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NVBIRDS  August 2002

NVBIRDS August 2002

Subject:

Birding the YP and Owyhee Desert )8/05and 06/ 02

From:

Jack Walters <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Jack Walters <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 9 Aug 2002 13:24:08 -0700

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text/plain

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Hi birders ?                                  Bird trip to the Owyhee and YP
Desert
My object o f this trip is to count the sparrow populations that nest on the
table which may be a
little dry for some birders, but some I know would like to get an idea of
what lives in that remote
part of Nevada. I was a little late, because the peak fledgling populations
were the first of July. A
lot of the families have left the area, but there are still a good number of
birds in the desert. This
table is one of the prime nesting areas of the Sage Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow,
Brewer's Sparrow,
Western Meadowlark and Loggerhead Shrike in Nevada.
   Maybe I should give you a little information on the geological and
habitat make up first. The
Owyhee and YB Deserts is a table made of a basalt lava flow that stretches
from the Santa Rosa
Range on the west side to the Bull Run mountains on the east side near
Owyhee. Starting at the
Idaho State line the table extends down to the Tuscarora Mountain Range on
the south end. It is
approximately fifty-six miles from the Santa Rosas to the Bull Run Mountains
and it is forty
miles from the state line to the Tuscarora Mountains. The table extends on
up into Idaho to the
Snake River, but no need to give milage past the Idaho border.
   According to the most recent Geological Time Scale that I have on hand
(ten years old) the
Basin Ranges were being formed sometime in the late Oligocene Period which
was about
twenty-five million years in the past. The table probably came about during
the basalt up flows
in the late Miocene about five to eight million years ago. This is all
speculation on my part from
what I have gleaned in the past on the geological make up of the basin and
range. Believe me
when I say it can be a lot more complicated than what I can tell you. After
the many ice ages
since formation of the table, the last four great Ice ages in the last
million and a half years has
laid down the chemical soils on the table during the great rain storms
during the melting periods.
 So, the soil on the table is not very thick but enough for a sea of Wyoming
Sagebrush to grow.
     Between ice ages those great rainstorm torrents that come down out of
the Tuscaroras, the
Santa Rosas and the Bull Run Mountains ripped a great chasm in the lava flow
forming the
South Fork of the Owyhee from the Tuscarora, the little Owyhee from the
Santa Rosas and Bull
Run Creek from the Bull Runs. On the west side of this great chasm you have
the Owyhee
Desert and on the east side you have the YP Desert. Standing above the river
about a thousand
feet below the tables near Devils Corral and peering down river to the north
is a sight of high
caprock cliffs where the water has cut through tons of lava. And to top it
off, the clear blue river
water is cascading over rocks about another one-hundred and fifty feet
below. Sometime in the
last million years the river had a bottom and then something happened and it
proceeded to cut
deeper in another layer of lava forming narrow benches between the cliffs.
    Upon the table in all directions there is a sea of sagebrush and natural
grasses( very little cheat
grass here on the table, if any), but the grasses are thin and the stress of
drought in the past years
has taken its toll, for there is dead sagebrush throughout the deserts. For
now, the sagebrush is
healthy because there are fresh growths of leaves for this year. Another
thing, which is hard to
believe, there has not been a fire on neither table in the last fifty or
hundred years because I
looked for fire sign and found not a trace . The only place where there are
signs of fires are at the
base of the foothills in the mountain ranges.
    I will tell you the route the I took and you can follow me on the
Delorme Nevada Atlas. On
Monday night I stopped at Midas to get gas-4 gallons at $2.50 a gal. Then on
to Scraper
Springs on the northeast flank of the Snowstorm Mountains where I spent the
night. Next day, I
drove up to the east-west road on the south end of the Owyhee Desert, from
there I drove west to
Four-mile Butte, from there north to Button Well, from there to Twin Springs
on the Little
Owyhee River, from the "T" up to Calico Ranch and then to McDermitt for gas.
When I left
McDermitt I took time to bird Devils Gap, which is the East Fork of the
Quinn River, from there
I drove to the Nevada state Line, then went south to ghost town Cathart,
stayed a few minutes
and decided to try for Devils Corral above the South Fork of the Owyhee
River. When I left
Cathart I went south to the Gas Line Road. I arrived at the end of the road
at the edge of the
table, my lights showed nothing but darkness in space, so I got out and
still could not see
anything but darkness, but heard the sound of rapids and whistling wind far
below me. Spooky
place with no moon, so I drove back down the road about fifty yards and
spent the night.
   Next morning I took in the awesome view and then headed south to Desert
Creek Ranch.
There is not a place that I could find to cross the river from the Idaho
border to south of Wilsons
dam, so I had to go to Sheep Creek Reservoir and then drive through the
canyons of  Sheep
Creek to the  River because of all the private land on Bull Run Creek. I
then drove out of the
canyon up to Petersons Table and then north to a road that cut through the
YP Desert to Owyhee
via Hat Peak.
   I met only one truck out on both deserts in two days. The truck was a
USFWS pickup and they
stopped to talk at Desert Creek ranch site (abandoned ranch). They were
checking for plant life
in the desert and taking samples.
Safety: If you go into the deserts, be in a 4X4 with plenty of gas and good
tires. There should be
at least two vehicles because it is one of the most desolate areas in Nevada
(most of the tire
tracks that I saw are few and were made by one truck a couple of months
ago).  I carry a simple
tow-bar, that I made, with me at all times; therefore, I can bum a pull back
to civilization from
any stray Cowboy or Indian that I come across. Take water and food that will
last for at least two
days and a heavy shirt, because it gets down in the forties at night. The
elevation on the desert
varies between 5800' to 6000' all across the desert and drops down to 5000'
at the river level.
 It was dark when I left Owyhee. There is no water on the Owyhee Desert
except in river area.
All of the stock tanks look like they dried up last month. On the YP Desert
the stock tanks still
have water but very little.
     Numbers of bird species that I saw in the deserts:
1. Loggerhead Shrike 180 in both deserts

2.  Vesper Sparrow   340 in both deserts.
3.   Sage Sparrow      400 in both deserts
5.   Brewer's Sparrow 150     Most have left the table for the hills in the
mountainsACV
 6.  Horned larks        450 in both deserts.
7. Gray Flycatcher      12 in both deserts
8. Golden Eagle           3 under the table cap both sides
9.  Prairie Falcon        2.. both at Desert creek ranch
10. Cliff Swallow      At Little Owyhee and S. F. Owyhee.
11. Sage Grouse       Did not see a Sage grouse on the table only on Sheep
Creek. The main
reason I suppose was that there is no water on the west table.

Birds seen at random stops throughout the deserts are listed but I kept a
running tally of all the
birds throughout the trip.
Time: 5:30a.m: Scraper Springs.. 08/06 /02
On the way in last night after dark ( Monday night):
Hundreds of Black-tailed Jacks
one Pygmy Rabbit
1. Common Poorwill   12

Tues at 5:30 am
Bright sunny day, no wind and the temperature is 45 degrees in the morning
and it got up to 75
in the afternoon
1 Western Meadowlark   12
2. Golden Eagle   adult
3. Lazuli Bunting 1
4. Brewer's Sparrow 30+
5. Lark Sparrow 20
6. Brewer's Blackbird 13
7. Gray Flycatcher 2
8. Vesper Sparrow 14
9. Black-billed Magpie
10. Brown-headed Cowbird 2
11. Mourning Dove   14
 left at 8:30 am for the east-west road on the south end of the Owyhee
Desert.
I saw the alkali plume first then the chopper. A wild horse roundup was in
progress so I hung
back and followed at a distance. The trap was set up in the middle of the
road, so I pulled off and
watched the chopper and cowboys bring the twenty-five horses into the trap.
I then went on
through and met the east-west road and headed west. I went a few miles
before I noticed another
alkali plume and the chopper again. This time there was at least eighty
horses strung out in a
dead run with two to three abreast for mile in length. By looking around in
the desert the horses
needed to be rounded up for their sign was everyplace.
    I made three random stops and walked out about a hundred yards in the
sage brush and always
found groups of birds
birds at these stops
1. Gray Flycatcher 2
2. Loggerhead Shrike 6
4. Vesper Sparrow 8
5. Lark Sparrow 4
6. Brewer's Sparrow 5
7. Western Meadowlark   8
8. Sage Thrasher   12
time: 10:00am   Four-mile Butte
1. Rock Wren    8 in one group
2. Western Kingbird   2
3. Sage Thrasher   10
4. Loggerhead Shrike 6
5. Say's Phoebe   1
6. Horned Lark 4
7. Sage Sparrow 5
Time: 11:00 am   Button Well has water...   reservoir dry
8. Horned lark 23

More on anoter message
Jack Walters
Carson Ciy, Nevada

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