Friday, November 22, 2013

The Colorado River needs our love!

This past week we were performing bird transect surveys in an area called Mineral Wash. As the crow flies this area is only a few miles east of where we were on the Bill Will the previous week, however, it is a 40 minute drive on some very rough roads making this part of the refuge rarely visited. What it lacks in visitors it makes up for in beauty due to its perennial water source. It is one of the locations that receives year round water due to its location to the Alamo Dam. 

The area we surveyed was a re-vegetated area that was not successful due to lack of irrigation. We did have some great birds. 

The area was dominated by Gambel's Quail and White-crowned Sparrows

We also had Phainopepla and Crissal Thrashers singing 

We were lucky to get a photo of this Plumbeous Vireo after 5 previous attempts- this was a new bird for us.

We also came upon this Gray-headed Junco mixed in with a group of Oregon Juncos. Another first us- notice the red on the shoulders. 

The bluebirds were battling over the Mistletoe berries with the Phainopepla. Thrown into the mix was a flock of 40 American Robins that were foraging as well. 

It is a stunning landscape 

The coyotes did not appreciate our presence - the first 2 mornings they barked and howled at us.

These photos are of an adjacent transect called Esquera after the Esquera family ranch- the family headstones dated back to the 1800s

These particular mesquite forests were typical along the southwestern waterways before they were all cut down. This is a treasure to see. 

The number of butterfly species is amazing. 

We actually found a new species that had not been recorded on the refuge. 

This guy was trying to make it across the road - it is Tarantula mating season so the boys are out there looking for the girls. 

The following photos capture some of the activity around the Bill Williams River Refuge  Headquarters. 

We continue to see the Blue-footed Booby feeding around the Delta area where we perform the weekly waterfowl survey. 

Common & Barrow's Goldeneyes have been moving into the refuge. It is interesting to see the changing populations in waterfowl due to the changing levels of the lake as controlled by the dams. Currently the water levels are higher than when we first arrived and as a result the mix of ducks has transitioned from predominantly dabbling ducks to divers such as the Goldeneyes,
Scaup, Canvasbacks & Redheads to name a few. 

Here is a group of Goldeneyes:

An interesting view of the female Common Goldeneye:

We loves seeing the adult Clark's Grebe feeding its young. We learned that the Grebes breed all year here. 

Here is a fun back shot of the Common Loon

The adorable Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

The ever-present but admired Yellow-rumped Warbler

The spunky, vocal Verdin 

This Eared and Horned Grebe continue to hang out together

This male House Finch was busy feeding on seeds

Another incredible sunset out our front door 

We were invited to participate in a day long birding trip at the sister refuge to the Bill Will- the Havasu NWR up north. We had a fabulous day and were able to see and photograph a species never recorded at the refuge- a Zone-tailed Hawk. It provided quite a show for us. 

There were a few White Pelicans

And a surprise was this feral Hog that came swimming up to the shore of this island. This is an example of the widespread proliferation of these feral hogs across the country taking a serious toll on local wildlife- destroying habitat and eating the eggs and nestlings of ground nesting birds. 

Here is a few shots of the refuge

The refuge biologist considers the Bill Williams River corridor to be an ark in the sense of trying to maintain  a variety of species and habitats that are found nowhere else. We were shocked to learn that a critical habitat adjacent to the area we were surveying has been purchased by an international mining company to possibly mitigate water violations at their mines in Globe, Az. 

See the Cottonwoods and Mesquite along the Bill Williams River below

We were invited to participate in a refuge staff meeting and celebrate Thanksgiving with a potluck lunch. It was overwhelming to hear the discussions and hard decisions having to be made due to substantially reduced budgets and staff. The wildlife refuges are islands of remaining wildlife and nature- we hope you will support and visit the ones around you:) 

Happy Thanksgiving!!

The world is full of beauty and wonder,

Turtle and Hawk

PS- The refuge manager provided us with this nice certificate for our contribution. 

PPS- We are getting ready to hit the road - we are heading to the Bay Area, Ashland and then on to Kona & Midway through the end of the year. When we return to pick up Shak3 in Lake Havasu City in February we will head to a TNC properly - Muleshoe Ranch Preserve for the month of March and then on to Mallheur NWR for May and June. We will provide intermittent updates as Web access allows :) we will be remote. 

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