Again, when I said I was going to Las Vegas to see birds, many thought I was a bit crazy. A few thought that I would just see the birds at the casinos like the flamingos above who reside at...The Flamingo. There were also hooded mergansers, shovelers, pochards (which I've actually seen in their native Asia), wood ducks and sacred ibis. But I was into more.
Rita, our contact with Red Rock Audubon said that she knew a great place for hummingbirds, but it was on private property and she needed to get permission to escort us there. It was a lovely yard with a feeding station for hummingbirds and many seed eating species. The home was in the mountains, about 50 miles from downtown Vegas and so worth the trip, it wasn't too far from Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. The morning temperatures were lovely. The only downside was one REALLY pesky honeybee. That bothered all of us and was very interested in my scope and some of my camera equipment. I must have some honey/wax/propolis residue from my hives and this girl was looking to rob.
This was one busy place for hummingbirds. I'm only going to id the in focus rufous hummingbird, those western hummers are a bit tricky for me where I live in the land of mono-species hummingbird. The birds were zipping all over the place, Amy Hooper almost got totally beaned by one and another flew right between the legs of my tripod.
I had to get some help from hummingbird maven Sheri Williamson for this bird's id. She called it a juvenile black-chinned male hummingbird. Speaking of Sheri and black-chinned hummers, she had quite the big news this summer. Some hummingbird banders got a recapture in their nets this summer, only the bird was not orginally banded by them, but was banded by Sheri...in 2000! Nine years ago! That's geriatric by hummingbird standards which are believed to have an average lifespan of three years. You can read the full story here.
Sheri also helped me id this little dude, a broad-tailed hummingbird. How fun to have three different species flying around. Depending on what you read about Nevada, more species are possible.
But hummingbirds weren't the only attraction, there were also Stellar's jays--I love these guys, they almost make the blue jays I see down right drab (almost). The appeared to be a younger jay going through a bit of a molt, but check out the snazzy white eyebrow. You might also notice the white stripe going up from the bill. This is a variation in plumage known as the "interior west." Like many jays, the Stellar's were all happy to hop down and grab a peanut in the shell.
This is a young black-headed grosbeak that flew in for black-oil sunflower seeds and suet.
There were also oodles of finches. Above is a pine siskin on the left. The larger obscured bird in the back is a Cassin's finch. I saw those in Utah, but did not grasp how large they were for a finch. Especially compared to the siskins and goldfinches around.
There were quite a few lesser goldfinches (note the dude with the cap on the right). They were eating black-oil sunflower seed, Nyjer and some sort of finch mix. They were almost as abundant as the hummingbirds.
The lesser goldfinches also ate some of the leaves on the trees too. I wonder if that's a tactic to get moisture?
A big unexpected surprise and probably the best new bird I got on this trip was the finch in the above photo in the middle with the yellow on the wings--a Lawrence's goldfinch! I told Non Birding Bill that for a non birder, he was getting some amazing birds on this trip. He simply gave a non committal, "Oh."
This bird is on Audubon's "watch list" and according to their website its breeding range "is confined to the Central Valley and coastal foothills of California, as well as the northern portion of Baja California." Was excited to get one in Vegas. Rita our guide said that there is usually one that will show up in Nevada when they disperse after breeding season, but did not expect that morning. What a treat!
We were also treated to the uber cute mountain chickadee coming in for sunflower. There was a pygmy nuthatch that popped in and out around the chickadee, but it refused to be digiscoped.
This a GREAT spot and you have to contact Red Rock Audubon to see if you can get permission to visit this yard. The home owners are gracious to allow birders to look at their great feeding station but it's best to make sure to keep the neighbors happy. If you do get the chance to visit, you might consider bringing either a bag of table sugar (for hummingbird nectar) or a back of black-oil sunflower or Nyjer as a thank you for the hosts' birding hospitality.