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15 - 22 March 1997

by Susan Ledlow

We went camping in southeastern Nevada the week of March 15-22.  The camping and hiking were actually better than the birding, but we did see a few things.  I had never been to many of the places before and was amazed by the scale of the landscape- lots of high mountain ranges with huge basins of grassland in between.

Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire is beautiful - big, red sandstone formations that are easy and lots of fun to climb.  It is on the northeast edge of Lake Mead, about an hour from Las Vegas.  The campgrounds are pretty nice.  The sites are built right into the rocks.  The vegetation is all desert scrub (no trees or even large cactus) and the elevation is about 2400 feet.  We saw:

Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
Red-tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
Costa's Hummingbird, Calypte costae
Say's Phoebe, Sayornis saya
Violet-green Swallow, Tachycineta thalassina
Common Raven, Corvus corax
Verdin, Auriparus flaviceps
Rock Wren, Salpinctes obsoletus
Canyon Wren, Catherpes mexicanus
Gray Vireo, Vireo vicinior
Lucy's Warbler, Vermivora luciae
House Finch, Carpodacus mexicanus
White-crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
House Sparrow, Passer domesticus

Overton Wildlife Management Area

The management area is a wetlands on the northeast edge of Lake Mead, near thetown of Overton.  It D5s about an hour and a half from Las Vegas.  It's a little difficult to find and you need a four-wheel drive to get down some of the roads.  We saw:

Western Grebe, Aechmophorus occidentalis
Eared Grebe, Podiceps nigricollis
Double-crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus
Great Egret, Ardea alba
Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
Canvasback, Aythya valisineria
Redhead, Aythya americana
Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
Cooper D5s or Sharp-shinned Hawk (?) Accipiter sp.
American Coot, Fulica americana
Greater Roadrunner, Geococcyx californianus
Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Polioptila melanura
American Robin, Turdus migratorius

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

Pahranagat consists of two small lakes and some wetlands within a high desert grassland.  It is about an hour and a half northeast of Las Vegas.  Camping is allowed along the upper lake.  We saw:

Eared Grebe, Podiceps nigricollis
Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
Ring-necked Duck, Aythya collaris
Lesser Scaup, Aythya affinis
Bufflehead, Bucephala albeola
Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
American Coot, Fulica americana
American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
 American Robin, Turdus migratorius
Yellow-rumped Warbler, Dendroica coronata
Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia

Echo Canyon State Park

Echo Canyon has a nice campground next to small reservoir (about four hours northeast of Las Vegas).  There were only two other campers there.  The vegetation was mostly grassland/shrub with some juniper and the elevation is about 5000 feet.  (BTW, we had a great view of Hale-Bopp through incredibly clear skies.)

We were very entertained by the birdlife in the campground.  Two Mountain Bluebirds spent a lot of time fluttering around and calling to their reflections in the car windows.  They seemed completely oblivious to our presence and perched in a tree about four feet overhead while we sat outside.  (Is this normal behavior?) A Northern Flicker was also conspicuously in residence.  He called incessantly and drummed on the metal roofs of the ramadas over the picnic tables.  We saw:

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca
Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
American Wigeon, Anas americana
Redhead, Aythya americana
Ring-necked Duck, Aythya collaris
Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
American Coot, Fulica americana
Killdeer, Charadrius vociferus
American Avocet, Recurvirostra americana
Long or Short-billed Dowitcher (?), Limnodromus sp.
Ring-billed Gull, Larus delawarensis
California Gull, Larus californicus
Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
Say's Phoebe, Sayornis saya
Common Raven, Corvus corax
Mountain Bluebird, Sialia currucoides

Great Basin National Park

This park is truly in the middle of nowhere!  We only passed four cars in the two or three hours we drove from Echo Canyon.  The park is located in  eastern Nevada, right on the border with Utah, about halfway up the state.  

Vegetation is mixed pine/aspen.  Elevation at the Lower Lehman campground is 7200 feet.  There was still snow on the ground, but daytime temperatures were in the 70's. We did the tour of Lehman Caves and some hiking, but were limited by the snow on the trails.  It's still pretty early in the season there.  Only one of the three campgrounds was open (very nice though), and there was no potable water
available.  We saw:

Northern Harrier, Circus cyaneus
Steller's Jay, Cyanocitta stelleri
Western Scrub-Jay, Aphelocoma californica
Clark's Nutcracker, Nucifraga columbiana
Common Raven, Corvus corax
Mountain Chickadee, Parus gambeli
Mountain Bluebird, Sialia currucoides
Townsend's Solitaire, Myadestes townsendi
American Robin, Turdus migratorius
Dark-eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis

Susan Ledlow
Tempe, AZ