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2016 Final Mojave Excursion: Birds

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Perhaps it was because of the cool weather, perhaps because it was the final expedition of the season, or the combination of team members on this trip, but there was a more laid-back air about this trip than its predecessors. Our mammal team had about a 20% catch rate in their traps, which is about average. The bird team struggled to gather specimens because there weren’t very many birds to be found in the area.

The desert in this area gets leased to cattlemen. Effects of overgrazing were immediately obvious to me. In looking around for props to decorate my “Rat Theater”, I could find no grasses, and most of the brush clumps were noticeably chewed on. The area surrounding the water troughs was densely littered with fresh cattle droppings. I can only imagine that whatever bighorn sheep or mule deer that might move through the area were hard pressed to find nutrition.

I used the bicycle on this trip to advantage. While I camped away from the group, I was still able to run down to their camp for visits. It also hauled my camera gear up-canyon to work on Crissal Thrashers (mild success) and other birds.

The best bird images I gathered (the ONLY good bird images) were of a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet that was actively feeding in nearby creosote bushes. This bird is by no means rare, but given the slim pickings of avian subjects here, I was happy to work with it. Kinglets, like warblers, are mainly insectivorous. They feed on invertebrates small enough to escape our notice, and they are very quick in their movements through the foliage. As such, they are a challenge to photograph while engaged in this activity. The new Nikon D5 camera was helpful in tracking the focus on such a fast moving subject.

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