Monday, August 24, 2009

A Cloudy Day in the Desert

I spent the weekend with some of my best friends at our annual fantasy football draft trip destination, Las Vegas, Nevada. Much like a birding festival it gives the 14 of us, and others, to come together from our scattered cities and catch up.
Of course I had to drag myself out of bed and see if I could spy any fun desert species. Thanks to a timely post from Birdchick and Jim Boone's site I learned about, and decided to visit Sunset Park. This park has great diversity, and is located just south east of the airport, so if you are staying on the strip plan on a comparable cab fare, or check the local bus lines. I opted for a cab because it was faster, and I wanted to maximise my time rather than waiting on buses. For a birding focused trip I would get a car, or search for locals who provide guiding services.
One species that had caught my eye as I researched was the Gambel's Quail, (above). Everything about that bird is entertaining, from its coloring to the way they move in groups. I am glad I found so many of them.

Surprisingly, I was met with cloudy skies, and challenging lighting. This female Black-chinned Hummingbird perched in better light, but the male I tried to photograph was completely back lit. All Hummingbirds are fun to watch, and these were no exception.

I found a landscaped area surrounding the County Parks buildings that ended up being fantastic. It bordered the undeveloped Mesquite Scrub and dune areas, but had many flowering trees and boardwalk areas as well. Next to one of the buildings, in one of the trees, was a tiny grey bird with a yellow head. Of course it stayed high in the tree, and was tough to get a look at, but did get enough workable shots to confirm that this was a Verdin.

One that I hadn't expected, and had to double check, was this Abert's Towhee. Not as striking as its spotted or eastern cousins. There were three who were happily feeding in the underbrush while the groups of Gambel's Quail moved through.

I also had several different looks at Hooded Orioles in the park, bringing my total of new species to five. That is not to say that the good birds were limited to lifers, I also saw a Cooper's hawk capturing prey, a number of warblers, and a good looking Loggerhead Shrike among many others.
The park and birding was even better than expected, and gave a great added dimension to the rest of my trip.
2009 Count: 180
Lifetime: 188

No comments:

Post a Comment