Death Valley and environs
- A brief trip to Death Valley with Dave Lawrence of San Luis Obispo the past two days (5/9-10) produced a few notable birds there and nearby for the location/season. Highlights included:
White-faced Ibis: 2 at Stovepipe Wells; 5 on pond in NW corner of Furnace Crk. Rch. golf course
American Wigeon: a lone female on Stovepipe Wells sewage pond
Green-winged Teal: a male and female at Stovepipe Wells (with Cinn. Teal)
Redhead: a male on NW pond FCR golf course
Ring-necked Duck: a female on NW pond FCR golf course
Snowy Plover: at least three at Tecopa marshes (quick look, one spot)
Long-billed Curlew: Tecopa
Gilded Flicker: a pair in Joshua Tree forest along power line road NW of Cima
Hermit Thrush: two late birds at Galileo in Kern Co. on 5-9 (Swainson's abundant)
GRASSHOPPER SPARROW: one in Furnace Creek trickle just south of stables at FCR
SWAMP SPARROW: one in thick green flowering vegetation at the dry former sewage ponds at
extreme NW corner of FCR golf course
"oriantha" White-crowned Sparrow: one each at Galileo and FCR
Unable to include as a "highlight", multiple Eurasian Collared Doves appeared everywhere but Panamint Springs--with birds seen at Stovepipe Wells, Furnace Creek Ranch (where abundant), Tecopa, Baker, and Beatty Nevada where they are common.
Migrant numbers were good, if not spectacular. Wilson's Warblers predominated of course--but we didn't chance across one Warbling Vireo anywhere (no vireos at all other than Cassin's at Galileo en route)! MacGillivray's were seen a few places and the warbler mix was adequate, with small numbers that weren't Wilson's. The usual migrant flycatchers were seen in modest numbers--no empids at FCR(!)--with fewer pewees than expected. FCR had a small flight of Ring-billed Gulls and a California. Eared Grebes appeared by ones on each pond checked. Wilson's Phalaropes were at Stovepipe Wells, Baker sewage pond, and the Tecopa "sewage lagoon". A few White-crowned Sparrows lingered here and there, along with the known Gr-tld Towhee, Fox and Golden-crowns at Galileo.
A couple comments about birding locales on the route:
1. Furnace Creek seems to have been re-routed south of the FCR complex, running just outside the tamarisk row on the south edge of the resort area, then curving around the west edge of the golf course. Access from beside the stable across from the motel complex is recommended. Small cattails have taken hold and a few catclaw mesquite, deep grass, and small tamarisks provide cover--with the big tamarisks behind. It looks good for migrants, is easily birded--and is not off-limits as are the golf course fairways. The date palm groves are now manicured and good for Eurasian Collared Dove, European Starlings, House Sparrows, and various blackish icterids.
2. Panamint Springs had many more migrants than expected. Across from the store/bar/motel/hermit's rest the old RV campground of tamarisks is now dry, stunted, and birdless. The campground has been extended to the east however by placing rows of native desert shrubs (desert willow, mesquite, palo verde, etc) along RV parking spaces. The native shrubs held many migrants and should be checked by birders travelling to Death Valley as vagrant season acclerates.
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