The 123rd Christmas Bird Count in Nevada

After a prolonged drought, this winter’s snow and rain in the Great Basin were needed to replenish lakes and groundwater but posed some challenges for counts. Minden had to be canceled when rain and snow melt caused flooding along the east edge of the Sierra Nevada, but otherwise all of the state’s recently active counts except Jarbidge took place.

A Least Bittern at Henderson was the first count-week record for the state in recent years. Other rare birds for the region included a count-week Black-and-white Warbler at Southern Pahranagat, and a male Summer Tanager at Henderson, where a Yellow Warbler was also found wintering north of the usual range.   

Snow Goose numbers were low for recent years, but single Ross’s Geese turned up in Fallon and Truckee Meadows. The 165 Trumpeter Swans – a high count for the state in recent years – were all found at the recently revived Ruby Lake count. A Eurasian Wigeon turned up with an American Wigeon flock at Truckee Meadows.

Diving duck numbers were mostly typical for recent years, though Ring-necked Duck numbers were below normal in the south and Lesser Scaup were scarce in the northern part of the state. Five Greater Scaup were at Pyramid Lake.

No Mountain Quail or Greater Sage-Grouse were found, and Gambel’s Quail numbers were about a third below average for recent years. Wild Turkey numbers reached an all-time high at 75 as flocks continue to expand in the northern and eastern parts of the state.

Three widely separated counts – Henderson, Fallon, and Sheldon – each turned up two American Bitterns apiece. Green Herons were found on two southern counts, with four at Henderson and one at Muddy River. There were 35 Black-crowned Night-Herons tallied at Truckee Meadows.

A Turkey Vulture photographed over Fallon was the first for the state in recent years. Without Minden -- often one of the top counts for wintering raptors -- numbers were low statewide for many raptors including Golden Eagles, harriers, accipiters and most buteos. The exception was Red-shouldered Hawks which continued to show up in new places, this time in both Elko and Ruby Lake. American Kestrel numbers were lower than usual statewide, but the other regular falcon species (Merlin, Prairie, and Peregrine) were found in typical numbers.

Notable shorebirds included three Lesser Yellowlegs at Fallon, one of which was nicely photographed alongside one of the 35 Greater Yellowlegs also present. Truckee Meadows kept up its reputation on the gull front with two Iceland (Thayer’s) Gulls and a count-week Lesser Black-backed Gull, along with over 6500 California Gulls and 315 Ring-billed Gulls.

A Band-tailed Pigeon (cw) was at Carson City. Burrowing Owl numbers were low this year with a total of just nine in southern Nevada, but one was photographed north of the usual range at Pyramid Lake, where a Short-eared Owl was also found.

Three White-throated Swifts were at Red Rock. Hummingbirds were again found on most southern Nevada counts, with Henderson accounting for 43 of the regional total of 59 Anna’s and 11 of the region's 16 Costa’s Hummingbirds. The only hummingbirds found in northern Nevada were six Anna's Hummingbirds, all in Truckee Meadows.

Three sapsucker species (Williamson's, Red-naped, and Red-breasted) were found at Truckee Meadows. Hybrids were found on two southern counts with a Red-naped x Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at Red Rock, and a Red-naped x Red-breasted at Corn Creek (Desert Game Refuge). Southern Pahranagat and Carson City led the state with six Ladder-backed Woodpeckers and six White-headed Woodpeckers respectively.

Truckee Meadows had a very rare phoebe trifecta, with an Eastern Phoebe to go with the more expected Black and Say's phoebes. A male Vermilion Flycatcher well north of its usual southern Nevada range added a splash of color at Fallon.

Northern Shrikes made strong incursion with ten statewide, mainly in the north but with one as far south as Southern Pahranagat. Loggerheads seemed to stay farther north than usual, with low numbers in southern Nevada but good numbers in the north.

Snake Valley (479), Carson City (336), and four other counts combined for a total of 1086 Pinyon Jays, the highest statewide total in the past five years. Snake Valley once again led the state with 58 Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays. Winnemucca and Fallon had much smaller numbers but these were well-documented to confirm that the scrub-jays in those circles are Woodhouse's and not California Scrub-Jays. West of there the two species overlap in range, posing a challenge for counters.

Henderson had the only swallows, with Barn and Tree swallows for count week and three Northern-winged Swallows on count day.

Juniper Titmouse numbers (60 statewide) were high for recent years but Verdin numbers were below average. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were found in typical numbers in southern Nevada, but Black-tailed Gnatcatcher counts were low for recent years.

Southern Pahranagat was this year's wren capitol with 11 of the state's 34 Rock Wrens, along with two House Wrens, three Pacific Wrens, 50 Marsh Wrens, and three Bewick's Wrens. The only wrens they missed were Canyon Wrens, which were hard to find with just eight statewide, and Cactus Wrens which were found only at Red Rock and Corn Creek.

Numbers for Townsend's Solitaire were low statewide, but American Robin numbers were typical. A Varied Thrush turned up in Fallon. Bohemian Waxwings made it as far south as Winnemucca (17), but only two American Tree Sparrows were found. Unusual sparrows included a Harris's Sparrow in Elko, White-throated Sparrows at Ruby Lake and Snake Valley, and a Swamp Sparrow at Fallon. Eleven Red Crossbills turned up at Red Rock.