Thursday, December 15, 2011

First year male Phainopepla

Birding was amazing along the Red Trail in Shoshone yesterday.. Nothing unusual but is was  wicked birdy.  Over 20 Phainopepla are holding individual  red trail territories containing ripe desert mistletoe berries.They defend the berries against relentless flocks of Western Bluebirds. American Robins, Cedar Waxwings, and Mockingbirds, and house finches, also compete for the precious berries.
No fewer than 32 Bushtits are patrolling the red trail, along with hundreds of White-crowned Sparrows,scores of Sage Sparrows, a few Song Sparrows,Savannah Sparrows, and a Lincoln's Sparrow. It was great fun trying to count the Bushtits, and I did it by hiding and waiting. Eventually the flock gathered in a shrub near me and used it as a staging area and the Bushtits took off one by one, sometimes two by two.

Hiding and waiting is an excellent way to get really close to birds They often come observe the
"hidden"  observer when the observer is still. The best close-up looks at Crissal Thrashers happen this way. Be patient. Try the 20 minute strategy.

    Crissal Thrashers are heard and seen daily, I counted 7 on red trail  alone today. Crissal Thrashers are often seen ,and heard along the Shoshone Village streets in shrubs and trees ,against buildings and in yards. There is a regular thrasher around  the Amargosa Conservancy, and another around the garden hose pond, and one around the Shoshone RV park.Their two note "dirty birdie" call is definitive.They have not begun singing yet ,but last year they began in early Jan.They are excellent mimics and their songs include imitations of Northern Flicker, Verdin, and Phainopepla.They begin nesting with first eggs in Feb.They lay beautiful blue eggs.

Black-tailed Gnatcatchers are in pairs and can be found in fields of Quailbaush , and groves of  Honey and Screwbean mesquite.They make hissing calls between the pair, and the males sing a little all year round.There are at least 3 pairs around the red trail.

In Tecopa,
   Northern Harrier defend Tecopa Marsh from other Raptors, and today I saw the male harrier escorting an adult Red-tail off the premises.The 2010 male had two females, and began mating with female # 1 as early as Dec 7th!
Harriers are not known for nest site fidelity, but this site has had a pair each of the three years that I have been here. The same site is currently held by a pair.Much of this pair behavior  by Northern Harrier isn't known in the winter. Last December, I observed the male harrier  moving coyotes from its territory by landing near the coyote, waiting for it to approach, then flying away but landing just close enough so that the coyote would keep up the chase. I watched this on several occasions

         Grimshaw Lake also holds year round Virginia Rails,and American Bitterns, right near the road.
There are 5 Snow Geese  and an American Kestrel there today.

The water treatment ponds west of the Tecopa Community Center, and the adjacent campground always have some waterfowl , this week 2 female Hooded Mergansers.


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