Great Basin Regional Report
Spring 2001


Ted Floyd

Great Basin Bird Observatory
One East First Street, Suite 500
Reno, Nevada 89501  

The spring weather differed dramatically between the northern and southern parts of the region. Dry weather in the north created concern about water shortages and forest fires, while precipitation was well above normal in the south. The rainfall in the south was probably responsible for a massive emergence and northward dispersal of Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui) and definitely the cause of a magnificent spring wildflower show. It was difficult, however, to know whether the spring weather had any real effect on the region’s bird life. The shorebird flight was decent, and passerine vagrants made a nice showing at area oases; but both of these phenomena surely were due, in part, to events elsewhere on the migratory routes, on the wintering grounds, or even last year on the breeding grounds.

Abbreviations: A.I.C., Antelope Island Causeway (Davis, UT); A.M.N.W.R., Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge (Nye, NV); B.R., Bodyfeldt Ranch (Nye, NV); C.C., Corn Creek (Clark, NV); L.V.S.C., Lahontan Valley Shorebird Count (Churchill, NV), held 23–26 Apr; L.M., Lake Mead (Clark, NV); L.V.M., Lemmon Valley Marsh (Washoe, NV); L.R., Lytle Ranch (Washington, UT); M.R.S., Miller’s Rest Stop (Esmeralda, NV); O.N.W.R., Ouray National Wildlife Refuge (Uintah, UT); P.N.W.R., Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge (Lincoln, NV); P.L., Pyramid Lake (Washoe, NV); Q.L., Quichapa Lake (Iron, UT); R.V., Ruby Valley (Elko, NV); T.R., Torrance Ranch (Nye, NV); W.S.R., Warm Springs Ranch (Clark, NV). Records marked with a dagger (†) are subject to review by the appropriate state records committees.

Loons Through Falcons

A Pacific Loon at L.M. 3 Mar (RS) was the only report. The 152 Common Loons at Quail Creek Res., Washington, UT 21 Apr (RD & RF) were a high count for spring. Single Horned Grebes were at the Logan sewage treatment ponds, Cache, UT 29 Apr (BD & JD) and at A.I.C. 19 May (KB & JB). Least Bitterns were found at two s. Nevada locations: A.M.N.W.R. 31 Mar (MC & JC) and P.N.W.R. 29 May (JH & GH). Green Herons were reported from: Moab, Grand, UT 25 Apr (DF), St. George 13 May (KB & JB), and three Nevada locales 23 Apr – 27 May (v.o.).

Two Trumpeter Swans remained at South Fork Res., Elko, NV until 30 Mar (MP & LP), and a Mute Swan of undetermined provenance was at L.M. 3 Mar (RS). Five Greater White-fronted Geese lingered at Reno until 12 Mar (LW), and a good count of ca. 450 Ross’s Geese came from Gunnison Bend Res., Millard, UT 23 Mar (SS). Wood Ducks numbered 1–2 at four Nevada locales 11 Mar – 5 May (v.o.). An exotic Ringed Teal in Reno 3 Mar (TF) was about one mile from where another was found one year earlier. Blue-winged Teal numbering 1–3 at five Nevada locales 14 Apr – 20 May (v.o.) were about average. A Eurasian Wigeon (†) was at Deseret Ranch, Rich, UT 19 May (MS et al.). Greater Scaups numbered 1–2 at: L.V.M. 18 Mar (TF et al.), Reno 21 Apr (TF & JW), and three Utah locales 18 Mar – 29 Apr (v.o.). A Long-tailed Duck at Overton W.M.A., Clark, NV 14 Apr (JCo) was the only report. Three Barrow’s Goldeneyes were at L.V.M. 18 Mar (TF et al.), and a pair remained at this site until 24 Mar (FP). Hooded Mergansers are uncommon in the region away from w. Nevada, so it was nice to get reports of 1–3 birds at four Utah locales 14 Mar – 14 Apr (v.o.). Red-breasted Mergansers were found at P.L. 14 Mar (TF et al.) and at Carson L., Churchill, NV 26 Apr (LN & TF).

It was a good spring for Common Black-Hawks (†): from Nevada, there were sightings of single birds at W.S.R. 29–30 Mar (SG et al.), C.C. 12–15 Apr (CT et al.), and Meadow Valley Wash (Lincoln) 5 May (JW); in Utah, breeding was documented at L.R. 25 Mar – 14 May (RD et al.) and in the town of St. George 19 May (RF et al.). Red-shouldered Hawks were noted at three Nevada locations 9–18 Mar (v.o.) A Broad-winged Hawk (†) was noted at the Jordanelle Res., Wasatch, UT hawk watch 25 Apr (v.o. fide LWy). A Zone-tailed Hawk (†) was at P.N.W.R. 4 Apr (JW); this was the site of one or two birds during much of the summer of 2000. A Merlin at Reno 3 Mar (TF) was the only report. Peregrine Falcons were reported from four Nevada locations and from South Shore Preserve, Salt Lake, UT 13 May (BR et al.) and O.N.W.R. 28 May (KB & JB).

Cranes Through Terns

Some 200+ Sandhill Cranes were at R.V. 13 Mar (KV), and westerly birds were noted at Washoe L., Washoe, NV 17 Mar (v.o.) and at Sheldon N.W.R., Washoe, NV 22–25 Mar (KM). The 52 Snowy Plovers at Q.L. 29 Mar (RD) were a high count for transients, especially in the southern part of the state. The L.V.S.C. yielded 13,641 American Avocets (LN et al.). Solitary Sandpipers were seen at four locations in Nevada 21 Apr – 21 May (v.o.) and at three in Utah 29 Apr – 11 May (v.o.). A Wandering Tattler (†) appeared at A.I.C. 25 May and remained into June (ph. TS; MS et al.); this was the third state record for the species. Whimbrels at three Utah locales were led by 5 at A.I.C. 19 May (KB & JB); the only Nevada report came from Carson L. (Churchill) 13 May (RH et al.). A Hudsonian Godwit (†) at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Box Elder, UT 6 May (KB & JB) was one of fewer than ten confirmed state records. Red Knots peaked at 20 at A.I.C. 17 May (KB & JB).

An amazing 793 Sanderlings staged at A.I.C. 21 May (EC). More mundane counts of 1–4 birds came from: Q.L. 23 Apr (RD); Moapa, Clark, NV 5 May (MC & JC); and Soda L., Churchill, NV 26 Apr – 12 May (TF et al.). The L.V.S.C. produced 28,905 Western Sandpipers (LN et al.). At least 9 White-rumped Sandpipers (†) were at O.N.W.R. 28 May (KB & JB et al.); the birds remained into June. Two Baird’s Sandpipers on the L.V.S.C. and one at Q.L. 8 May (SS) were the only reports. The only Pectoral Sandpiper was a single bird at Q.L. 4 Apr (RD). Utah’s third Curlew Sandpiper (†) was at A.I.C. 6–8 May (ph. TS; KB & JB et al.). Short-billed Dowitchers numbered 1–8 at three locales each in Nevada 4 Apr – 5 May and Utah 21 Apr – 10 May (v.o.). The Long-billed Dowitcher max. was 14,465 on the L.V.S.C.

The top Bonaparte’s Gull count in Nevada was 16 at L.V.M. 28 Apr (TF et al.), and the top count in Utah was 35 at Quail Creek Res. (Washington) 21 Apr (RD & RF). Single Thayer’s Gulls (†) at L.M. 3–9 Mar (RS) and Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Box Elder, UT 28 Apr (MS et al.) were the only reports. An "Olympic" Gull (Western ´ Glaucous-winged) remained at P.L. until 14 Mar (ph. SSa; TF et al.). Common Terns were reported from A.M.N.W.R. 11 May (RS) and from Soda L., Churchill, NV 13 May (LN et al.); the springtime status of this species in the Great Basin is essentially unknown.

Doves Through Jays

Extralimital White-winged Doves were found at R.V. 20–26 Apr (JM) and at Monticello, San Juan, UT 7 Apr (KB & JB). Inca Doves are quite local in the southern part of the region; one at Overton W.M.A., Clark, NV 5 May (SS) and two at the Hurricane Sewage Ponds, Washington, UT 14 Apr (RD & SS) were away from the expected locales. The season’s first Yellow-billed Cuckoo was at W.S.R. 30 May (JW). A Vaux’s Swift at Oxbow Park, Washoe, NV 3–4 May (DT et al.) was the only report. Anna’s Hummingbird is uncommon in Utah, so single birds at Red Cliffs Campground (Washington) 18 Mar (RD & RF) and at St. George 31 Mar (RD & RF) were notable; in Nevada, a northerly individual was at Spooner L. (Douglas) 21 May (LW). A Rufous Hummingbird at C.C. 21 Mar (RS) was the only report of this species whose status as a spring transient through the region is poorly understood. Notable woodpeckers included: 3 Lewis’s migrating through C.C. 4 May (MC & JC); an Acorn at Devil’s Canyon, San Juan, UT 17 Apr (MS et al.); and a Downy at Mesquite (where uncommon), Clark, NV 17 Mar (SS).

A singing Least Flycatcher (†) at Dyer, Esmeralda, NV 26–27 May was well documented (ph. MM; GS et al.); this difficult species is possibly annual in Nevada, but sightings are rarely documented. Black Phoebes wandered to two n. Nevada locales: Rancho San Rafael Park (Washoe) 29 Mar (FP) and Oxbow Park (Washoe) 14 Apr – 3 May (TF et al.). Utah’s only Vermilion Flycatcher was a single bird at St. George 12 May (KB & JB), but the species was noted at four s. Nevada locales (v.o.). A northerly Cassin’s Kingbird was at Magna, Salt Lake, UT 21 May (KC), and 1–2 birds were found at three s. Nevada locales. An Eastern Kingbird was at Willard Bay S.P., Box Elder, UT 17 May (KB & JB), and five were at O.N.W.R. 28 May (KB & JB).

A Northern Shrike remained at P.L. until 14 Mar (TF et al.). Notable vireo records included: a singing White-eyed (†) at P.N.W.R. 29 May (JH & GH); a good count of 8 Bell’s at L.R. 21 Apr (RD & RF); easterly Cassin’s at L.R. and St. George, both 21 Apr (RD & RF); a possible Blue-headed (†) at Tonopah 22 May (JBr); a well-studied Yellow-throated (†) at C.C. 8–29 Apr (RS et al.); and Red-eyed (†) at Lida, Esmeralda, NV 19 May (JBr et al.) and W.S.R. (JW). Western Scrub-Jay at three lowland Nevada locations 10 Mar – 16 Apr (v.o.) were remnants of last autumn’s corvid irruption.

Nuthatches Through Warblers

A Red-breasted Nuthatch at C.C. 23 Mar – 21 Apr (RS) was at an unusually low elevation. American Dippers bred in downtown Reno, and the young were fledged by the rather early date of 10 Apr (TF et al.). A Black-tailed Gnatcatcher was at Beaver Dam Wash, Washington, UT 14 May (KB & JB); the species is very local in southern Utah, but it is widespread in southern Nevada. Two Swainson’s Thrushes at B.R. 27 May (MM et al.) were off the beaten path. A Varied Thrush was banded at T.R. 9 May and remained until 14 May (KV); another was seen at Tonopah 17 May (JBr). The Gray Catbird is rare in Utah, so reports from Willard Bay S.P. (Box Elder) 17 May (KB & JB) and Jordanelle W.M.A. (Wasatch) 28 May (KB & JB) were noteworthy. A Brown Thrasher (†) was at M.R.S. 30–31 May (JBr), and a northerly Phainopepla was at this same locale 23–28 May (DS et al.).

The spring warbler flight seemed a little below average. Northern Parulas were found at: Capitol Reef N.P., Wayne, UT 15 Apr (LNs); Maple Grove Campground, Millard, UT 17 May (TS); C.C. 10–19 May (RS & JCo); and Tonopah 22 May (JBr). Single Magnolia Warblers (†) at Tonopah 26–27 May (ph. MM; GS et al.) and T.R. 28 May (MM et al.) were well described and seen by many observers. A Black-throated Blue Warbler (†) was reported from Tonopah 18 May (JBr). "Myrtle" Warblers numbered 1–4 at six Nevada locations 23 Apr – 19 May (v.o.). A male Hermit Warbler at Fernley, Lyon, NV 30 Apr (DT) was somewhat easterly, and a Palm Warbler (†) at C.C. 4 May (SG) was a good find. Black-and-white Warblers were noted at four Nevada locales 12–27 May (v.o.), and American Redstarts were found at Yerington, Lyon, NV 4 May (CR) and B.R. 19–27 May (MM et al.). Prothonotary Warblers (†) included a singing male at Las Vegas 6–8 May (RSc) and a mist netted individual at T.R. 18 May (KV). An Ovenbird at B.R. 19–20 May (MM et al.) was the only report. Northern Waterthrushes were found at C.C. 10 May (RS), at M.R.S. 31 May (JBr), and at four Utah locations 27 Apr – 27 May (v.o.). Hooded Warblers (†) were found at four Nevada locations 14 Apr – 31 May (v.o.). A Painted Redstart (†) at Zion N.P., Washington, UT 22 Apr – 12 May (RD et al.) was the fifth state record and first since 1973.

Tanagers Through Finches

Northerly Summer Tanagers were at: M.R.S. 10 May (WW); Kanarraville, Iron, UT 16 May (SS); and Capitol Reef N.P., Wayne, UT 27 May (PS & SS). A singing Cassin’s Sparrow (†) at Gandy, Millard, UT 23 May (TS) was well described. An American Tree Sparrow remained at R.V. until 8 Mar (KV). Lark Buntings at four Utah locations were led by 7 at Hurricane (Washington) 5 May (RF). Grasshopper Sparrows are seldom reported in the region, so the three at Antelope Island, Davis, UT 17 May (KB & JB) were noteworthy. Single White-throated Sparrows at the Carson R. Diversion Dam, Churchill, NV 24 Mar (BS) and at Elk Ridge, Utah, UT 3 May (DSh) were the only reports. Single Harris’s Sparrows were found at Tonopah 23 Mar (JBr) and A.M.N.W.R. 31 Mar – 19 Apr (v.o.), and three remained at the Jordan River Parkway, Salt Lake, UT until 8 May (TS). The season’s last Golden-crowned Sparrow was at Washoe S.P., Washoe, NV 5 May (NB). "Pink-sided" Juncos numbered 1–3 at three Nevada locales 1–23 Mar (v.o.), and "Slate-colored" Juncos were at R.V. until 8 May (KV) and at Tonopah until 23 Mar (JBr).

It was a good spring for Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, with records from four locations each in Nevada and Utah (v.o.). Indigo Buntings, too, were widely noted, with reports from: Moab, Grand, UT 7 May (DF); Yuba Res., Millard, UT 21 May (TS); and five Nevada locales 20 Apr – 31 May (v.o.). A female Dickcissel (†) was reported from M.R.S. 27 Apr (JBr). Single Bobolinks were seen at: Scipio Res., Millard, UT 16 May (KB & JB); Heber, Wasatch, UT 27 May (KB & JB); Indian Springs, Clark, NV 28 May (MM); and M.R.S. 29 May (JBr). The Tricolored Blackbird Colony in Minden, Douglas, NV has apparently declined in recent years, so it was gratifying to find numerous individuals of both sexes at this site 6 May (BC & BeC). A Common Grackle was seen at Deseret Ranch, Rich, UT 19 May (MS et al.). A singing male Orchard Oriole (†) was at Indian Creek Crossing, Esmeralda, NV 19 May (JBr & DT), and a possible female was at M.R.S. the same day (DT et al.). Northerly Hooded Orioles were found at: Cedar City, Iron, UT 19 Apr (SS); M.R.S. 27 Apr (JBr); and Fallon, Churchill, NV 5 May (BH).

Fifteen Gray-crowned, 3 "Hepburn’s", and 11 Black Rosy-Finches remained at Tonopah until 23 Mar (JBr et al.). A Pine Grosbeak was back at the Ophir Creek Trail, Washoe, NV 22 May (TL); the non-summer status of this species in the local area is not known. An unidentified redpoll (†) visited a Minden, Douglas, NV feeder 8 Mar (WS fide MM). There were two reports of Lawrence’s Goldfinch (†) this spring: a briefly described male seen in the presence of Lesser Goldfinches at Rancho San Rafael Park, Washoe, NV 17 Mar (ZS); and an undocumented sighting at Tonopah 22 May (JBr). Migrant Evening Grosbeaks numbered 1–3 at four Nevada locales 14 Apr – 31 May (v.o.).

Observers: Kathy Beyer, Joel Beyer, Nancy Bish, John Brack (JBr), K.C. Childs, Bill Clark, Beth Clark (BeC), Jack Cochran (JCo), Ed Conrad, Marian Cressman, Jim Cressman, Brian Dixon, Jean Dixon, Rob Dobbs, Damian Fagan, Ted Floyd, Rick Fridell, Shawn Goodchild, George Hardie, Joan Hardie, Rich Heap, Bill Henry, Tim Lenz, Jeff Mackay, Kris McIntyre, Martin Meyers, Larry Neel, Laurie Ness (LNs), Fred Petersen, Mark Ports, Lois Ports, Chris Randolph, Bruce Robinson, Terry Sadler, Scott Sady (SSa), Rick Saval, Greg Scyphers, Rita Schlageter (RSc), Becca Serdehely, Dennis Serdehely, Dennis Shirley (DSh), Wayne Sitton, Zach Smith, Mark Stackhouse, Priscilla Summers, Steve Summers, Carolyn Titus, Dennis Trousdale, Ken Voget, Jack Walters, Walter Wehtje, Larry Williams, Larene Wyss (LWy).


S.A. Even though the Great Basin is one of the driest regions on the continent, it is home to three Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserves: Utah’s Great Salt Lake, Nevada’s Lahontan Valley, and California’s Mono Lake. This spring was especially exciting at Great Salt Lake, with sightings of Curlew Sandpiper, Hudsonian Godwit, and Wandering Tattler. Good numbers of birds were present, too, and a high count of 793 Sanderlings was especially noteworthy. All of these birds, plus a flock of White-rumped Sandpipers away from the Great Salt Lake, were well documented with good photographs and/or extensive written descriptions.


Photo captions:

This Wandering Tattler was found on the Antelope Island Causeway, Davis, UT 25 May. It remained into June and allowed extensive study by many observers. Photograph by Terry Sadler.

A Curlew Sandpiper on the Antelope Island Causeway, Davis, UT 6–8 May was the third state record for the species. Photograph by Terry Sadler.