Tag Archives: ravens

Desert Birding is Phenomenal

Desert bird watching is exceptional.
“Tell me another desert tale. Share your bird stories with us.”
That is what the people said. “Tell me more stories.”

Why? Because these desert bird watching stories were true when they happened and they are still true now. They pre-date reality shows with genuine reality where the only stars are the ones in the sky. The main characters are one or two humans and a few species of birds, reptiles, rodents, spiders, insects and rabbits. If we were really lucky and our timing is just right, we might observe a kit fox or coyote or kangaroo rat during our bird-watching walk and wait.

Searing and stark landscapes spread out before us in all directions. The only thing limiting our view is a mountain range about 75 miles away. Now that is open space. Between here and there are perhaps two dozen trees and miles of creosote bushes stretching from one side of the valley to the other. Salt pan or dried creek beds or in some places sand dunes add to the surface texture. But the tallest sand dune is only about 40 feet high so it is not too hard to get over or around it. (Assuming it is not mid-summer with scorching sun beating down on us.) Black rocks reflecting the sun with their shiny aged patina fill out the details of the scene, looking for all the world like desert pavement.

Today, I walk across the valley floor towards a few trees about 3 miles away. There is access to brackish water close to the surface and two cottonwood trees and a few mesquite trees have managed to thrive here for at least a hundred years (according to the local Shoshone people). I go there to look for birds and other wildlife and to observe and catalog the plants in the tiny riparian refuge. If there is any water visible above the surface, I will observe and measure it and record its temperature, depth, width, flow and the like for the record. That is what rangers do when they check out a spring to monitor and document its conditions. And that is my task for the day.

Neither ravens nor vultures grace the sky today in my area, though I have seen them here at other times.

LBJ’s flit about in the creosote branches now and then.

What is an LBJ? Our local term of endearment for unidentified small brown birds – Little Brown Jobs.

In truth they were sparrows or warblers, depending on the season. It was always wonderful to see the yellow-rump warblers
coming through during migration. And in winter an occasional flock of juncos entertained us.

I hear woodpeckers in the cottonwood trees and slow my approach. I am hoping for a roadrunner and a varied thrush that was seen recently. I hear a shrike screaming the announcement that I am arriving. A flurry of feathers confirms there were rock doves and juvenile cowbirds gathered beneath the scrubby brush plants. Hearing the alarm call of the shrike, those birds which are able and neither dehydrated or overheated will move to seek better shelter. The shrike is an effective and ruthless predator. Any stragglers are fair game as long as the shrike does not feel threatened by my presence. I might see some birds hunting today at this spring.

No surface water is visible today so there will be less evening activity than there is during other seasons. I wait until the shadows of the mountains in the west begin to creep across the spring and then begin my walk back to the truck at the roadside. I prefer to arrive home before nightfall after a full day in the sun. I am feeling blessed by this solitary day at the spring and have ample notes and photos to document my visit. I have been in the presence of truly wild and yet simple creatures. Though it is only 3 miles from the road it is untamed territory. Human rules do not prevail. The desert rules this domain.