The Goshute Mountains form a 100-km long ridge that runs north-south and just west of the Utah-Nevada border. The higher elevations of the ridge line are encompassed by the Goshute Wilderness Study Area. The heart of the range is approximately 40 km southwest of Wendover, Nevada, and the entire site is on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Elko District. (Smith and Vekasy, 2001). Forests of white fir, limber pine, bristlecone pine, pinyon pine and juniper flank the slopes at higher elevations (Wuerthner 1992), grading into grasslands and shrublands at lower elevations. Mountain mahogany is a prominent shrub, especially on exposed portions of the ridge.
It is not so much the vegetation as it is the land form and location that make the Goshutes unique. Most--if not all--of the ranges in the Great Basin probably support raptor migrations in the fall and spring. But the Goshutes are uniquely positioned to act as the narrow mouth of a funnel, with numerous mountain ranges to the north angling into the north end of the Goshutes and concentrating raptors in this corridor. HawkWatch International has been conducting annual migration counts in the Goshutes since the early 1980s. The Goshutes constitute one of the highest concentrations of fall raptors in the western US, with as many as 20,000 individuals passing in a peak season.
Land uses in the Goshute Mountains include nature conservation and research, tourism and recreation in an undeveloped setting, hunting, and agriculture, though grazing allotments are primarily at lower elevations on the range. It is worth pointing out that the Goshutes have the longest unbroken history of any site in Nevada as a location for avian research.
The geographic location and physiographic characteristics of the Goshute observation site make it an ideal spot for monitoring the autumn raptor migration through the region. The relatively inhospitable Great Salt Lake Desert lies immediately east of the Goshute range and represents a formidable barrier to most migrating raptors (Figure 2), providing neither prey, roosting habitat, nor strong updrafts that provide lift. Instead, migrating raptors moving south from breeding grounds north of the desert tend to funnel to the west (and east) and therefore concentrate along the Goshute range where steep slopes and forest habitat provide favorable migration conditions. Moreover, the Goshute Mountains lie at the southern tip of a large funnel that is fed by the Black Pine, Raft River, Grouse Creek, Pilot, and Toana Mountains. These ranges act as leading lines(Mueller and Berger 1967) that guide raptors toward the Goshute range from the north and northeast. These conditions are responsible for the Goshute flyway attracting one of the largest known concentrations of migrant raptors in western North America. (Smith and Vekasy 2001).
Planned burns in adjacent areas could escape control, ultimately resuling in weed invasion (primarily cheat grass) at this site. Animals from adjacent grazing allotments sometimes stray into the area and create minor impacts to vegetation.
As mentioned, HawkWatch International has been conducting raptor counts and banding here since 1979.
HawkWatch International has been monitoring hawk migrations and banding hawks at this site since ca. 1989. Leased grazing rights at lower elevations.