Friday, September 16, 2011

Shoshone - Blue trail in the snow

The Kingstons in Snow from the Blue Trail
The Resting Springs,(right) and Nopah Ranges
 I took both of these pictures on the Blue Trail  on the same morning, Feb 17 , 2011. The snow covered  range, the Kingstons, are off to the south, off to the north showing the Resting Springs Range, and the Nopah (name means no water)Range. There are mountains all around us here. Shoshone is a  key part of the Amargosa River system . The Shoshone Spring feeds the Shoshone Wetlands, and joins the Amargosa River here, creating an isolated desert birding habitat. This area is relatively un-birded.(i have also been called an unbirder) many migrants pass through unnoticed.

A migration wave seems to be happening here today. This morning so
far, without leaving the yard!  RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD, BLACK-CHINNED
Northern Waterthrush at the garden hose pond

There are dozens of migrating  birds in the mesquites around the
garden hose pond, and all through Shoshone Village. I'm sure that the
Amargosa Canyon, and China Ranch are probably great today too. I hope
I may have to report again today!

Len Warren
Shoshone, CA

I'd be happy to show you around Shoshone Wetlands

Free Bird Walk every Sunday 8AM- meet at Crowbar Restaurant

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I'm Len Warren Staff Naturalist for Shoshone Village, CA.
 I would like to invite you to Shoshone Village for excellent desert birding. Shoshone Village is a small oasis village which is the southern gateway to Death Valley, and sits along the riparian vegetation of the Amargosa River. The Shoshone-Tecopa bird checklist stands at 259 species. We welcome your additions to the checklist. There are 5 major birding areas here. Shoshone Village, Shoshone Wetlands, Tecopa & Tecopa Wetlands, Amargosa Canyon, and of course China Ranch. Comfortable rooms at Shoshone Inn can be your base camp, or Shoshone Campground has nice spots for RV or tent camping.   A key to the  Warm Springs swimming pool is included with your stay in at the inn or campground.(You'll not be disappointed) I'd love to take you on a private birding tour.
Warm Springs Pool
. At the Crowbar Restaurant , FREE weekly bird walks begin every Sunday at 8 AM. The Shoshone birding trails begin at the Crowbar with the Blue Trail. From one blue pole , one can see the next blue pole and so on along a path which may change your idea of desert birding. The blue trail hold several pairs of Crissal Thrasher,  Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, Verdin, and Bewick's Wren. Phainopepla are present from Sept until May. During migration they are joined by many mountain habitat nesting birds on their way back to Mexico, and Central and South America. During winter, Shoshone's Phainopepla's hold individual feeding territories beginning in Oct.In winter they compete with Mockingbirds, Western Bluebirds, and Cedar Waxwings for the sticky, glue-like, berries of the Desert Mistletoe. Juvenile Cooper's Hawks hunt the Shoshone Wetlands all winter. I often find their feeding spots , littered with feathers of their prey, often Gambel's Quail, or Northern Flicker in winter. Long-Eared Owls nested several spots throughout the village in 2010.

Just follow the poles to discover Shoshone Wetlands Preserve. Please explore, respect, and enjoy this 1000 acre private nature preserve.
Crissal Thrasher, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Verdin, Bewick's Wren, Greater Roadrunner,Say's Phoebe,  and Loggerhead Shrike,are year round residents of the trails. Bell's Vireo,Lucy's Warbler, Yellow Breasted Chat, Hooded Oriole, Western Kingbird, Blue Grosbeak,Indigo Bunting, breed here in spring and summer.

During winter, Shoshone's Phainopepla's hold individual feeding territories beginning in Oct.pair up in February, and breed in March and April.In winter they compete with Mockingbirds, Western Bluebirds, and Cedar Waxwings for the sticky, gluelike, berries of the Desert Mistletoe, as they ripen. Juvenile Cooper's Hawks hunt  small birds on the Shoshone Wetlands all winter. I often find their feeding spots , littered with feathers of their prey, often Gambel's Quail, or the red-shafted  Northen Flicker in winter.

During migration? All birding  bets are off and Shoshone, Tecopa, Amargosa Canyon, and China Ranch are all known migrant traps , almost anything can be found here! (see our checklist)

The BLUE TRAIL ,an easy 1/2 hour walk,  Pole #1 begins at the Crowbar restaurant and heads straight out into the Shoshone Wetlands, a private nature preserve bordered by BLM Wilderness. Shoshone Wetlands is dominated by Honey Mesquite and Screwbean Mesquite trees. The Blue trail wanders through the wetlands and along the  Shoshone spring  and the Amargosa river , at pole #16 it splits off on a loop (10-15 extra minutes) that walks through prime desert riparian bird habitat.  .The loop returns to pole 16. The Blue trail returns to Crowbar or connects with the Aqua trail at the confluence of the Amargosa River, and Shoshone Spring.

Red Trail- Just follow the poles.
  an easy 1/2 hour walk , begins at the Shoshone Campground, and heads North out to the Amargosa River, loops back to the South,  crosses a spring, and returns to the Campground. or connects to the Aqua-Connector Trail,   The Red tail is habitat to all the same species as the Blue Trail

GPS work along the Aqua Trail for the Amargosa Canyon Songbird Project
The AQUA-Connector trail, connects the Red Trail and Blue Trail , 1/2 hr from Red to Blue, along the path of the Amargosa River, as it has carved its path over time.On the East side are the mud-hills and washes coming off the mountains, and on the West side is the Amargosa River, often flowing above ground, supporting a unique habitat type and excellent birding for desert birds and migrants. This trail reconnects with the Blue Trail at the confluence of the Shoshone Spring, and the Amargosa River, a particularly pretty and interesting spot.

The SWIMMING POOL TRAIL begins behind the pool area and is marked  by Aqua poles soon to be tipped in white. This is a 5 minute walk and has benches to sit in the shade and enjoy a lovely marshy meadow,ans sometimes smalll ponds, both  unusual in the desert, and at times full of birds, as well as butterflies, dragonflies, and other wildlife.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Yellow Breasted Chats Along the Amargosa River and Shoshone Wetlands

If you come to Shoshone from late April through Mid July, you can easily find Yellow-breasted Chat. They breed here every year, and the males sing beginning as early as 4 am.
Display flight/ male  Yellow-Breasted Chat
 Yellow-breasted Chat is one of the most vocal of all the songbirds along the Amargosa River, They arrive here in late April, and claim territories in the shadiest,darkest, and most challenging vegetation, usually very close to water.The males show off with a marvelous singing display flight to proclaim their territory. The song repertoire of a chat is extensive. Males sing from various high perches within the territory, along the river,and it's tributary springs as many as 8 at a time can be heard singing and counter-singing in the north end of the Amargosa Canyon. Females are extremely quiet, and secretive.They make certain  sounds near the nest . Females do not sing, but make short , single note calls that can help us discover the nest location. To find the nest of a Chat, one must be still, wait within the territory to hear the female "near calls" then quietly track the female. I have found a few Chat nests in my work, this year 4, but most of them still manage to elude me. I often search for hours and give up, walking away,while the males sing and display in a way that feels to me like they're laughing at my incompetence, and congratulating themselves on their  successful territorial defense and secrecy.  I feel fortunate that although  many although birders have had very few precious looks at a Chat, I'm able to get great looks at them every day during breeding season.

There are still a few Chats along the Amargosa River, but most have raised their young and have departed  in July,for Mexico, and Central America, as far south as Panama. I already miss them, and I'm looking forward to April again.