Great Basin Regional Report
Summer 2001

Ted Floyd

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

It is usually hot and dry during the summer months in the Great Basin, and this year was no exception. In Reno, only 2.8 inches of precipitation had fallen in the twelve-month period ending 30 June 2001 – making it the driest fiscal year in more than a century. In the minds of many birders, low water is associated with good shorebird conditions; but there was no water at all in many of our wetlands, especially in the western part of the region. Consequently, shorebirds were scarce or simply absent at most sites except for the Great Salt Lake. The "fall" shorebird flight seemed to be somewhat early, however, with boreal and artic breeders showing up in southern Nevada by the end of June. The dry weather throughout the West also was thought to be connected with the appearance of several southern vagrants in our region.

Abbreviations: A.I.C., Antelope Island Causeway (Davis, UT); B.C., Big Canyon (Washoe, NV); B.R., Bodyfeldt Ranch (Nye, NV); C.L., Carson Lake (Churchill, NV); C.C., Corn Creek (Clark, NV); Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge, F.S.N.W.R., (Juab, UT); H.B.V.P., Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve (Clark, NV); L.L., Lead Lake (Churchill, NV); M.V.W., Meadow Valley Wash (Lincoln, MV); M.R.S., Miller’s Rest Stop (Esmeralda, NV); O.C.T., Ophir Creek Trail (Washoe, NV); W.S.R., Warm Springs Ranch (Clark, NV).

Records marked with a dagger (†) were documented with a written description. Records marked with an asterisk (*) are subject to review by the appropriate state records committees.

Bitterns Through Falcons

Two Least Bitterns – an apparent pair – at Pahranagat N.W.R., Lincoln, NV 16 Jun (JC) were the only report. Green Herons were noted at three southerly locations: along the Muddy River, Clark, NV throughout June (JW & NM); in M.V.W. 7 Jul (SS); and at Berry Springs Marsh, Washington, UT, where a nest with four young was discovered 22 Jul (RF & RD).

A female Wood Duck with chicks at the Carson R. Diversion Dam, Churchill, NV 8 Jun (TL & MM) provided the only confirmed breeding record for the season. A Northern Pintail with 3–4 young in M.V.W. 7 Jul (SS) represented a southerly extreme for breeding in the state. The Blue-winged Teal is an uncommon breeder in the Great Basin; this summer there were reports from Saltair, Salt Lake, UT 18 Jun (CN) and from four Nevada locations 2 Jun – 14 Jul (v.o.). Canvasback is rare in s. Utah during the summer, so the individual at Stratton Pond, Washington, UT 8–22 Jul (RD) was notable. Also notable was a pair of Ring-necked Ducks at Mountain Home, Duchesne, UT 4 Jul (BR & LR). There were 2–3 Common Goldeneyes at H.B.V.P. during the surprising time span of 29 Jun – 15 Jul (RS & JC). A Red-breasted Merganser at Parowan, Iron, UT 12 Jul (RD) was unusual. A dark-phase Ruddy Duck at H.B.V.P. 5–20 Jul (ph. JS et al.) was interesting.

Summering or breeding Ospreys were noted at four locales in northwestern Nevada (v.o.), and a breeding pair at Deer Creek Res., Wasatch, UT had fledged one young bird by 22 Jul (JB & KB). A Mississippi Kite (*) was a one-day wonder at W.S.R. 6 Jun (ph. JW). Summering Bald Eagles were found at two spots in the Carson Range of w. Nevada: at Galena County Park, Washoe 3 Jun (LW et al.) and at Spooner Lake, Douglas 11 Jun (fide LW). Red-shouldered Hawks were seen at three Nevada locations 13–31 Jul (v.o.) and at F.S.N.W.R. 16–19 Jul (JG). A Zone-tailed Hawk (*) was at W.S.R. 6 Jun (JW). Peregrine Falcons were found at three Nevada locations 5 Jun – 14 Jul (v.o.) and at A.I.C. 21 Jul (DJ & LJ).

Shorebirds Through Terns

At least 7000 American Avocets were at L.L. by the early date of 20 Jun (BH), and more than 11,000 were at C.L. 25 Jul (TF). The first Greater Yellowlegs showed up at H.B.V.P. on the somewhat early date of 29 Jun (RS). The only Lesser Yellowlegs was a single bird at H.B.V.P. 1 Jul (RS). Solitary Sandpipers were reported from H.B.V.P. 15 Jul (JC) and Lake Shore, Utah, UT 22–31 Jul (v.o.). A Wandering Tattler (*), first reported in May, continued at A.I.C. until 3 Jun (v.o.). Some 30 Marbled Godwits were at L.L. on the early date of 20 Jun (BH). Three Red Knots were at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Box Elder, UT 26 Jul (CN & TS). Several Sanderlings – leftovers from the strong passage in May – lingered at A.I.C. until 4 Jun (KC); meanwhile southbound Sanderlings at four Utah locales 9–31 Jul were led by 26 at A.I.C. 27 Jul (EC).

The White-rumped Sandpiper (*) flock at Ouray N.W.R., Uintah, UT had dwindled to two individuals by 10 Jun (v.o.), and a lone bird made a surprise appearance at F.S.N.W.R. 6 Jun (JBa). A Baird’s Sandpiper at C.L. 25 Jul (TF) was the state’s only report, but reports from three Utah locales 13–27 Jul (v.o.) were led by 43 at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Box Elder, UT 27 Jul (EC). An early Pectoral Sandpiper was at Paragonah Pond, Iron, UT 14 Jul (RD). Two Stilt Sandpipers were at Provo Airport Dike, Utah, UT 31 Jul (DS et al.). At least 6000 Long-billed Dowitchers were at C.L. by 25 Jul (TF). Some 4000 Wilson’s Phalaropes gathered at L.L. 20 Jun (BH), and 10,000+ were at C.L. by 25 Jul (TF). Red-necked Phalarope maximum was 800+ at Soda Lake, Carson, NV 25 Jul (TF).

Franklin’s Gull maximum was 4266 at A.I.C. 21 Jul (DJ & LJ). A Herring Gull was at the unusual location of Quichapa L., Iron, UT on the unusual dates of 5–8 Jun (†RD). Common Terns made a good early showing in Utah, with reports at three locales 18–22 Jul led by 17 at the Geneva settling ponds, Utah 18 Jul (RSt); meanwhile, a single Common Tern at the Ruby Lake Fish Hatchery, Elko, NV 28 Jun (WW) was notable. A Least Tern (*) at the Geneva settling ponds, Utah, UT 22 Jul (JB & KB) was a great find.

Doves Through Vireos

Eurasian Collared-Doves (*) stormed into Nevada this summer. A bird along the Muddy River, Clark 7 Jun (NM & KM) was a probable state first, and an individual at Panaca, Lincoln 7 Jul (ph., †SS) was well described. By 11 Jul there were two at Panaca (SS). A Band-tailed Pigeon at B.R. 8 Jun (DT) was unusual. White-winged Doves are regular in Nevada only in the far southern reaches of Clark; it was notable, then, that the species was reported from five n. Clark locales during the reporting period (v.o.). An amazing 14–15 Yellow-billed Cuckoos were at W.S.R. in late June (†PSu, JW et al.), and singles were noted at B.R. 7–8 Jun (JBr & DT), along the lower Provo River, Utah, UT 3–4 Jul (DS et al.), and at Lytle Ranch, Washington, UT 22 Jul (RF et al.). A possible Elf Owl (*) was heard at Lytle Ranch, Washington, UT 21–22 Jul (RF et al.); the species has occurred here in the recent past. A well-described female Magnificent Hummingbird (*) was at Stout Canyon, Kane, UT 24 Jun (†SS & PS). An Anna’s Hummingbird was at Reno until 23 Jun (RR). At least six "fall" migrant Selasphorus hummingbirds were back at the O.C.T. 1 Jul (JD & TF). Two Acorn Woodpeckers were at Devil’s Canyon, San Juan, UT 26 Jun (DG).

An Olive-sided Flycatcher at the low-elevation site of B.C. 31 Jul (FP) was early. A Contopus flycatcher at C.C. 7 Jun was a good match for Eastern Wood-Pewee (*), both in terms of plumage seen and vocalizations heard (†RS); the observer did not get to study the bird long enough to make a definitive identification, however. Black Phoebes at Rancho San Rafael Park, Washoe, NV 24 Jul (FP) and at B.C. 31 Jul (FP) were northerly; meanwhile, a good eight birds were counted in M.V.W. 7 Jul (SS). Vermilion Flycatchers numbered in the double digits at W.S.R. in June (PSu et al.), and singles were found at three other Clark locations 14 Jun – 24 Jul (v.o.). Brown-crested Flycatchers at five Nevada locales 2–20 Jun (v.o.) were led by an impressive six birds at W.S.R. 20 Jun (JW). A silent Myiarchus flycatcher at M.R.S. 14 Jun was thought to be a possible Dusky-capped Flycatcher (*; †JBr). Cassin’s Kingbirds numbered 1–5 at four Nevada locales 9 Jun – 28 Jul (v.o.). An Eastern Kingbird strayed to B.R. 2 Jun (JB et al.).

A Bell’s Vireo at Tonopah 2 Jun (GS et al.) was northerly. A belated report of two singing Gray Vireos in the Palmetto Mountains, Esmeralda, NV 27 May (JD) was noteworthy; this area is well to the north and west of where the species was documented during the recently completed Nevada Breeding Bird Atlas (1997–2000). A possible Philadelphia Vireo (*) was reported from M.R.S. 10 Jun (JBr), and a Red-eyed Vireo (*) was at Boyd Siding, Lincoln, NV 7 Jul (†SS).

Swallows Through Warblers

Purple Martins were confirmed as breeders in Spanish Fork Canyon, Utah, UT 11–12 Jul (KC et al.). A juvenile Black-capped Chickadee was netted at the Mary’s River banding station, Elko, NV 29 Jul (KV). A singing Winter Wren was at Chimney Beach, Washoe, NV 14 Jul (TF); the species remains unconfirmed as a Nevada breeder. At least six American Dippers remained in downtown Reno until 23 Jun (TF & KS).

A possible Veery (*) was reported from Tonopah 2 Jun (JBr & DT). Migrant Swainson’s Thrushes included two at Tonopah 2 Jun (JBr & DT) and three at B.R. (JBr & DT) also 2 Jun; meanwhile, a lone Swainson’s Thrush at Navajo Lake, Kane, UT 1 Jul (SS & PS) indicated possible breeding well to the south of the species’ normal range. Unusual was a Hermit Thrush seen at a nest in riparian habitat on the canyon floor at Zion N.P., Washington, UT 2 Jun (SS et al.). The last Catharus thrush of the spring migration was an unidentified individual at C.C. 7 Jun (RS). One or two Gray Catbirds were at B.R. 2–10 Jun (JBr et al.), and reports from four Utah locales were led by six at North Arm Natural Area, Weber 3–24 Jun (CD et al.). A tardy Cedar Waxwing at C.C. 14 Jun (JC) was way to the south of the species’ breeding range in Nevada, while six northerly Phainopeplas at Duncan Creek, Iron, UT were a second county record (SS).

Warblers of note included the following: a Golden-winged Warbler (*) a little ways to the west Eureka, Juab, UT 16 Jun (EH); single Northern Parulas (*) at B.R. 14 Jun (JBr) and at Springville, Utah, UT 15 Jun (JH et al.); a singing Chestnut-sided Warbler (*) at Yerington, Lyon, NV 6 Jun (CR & DH) and another at B.R. on the unusual date of 9 Jul (JBr); one or two Black-throated Blue Warblers (*) at B.R. 8–10 Jun (JBr & DT); a tardy "Myrtle" Warbler at B.C. 8 Jun (TF & TL); two early Yellow-rumped Warblers at Duncan Creek, Iron, UT 29 Jul (SS) and 5–6 at B.C. 31 Jul (FP); an early Townsend’s Warbler at Aspen Grove, Utah, UT 27 Jul (EH); a Black-and-white Warbler at B.R. 2 Jun (JBr et al.); American Redstarts at three Nevada locales 2–30 Jun (v.o.); a Worm-eating Warbler (*) at W.S.R. 1 Jul (GS); an Ovenbird (*) at B.R. 2 Jun (JBr); single Northern Waterthrushes at M.R.S. 1 Jun (JBr & DT) and at C.C. 5–7 Jun (RS); a Hooded Warbler (*) at Dyer, Esmeralda, NV 3 Jun (DT et al.) and a banded male at Capitol Reef N.P., Wayne, UT 27 Jun – 3 Jul (TC).

Tanagers Through Finches

A Summer Tanager at Dyer, Esmeralda, NV 3 Jun (GS) and two at B.R. 12 Jul (JBr) were somewhat northerly, while a stray to Holladay, Salt Lake, UT 7 Jul (SC) was well to the north of its normal range. Meanwhile, a good nine individuals were tallied in M.V.W. 7 Jul (SS). An Abert’s Towhee at Pueblo Park, Clark, NV 4 Jul was notable; the species is highly sedentary in Nevada and had never before been reported from this location (RS). A Grasshopper Sparrow (*) near Caliente, Lincoln, NV was seen carrying food or a fecal sac (†WW), and two birds were noted at A.I.C., Davis, UT 3 Jun (JB & KB). Lincoln’s Sparrow is poorly documented as a breeder in Nevada, so the following records were of note: four adults on the O.C.T. 1 Jul, including an individual seen carrying food (JD & TF); at least six adults in Lamoille Canyon, Elko, 10 Jul, including three individuals seen feeding young (MP & LP).

Stray Rose-breasted Grosbeaks lingered at four Nevada locales 1 Jun – 3 Jul (v.o.), but the only Utah report was an adult male at F.S.N.W.R. 30 Jun (JBa). A male Painted Bunting (*) at Providence, Cache, UT 20–25 Jun (JL & WL), if accepted by the Utah records committee, would be the first or second for the state. Indigo Buntings at five Nevada locales included three males in M.V.W. 7 Jul (SS); meanwhile, there were reports of single birds at three Utah locales 24 Jun – 8 Jul (v.o.). Two Bobolinks were seen near Lamoille, Elko, NV 27 Jul (JE & SW), and one was at Goshen Canyon, Juab, UT 8 Jul (EH). A possible Common Grackle (*) was at Tonopah, Nye, 9 Jul (†JBr). Northerly Hooded Orioles were found at Reno, Washoe, NV 29 Jun (BG) and at Fallon, Churchill, NV 30 Jul (MA).

Multiple rosy-finches atop Mount Grant, Mineral, NV 22 Jun (LW) were interesting. Given the proximity of this site to the Sierra Nevada, it seems most likely that the rosy-finches were Gray-crowned – a species that could not be confirmed as a breeder during the Breeding Bird Atlas (1997–2000). Two or three Pine Grosbeaks on the O.C.T. 1 Jul (JD & TF) were the only report. Red Crossbills were present in good numbers in the Carson Range, Washoe, NV but the only other Nevada report was of three birds at Mt. Moriah, White Pine 28 Jul (JE & SW). A black-backed Lesser Goldfinch at Oxbow Park, Washoe, NV 26 Jul (JEl) was interesting; this form is occasionally reported from our region.

Observers: Mike Amos, Jay Banta (JBa), Joel Beyer, Kathy Beyer, John Brack (JBr), Steve Carr, K.C. Childs, Tom Clark, Jack Cochran, Ed Conrad, Carol Davis, Rob Dobbs, Jon Dunn, Jim Eidel, Joanne Ely (JEl), Ted Floyd, Rick Fridell, Jim Graham, Dana Green, Bill Grossi, Dan Harmon, Bill Henry, Jesse Huffaker, Eric Huish, Dan Johnston, Laura Johnston, Tim Lenz, John Lisonbee, Wendy Lisonbee, Karen McDonal, Neil McDonal, Martin Meyers, Colby Neuman, Fred Petersen, Mark Ports, Lois Ports, Chris Randolph, Bruce Robinson, Lynn Robinson, Ron Rovansek, Terry Sadler, Rick Saval, Greg Scyphers, Bryan Shirley, Dennis Shirley, Kei Sochi, Reed Stone (RSt), Je Anne Strott, Polly Sullivan (PSu), Priscilla Summers, Steve Summers, Dennis Trousdale, Ken Voget, Jack Walters, Walter Wehtje, Stuart White, Larry Williams.

S.A. Until recently, the Upper Muddy River Valley of Clark County, Nevada wasn’t even on the radar screens of most area birders. During the Nevada Breeding Bird Atlas (1997–2000), however, this drainage was discovered to harbor breeding Clapper Rails, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Vermilion Flycatchers, Brown-crested Flycatchers, and Cassin’s Kingbirds. The Upper Muddy River has also emerged as a prime spot for passerine vagrants and stray raptors. In 2001, researchers from the Great Basin Bird Observatory and the University of Nevada at Reno conducted bird surveys along the Upper Muddy River, to try to get a quantitative handle on breeding bird densities in the valley. One site alone – the privately held Warm Springs Ranch – supported 10+ pairs of Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Vermilion Flycatchers. Meanwhile, strays such as Mississippi Kite, Zone-tailed Hawk, Worm-eating Warbler, and multiple Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were found right through the summer season at Warm Springs Ranch.


Photo captions:

The yumanensis subspecies of the Clapper Rail is a federally listed taxon whose status in Nevada was virtually unknown until the late 1990s. In recent years, however, this furtive denizen of emergent wetlands has been documented as a breeder at various sites in the Colorado River drainage above Lake Mead. This bird was photographed at Overton Wildlife Management Area, Clark County, Nevada by Jack Walters.

This adult Mississippi Kite was one of many highlights from the Warm Springs Ranch, Clark County, Nevada in the early summer of 2001. Photograph by Jack Walters.