This past Friday afternoon (Aug. 31st) with no set agenda, I left Carson City to head to Great Basin National Park next to the town of Baker in eastern Nevada. Towards evening as I was leaving east from Fallon along Rte. 50 (aka The Loneliest Highway in America), I noticed that I was heading into storm clouds and probable rain. From Fallon to my first night's destination of Ely, I experienced the most unbelievable sights with the setting sun firing up the sky just above some mountains along with swirls of blue-gray storm clouds and numerous bolts of lightning. As the night and my drive east continued, the moon showed itself through the clouds in one direction while the storms and lightning continued in the other three directions. I was able to get some good photos of the storm activity including 2 that captured lightning strikes although photos never do the actual sights any justice.
Anyhow, I arrived at Great Basin NP on Saturday morning where I drove up the scenic drive to the Wheeler Peak campground area at an elevation of about 10,000 feet (Wheeler Peak itself is just over another 3000 feet higher). I hiked the Alpine Lakes Loop Trail (where I saw and photographed an American Three-Toed Woodpecker just after Teresa Lake going counter-clockwise on the loop), and through the Bristlecone Pine Grove to the rock glacier and back to the campground. After setting up my tent in a rain and hail storm, I drove back down to the valley where it was about 30 degrees warmer and where I observed several Rufous and Black-Chinned Hummingbirds battling it out at a home feeder, and a Calliope Hummingbird at the park visitor center feeding on Bee Balm Flowers. After a BBQ dinner put on by the local volunteer fire department (where I saw some Cedar Waxwings), I drove back up and hiked part of the Wheeler Summit Trail along which I had great views and photographs of 2 Dusky Grouse non-chalantly ambling along and off of the trail. The next morning (Sunday), I got up and hiked the Alpine Lakes Loop Trail again hoping to get some more photos of a Three-Toed Woodpecker (no luck). Other birds observed during my hikes over the 2 days included:
Hermit Thrush-up to 4
Gray-Headed Junco subspecies-many
Later Sunday morning after leaving Great Basin NP, I decided to backtrack along Rte. 50 to west of Ely where I took a marked road north through Long Valley about 67 miles to Ruby Lakes NWR. This road is paved along stretches and unpaved along others. Upon arriving at the southernmost pond of the refuge, I observed 2 Trumpeter Swans and numerous of the expected waterfowl along with a herd of 31 Pronghorn Antelope. I continued north along the road that skirts the refuge stopping at every access along the way up to the refuge headquarters. Numerous waterfowl/waders, swallows, sparrows, blackbirds, and Western Meadowlarks were observed along with 2 pairs of Sandhill Cranes, 7 Mountain Bluebirds, 3 Western Kingbirds, a Forster's Tern with one loud begging chick, a Lewis's Woodpecker fly catching from the tree tops adjacent to the refuge headquarters, a Loggerhead Shrike, and some Gulls (California and Ring-Billed). After 3.5 hours of observation, I decided that I would spend the night in Elko and briefly check out the Ruby Mountains on Monday morning. With the help of a local, I was able to figure out where the road over Harrison Pass and into Elko was located, as there is no signage of any kind where you turn from the refuge road. The road over Harrison Pass is unpaved until you cross over Harrison Pass where it is paved and designated as Rte. 228.
On Monday morning, I drove from Elko east along Rte. 227 and turned into Lamoille Canyon at the town of Lamoille (where I observed a Lewis's Woodpecker), following the road to the Thomas Canyon Campground in the Ruby Mountains where the beginning of the trail up Thomas Canyon is located. I hiked up the trail about one mile (beyond the beaver pond) along which I observed the following birds:
Black-Capped Chickadee-my first in Nevada
Olive-Sided Flycatcher-1 fly catching from top of a tree, saw it catch and eat a small butterfly with some bright red coloring
Gray-Headed subspecies of Junco-2
I then decided I was ready to go home as I didn't feel like hiking up to Island Lake to look for Himalayan Snowcock and/or Black Rosy Finches. After arriving home last evening (Monday, Sept. 3rd) and unpacking, I hiked at Carson River Park/Silver Saddle Ranch. Highlights of some miscellaneous birds observed included:
Great-Horned Owl-6 including screeching young born this year
Western Screech Owl-heard one for the first time in over 2 months in the same area reported earlier this year
Western Wood Pewee-3
The most interesting sighting of winged creatures of the evening was a swirl of bats of various sizes feeding together just upstream of the Mexican Dam just before dark. I counted at least 50 bats feeding together with the larger bats the biggest ones that I have ever seen.
This evening (Tuesday, Sept. 4th), Fred Welden, Bob Erickson, and I drove along Brunswick Canyon Road and up one of the side jeep trails. Thankfully, Brunswick Canyon Road has been graded after the destruction caused by runoff from storms in early July. Highlights of some miscellaneous birds observed included:
Red Crossbill-about 16-20
Pinyon Jay-a noisy flock of about 200
Finally, at my home feeders in east Carson City, we still have at least 2 Rufous Hummingbirds hanging around. There have been 3 to 5 present battling over the feeders since the first part of July.
Please e-mail me for directions to any of the aforementioned locations.