The 119th CBC in Nevada

Weather in southern Nevada was dry as typical for the season, with sunshine for most counts and no measurable precipitation. Temperatures stayed mostly above historical average until after Christmas when morning temperatures dipped below freezing, icing over some wetlands ahead of the Muddy Creek count 30 December.  Northern Nevada counts encountered colder but still mostly favorable weather. Chilly weather in early December left many ponds frozen through the first part of the season, even though daytime temperatures by then were well above average. No counts had significant precipitation until luck finally ran out for Minden on the last day of the period, with high winds and heavy rain and snow (depending on civilization) cutting effective field time by 4 to 5 hours.

The federal shutdown starting at 9 PM local time on 21 December prevented access the next morning to some areas usually covered at Red Rock. Fortunately by then most other counts were concluded, including Sheldon N.W.R. where volunteers wrapped up the countdown just hours ahead of the shutdown.

The most remarkable rarity of the season was a Groove-billed Ani photographed for count week in Henderson on 16 December. The birders who found it, Aaron Ambose and David Sydek, happened to run across compiler Neil McDonal as he and two other volunteers were out scouting ahead of the count, and shared a diagnostic photo. Along with the resident Greater Roadrunners this gave Henderson two species in the cuckoo family. Other rarities included an American Redstart at Southern Pahranagat Valley which was the state's the first count-day record, and a Rusty Blackbird photographed at Muddy Creek which was just the fourth state CBC record.

Among more regular species, 41 Snow Geese at Ely were a first record for this count, and the highest number ever recorded on a eastern Nevada CBC. Two Ross's Geese turned up at Muddy Creek. Henderson set count records for Gadwall (1019) and American Wigeon (697), led the state in numbers for Northern Shoveler (1100) and Cinnamon Teal (20), and turned in the only report of Blue-winged Teal (2). Southern Pahranagat set a new count record with 985 Green-winged Teal while Truckee Meadows tallied most of the state's Wood Ducks and combined with Carson City and Minden to account for two thirds of the state total for Mallards.

Among diving ducks, Southern Pahranagat yielded top numbers for Canvasback (1053) and Redhead (32). Elko set a new count record for Lesser Scaup with 320 (close to the all-time state record of 330). Truckee Meadows on the edge of the Sierras led for Common Goldeneyes (69) and Barrow's Goldeneyes (9) as well as Hooded Mergansers (101) and Common Mergansers (126). The only Red-breasted Mergansers recorded were three at Henderson; this was formerly a regular location for larger numbers due to proximity to wintering populations on the lower Colorado River and Salton Sea, but the species has become irregular in recent decades.

Henderson was also this year's grebe capital for Nevada, with top counts of Pied-billed, Horned, and Eared grebes as well as over 600 Western/Clark's Grebes. American White Pelicans (21) showed up there for the third straight year. Snowy Egrets were recorded in good numbers at Henderson (11); one was also found in Minden. 35 Black-crowned Night-Herons at Truckee Meadows were the highest tally there in the past quarter century.

Three Ospreys were at Henderson, where this species been become regular over the past decade.     Truckee Meadows matched their previous record of nine for Red-shouldered Hawks, which were found on eight counts in northwest and southern Nevada. Other diurnal raptors were generally found in typical numbers. Counters at Minden managed to find 199 Red-tailed Hawks and 10 Ferruginous Hawks despite the blustery weather. Rough-legged Hawks were scarcer than average, with a high count of six in Elko, and no reports south of Minden in the west or Snake Valley in the east.

Virginia Rails were again found wintering in the northern Great Basin, with five using wetlands kept open by thermal springs on Sheldon N.W.R. The 32 American Avocets at Fallon were the most found on a Nevada CBC in the past 12 years. Two Lesser Yellowlegs turned up at Southern Pahranagat Valley, while Fallon yielded this year's state high counts for Greater Yellowlegs (56), Dunlin (438), and Long-billed Dowitcher (119). The 20 Wilson's Snipe at Minden were a new count record. The main expected gull species (Ring-billed, California, and Herring gulls) were found in typical numbers. A Thayer's (Iceland) Gull showed up for count week in Truckee Meadows.

A  Northern Pygmy-Owl in the Snake Valley was the first CBC record for eastern Nevada. The count of 17 Burrowing Owls at the Desert Game Range north of Las Vegas was on par for recent years. Only one Long-eared Owl was found (at Ash Meadows) and no Short-eared Owls were detected statewide. A Common Poorwill was found in Southern Pahranagat, north of the normal wintering range.

Anna's Hummingbirds were found in numbers comparable to recent years. One at Pyramid Lake was the first count-day record for this species which is becoming more established east of the Sierras. Red Rock doubled its previous count record for Costa's Hummingbirds with four, joining Henderson and Desert Game Refuge (with six apiece) to set a record-high state total of 16.

A Red-breasted Sapsucker was in Carson City; this species is found occasionally there but was missed for the first time in 29 years in Truckee Meadows. Ladder-backed Woodpeckers were found in good numbers with a total of 23 on five counts in southern Nevada where this species is resident.

Volunteers at Henderson found near-record high numbers of both Black Phoebes (27) and Say's Phoebes (49), and also found this year's only Vermilion Flycatcher. Along with the more expected Loggerhead Shrikes, single Northern Shrikes turned up at Elko, Snake Valley, Sheldon, and Fallon.

Pinyon Jay numbers can vary greatly depending on local pine-nut abundance. Snake Valley (232) and Minden (208) accounted for all but 45 of the state's total. The recent split in Western Scrub-Jay left Nevada on the front line of the California/Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay divide. In northeastern Nevada it seems safe to count most as Woodhouse's, but identification will be a challenge closer to the western edge of the state, where the two species may overlap.  Carson City recorded 11 “woodhouseii” along with 242 “californica” jays.

Fallon set a new state record for Horned Lark with 13,260, a large share of the state total (14,383) which made this the second most abundant species after European Starling (18,694 statewide).  17 Northern Rough-winged Swallows in Henderson were the only swallows found this year.

Pacific Wren/Winter Wren is another tricky species pair following recent splits by taxonomists. Three at Southern Pahranagat were judged to be Pacific Wrens; one at Snake Valley, farther from the typical winter range for either species, was left as undetermined. Six Cactus Wrens at Red Rock were the state's high count despite matching the lowest tally there in six years.

Henderson set a new state record with 46 Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, and also recorded the only two Blue-gray Gnatcatchers found this year. Carson City (177) and Fallon (124) set new records for Mountain Bluebirds. Truckee Meadows set a record for Hermit Thrush (21). Varied Thrushes turned up in Elko and Southern Pahranagat. Ash Meadows turned up three species of thrashers: LeConte's Thrasher, Crissal, and Sage Thrasher; another Sage Thrasher was photographed at Fallon, well north of the typical winter range.

American Tree Sparrows showed up in three northeastern counts, led by Elko with five. Harris's Sparrows were found at Fallon and Truckee Meadows. Golden-crowned Sparrows in Snake Valley and Muddy River were well east of the normal range. White-throated Sparrows turned up in Ash Meadows and Ely, and a Swamp Sparrow was in Carson City.

“Sage” Sparrows pose one further challenge following the split of Sagebrush and Bell's sparrows. For counts well north and east of the breeding range of Bell's Sparrows, most of these are likely to be Sagebrush Sparrows, but those closer to the California border may need to be left as undetermined until  better criteria for separation of non-breeding birds can be established.

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