Wednesday, August 2, 2017

desert ebird gap filling

6:06AM and already the sweat is cascading down my back and dripping off my nose.  I have been walking for 8 minutes.  When I return to my car at 8:40 it is 92 degrees.  How did things come to this?

Years ago I came up with a spreadsheet of areas that I would try and bird every week in the ebird year.  This used to be easy to figure out via ebird and the use of "my locations".  Unfortunately, ebird has "improved" the system and now when you go to my locations you get everybody's data for hotspot locations.  So, you can't try this at home, which is probably a good thing.

My spreadsheet, x's are yet to be ebirded, colors are the last 3 years, open are areas done previously
This means I have to bird in the desert in the summer and mountains in the winter.  I have getting up at 5AM to bird the desert and I try to get home by 10AM.  I take 4 frozen quarts of water with me for hikes of no more than 5 miles.  Even with the appalling heat I find enough birds and other things to keep me entertained, but then I guess I'm easily entertained.  On one of my last efforts I saw a doe with two small spotted fawns.  It was fabulous.  I had no idea there would be small fawns in the desert this late in the season.

A few photos from the desert in the last month.

I call these insects flying lobsters

I really don't find many snakes, but here was one that wasn't very active in the cool of the early morning.

Yes, this is a black ant nest hole.  I find the shellac looking stuff on the entrance hole fascinating.  

I have found some interesting birds, an example being wrentits that nested in Inyo County.  I always try to find wrentits when in Inyo.  Once upon a time a bit of searching in Sand Canyon would turn one up.  Then there were years of no wrentits.  This year, perhaps due to the rain, they were back and they bred.  Very nice.  

Each desert canyon has what I will call a bird personality.  So, I'll compare a couple -- Cow Heaven Canyon.  This is a dry canyon with a small guzzler, but it does have a nice Joshua tree woodland and then a ravine with gray and pinyon pines, and live oaks.  My last list has 22 species Cow Heaven 1.  I think that is amazing.  The list before had 23 species Cow Heaven 2.  

It is even more amazing when I look at Sand Canyon. Sand Canyon Kern 1Sand Canyon Inyo 1 Sand Canyon Kern 2Sand Canyon Inyo 2Sand Canyon Kern 3Sand Canyon Inyo 3.  There are two lists for each as the county line runs through the middle of the hike.  Typically by combining the two lists there are more species in Sand Canyon than Cow Heaven, but not that many more in the summer.   

The canyon totals are much different with 155 species for Sand Canyon and only 103 in Cow Heaven Canyon.  Yes, more people bird Sand Canyon which helps, but the water attracts the birds.  Now that makes sense to me as water in the desert is a big draw.  How to explain the summer species totals?  Perhaps if a bird is adapted to breeding in the desert close water is not a necessity, but intact forest is critical.   Sand Canyon has burned a couple times in the last 20 years, while Cow Heaven still has intact forests.

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