The 121st Christmas Bird Count in Nevada

Concerns about the pandemic caused six of Nevada’s 17 active counts to cancel, especially in southern Nevada where only one of six counts went ahead, Southern Pahranagat Valley. In northern Nevada, all active counts in the Reno area and in the northeast proceeded, though in many cases with reduced participation as compilers sought to limit the need for volunteers to travel from distant communities. Compilers in Winnemucca and in Jarbidge, which straddles the Idaho state line, both did solo counts, and Sheldon in the northwest corner of the state was canceled. Thus this year’s results were heavily weighted to counts around Reno, Elko, and Ely, with few results from the rest of the state.
For counts that did go ahead, some compilers noted an unanticipated positive result from covid restrictions: With teams splitting up into smaller groups, sometimes coverage may have been more thorough, covering patches of habitat that might be bypassed by larger teams covering larger sectors. Also, with many people at home and focused on their local surroundings, it was evident that there could be opportunities for more yard birders to participate in the future, especially on the more urban counts.
Weather was generally favorable for birding, with only two counts recording any precipitation (light rain in Winnemucca and snow flurries in Jarbidge). Elko had the coldest start with 15 °F and most others started with temperatures in the twenties. In all cases the thermometer rose above freezing in the afternoon, with Carson City reaching a balmy 56 °F.
Considering the geographical imbalance of this year’s counts – especially the dearth of counts in the south – it makes little sense to compare statewide results with historic data, either in terms of species diversity or overall bird numbers. However still some notable birds were found.
Several of the most remarkable finds came from Truckee Meadows, which includes most of Reno. A Hutton’s Vireo on count day was a first state record, found by an alert observer who noticed the lack of a black wing bar as would be expected on a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and took excellent photos that later revealed conclusive field marks. A Summer Tanager (rare for the state in any season) and a Green-tailed Towhee (unexpected so far north in winter) were also photographed for count week.
Fallon accounted for all but two of Nevada’s Snow Geese, with 2584 birds. Southern Pahranagat had the only Trumpeter Swans with 135. Truckee Meadows turned in high counts for Mallard (2339) and Northern Shoveler (160). Fallon had the high count for Green-winged Teal with 1322. An apparent hybrid Blue-winged Teal x Northern Shoveler turned up in Minden.  Southern Pahranagat topped their previous state high record for Canvasbacks with 4450. In the northeast, where Canvasbacks are rarer in winter, six were found in Elko and one was photographed along with three Ring-necked Ducks on a fish-rearing pond in Snake Valley.
All three of Nevada’s resident quail species were found, thanks to six Mountain Quail in Carson City and 60 Gambel’s Quail in Southern Pahranagat, along with more widespread California Quail. Jarbidge yielded the only count-day Greater Sage-Grouse (10) and Gray Partridges (9).
Pyramid Lake turned in the top counts of Pied-billed, Horned, Western, and Clark's grebes, missing only Eared Grebes which were found at Truckee Meadows, Minden, and Elko. A lone American White Pelican also showed up on Pyramid Lake. Truckee Meadows tallied 54 Black-crowned Night Herons. A surprising flock of 15 White-faced Ibis turned up in Minden.
A total of 13 Red-shouldered Hawks in the Reno/Tahoe area was up by just one from last year.  Minden again led the state in buteo diversity with two of those Red-shouldered Hawks, along with 264 Red-tailed, 11 Ferruginous, and 20 Rough-legged hawks. Elko again recorded all three accipiter species, with three Sharp-shinned Hawks, two Cooper’s Hawks, and a Northern Goshawk; another goshawk was spotted in Ely. An adult Peregrine Falcon was photographed at Pyramid Lake, with two more recorded at Carson City and Truckee Meadows. Five Merlins were found at Fallon, and two more in Elko.
Southern Pahranagat kept Greater Roadrunners on the state list with three in a year where this was the only count in their expected range. A Western Screech-Owl was found again in Fallon. A Northern Pygmy-Owl was photographed in Snake Valley, and Northern Saw-whet Owls were photographed both at Pyramid Lake and Truckee Meadows. The only count-day hummingbirds were two Anna's Hummingbirds at Truckee Meadows.
Two Northern Shrikes turned up in Elko. Large concentrations of Pinyon Jays, a nomadic species in winter, were at Carson City (502), Ely (210), and Truckee Meadows (102). Snake Valley had 55 Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays. Nearly all the state’s 66 Clark’s Nutcrackers were appropriately recorded in White Pine County, with 36 in Ely and 27 in Snake Valley.
House Wrens were again found north of their typical winter range with a well-described bird at Carson City plus a count-week bird at Minden. A Pacific Wren turned up at Southern Pahranagat, which also had the state’s only Cactus Wren and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher. No thrashers were found, this year, as southern counts in the best habitat were all canceled.
Seven Bohemian Waxwings turned up in Jarbidge, which also had 95 Cedar Waxwings. A count-week Orange-crowned Warbler was found in Truckee Meadows.
The only American Tree Sparrows positively identified were four in Snake Valley, though Winnemucca had a fly-by sighting that might have been either this species or a Chipping Sparrow. Three Black-throated Sparrows were at Southern Pahranagat. A Lark Sparrow and eight Vesper Sparrows were in Minden. A Harris's Sparrow was found for count week in Snake Valley. Truckee Meadows again found the state’s only Purple Finches, with 16 this year.

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