (RF). Tardy or wintering Common Yellowthroats were noted on the Salt Lake City CBC, at Tonaquint, Washington, UT, 23 Dec (RF), and at H.B.V.P. 24 Feb (JC).

A Rufous-crowned Sparrow (†) at Red Rock Canyon, Clark, NV, 8 Jan – 11 Feb (CT et al.) was a surprise. The Fallon CBC produced 2 late Vesper Sparrows. White-throated Sparrows were noted at 3 UT locations 10 Dec – 13 Jan (v.o). The only NV Harris’s Sparrow was reported from Tonopah 11 Dec (JB), but UT reports came from 3 locations 13-23 Dec (v.o.). Away from the Sierra foothills (where they are expected), Golden-crowned Sparrows were observed on the Fallon CBC, at Numana, Washoe, NV, 13 Jan (LW), at Red Rock Canyon, Clark, NV, 15–18 Jan (RS et al.), and at Red Cliffs Preserve, Washington, UT, 20 Jan (RD). "Pink-sided" Juncos were reported from 9 widely scattered NV locations, and "Slate-colored" Junco from 6 (v.o.). A flock of 4 Snow Buntings was at the Provo Airport, Utah, UT, 4 Jan (RSt).

Yellow-headed Blackbird lingered for the Fallon and Salt Lake City CBCs, and a Hooded Oriole was present all winter in Las Vegas (BS). The best Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch counts were 281 on the Elko CBC and 300 at Wallsburg, Wasatch, UT, 7 Dec (GJ fide DSh). Upwards of 1000 Black Rosy-Finches were estimated at Antelope Island, Davis, UT, 15 Jan (DG). The top Red Crossbill count was 71 on the Salt Lake City CBC. Small flocks of Evening Grosbeaks were reported from 2 NV and 3 UT locations (v.o.).

Cited Observers: Joel Beyer (JBe), Nancy Bish, John Brack, Ali Chaney, Jack Cochran, Rob Dobbs, Bill Fenimore, Ted Floyd, Rick Fridell, Hugh Gillilan, Shawn Goodchild, Dana Green, Bill Henry, Grant Jense, Tim Lenz, Dave McNinch, Martin Meyers, Milton Moody (MMo), Colby Neuman (CNe), Christina Nycek, Bob Parsons, Fred Petersen, Gayle Petersen, Lois Ports, Mark Ports, Alan Rogers, Mike San Miguel (MSm), Rick Saval, Betty Seebeck, Dennis Serdehely, Dennis Shirley (DSh), Lee Shirley, Paul Shirley, Steve Sommers, Mark Stackhouse, Reed Stone (RSt), Jane Thompson, Carolyn Titus, Jack Walters, John Warpeha (JWa), David Wheeler, Kevin Wheeler, Larry Williams.