Sunday, January 4, 2015

Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count 2015

 Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge needed some help with their Christmas Bird Count. I had helped a couple years ago and relished a chance to return to this very remote outpost (they have to drive an hour to get their mail; we had to drive two hours on dirt roads to get there). To sweeten the deal, we were offered lodging in their bunkhouse the night before and/or after the count.

The bunkhouse is fantastic.

Inside is a big living room with a huge TV, Dish, and, most important to Desert Boy, wifi.

The bunkhouse has four bedrooms, and as we were the first to arrive, I let the kids choose which room they wanted to stay in. Then they got to choose their beds, and they didn't hesitate to take the top bunk beds.

The kitchen area is great, with plenty of dishes and pots, which we used to make some soup.

Later other folks arrived and we had a lot of fun meeting them. Tiffany, the refuge biologist, came over to make sure we were situated. We slept well, and the next morning we got our assignments for the Christmas Bird Count. We were looking forward to seeing what bird species we would spot.

As we drove around the refuge, we found lots of American coots on a couple of the canals, but they were too far away to photograph. We flushed some northern pintails, and they quickly flew away, looking for other open water. Later we had a wonderful view of a loggerhead shrike.

We got out at the end of the road near Avocet pond and walked a bit, hoping to find some other birds. The boys were busy discussing Minecraft and Desert Girl had fun making strange footprints.

Many of the ponds were frozen over, with interesting patterns out on the ice.

Later we found a coot and a pied-billed grebe next to each other. It was nice of them to provide such a good comparison!

One highlight was seeing about 80 tundra swans out on the ice. Here's a view of them in front of the majestic Fish Springs Range.

We found two bald eagles in the trees by the historic Thomas Ranch. One was content to stay put and let us take photos.

After doing the mid-winter waterfowl count in the afternoon, Tiffany showed us a spot with a large number of black-crowned night herons. They are such cool birds!

They were hanging out near a springhead, where the water was too warm to freeze.

I had planned on going home that afternoon, but it was getting late and I was tired, so we decided to spend another night. Our new friend Shirley graciously offered to watch the kids so I could drive around and take some photos in the beautiful late-afternoon light. I found an American tree sparrow, which I hadn't seen earlier. It cooperated for photos.

Earlier we had noticed the tracks on the ice and were fascinated with them. The ones on the clear ice are raised.

The almost-full moon rose early and I figured it would be a good time to practice for the Full Moon Photography Challenge.

We enjoyed our second night at Fish Springs. I could easily spend a week there, the light is always changing and it is such a scenic place. We did some sightseeing on the way home, which I'll share on a future post.

1 comment:

Ken Thompson said...

Hi, Brian. Makes me want to come and visit........... Ken

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