By Rose Strickland
How have the mega-wildfires, smoke, and the long drought in Nevada and the West affected birds and their habitats? Why have populations of bird species like the Greater Sage Grouse and Pinyon Jays declined over 80% in the last few decades? Why did dozens of White-faced Ibis invade the wet meadows of Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno this summer, instead of using their customary wetlands? These are the kinds of questions that conservationists are interested in and actively seeking answers to.
We at Lahontan Audubon Society’s Conservation Committee are working on several exciting projects to carry out our goals to “restore, preserve, and improve habitat for birds and other wildlife in Northern Nevada.” We’re all seeking ways to get out into our beautiful natural areas safely with our families and friends after months of isolation during the COVID pandemic. Here are some of our opportunities to do just that in Northern Nevada and adjacent California and make a difference for our avian friends.
With our partner, Great Basin Bird Observatory (GBBO), our volunteers will be able to survey for flocks of Pinyon Jays in Western Nevada largely in our pinyon-juniper woodlands. Our data on whether these birds are present or absent will help fill in gaps in the knowledge of resource management agencies and bird experts about what areas are important to these birds and where these habitats should be protected.
Greater Sage Grouse, denizens of our sagebrush ocean are also experiencing threats to their habitats. In the spring, we will have opportunities to count Sage Grouse on their leks where the males do their courtship dances to attract females, again providing critical data to wildlife habitat managers. We also need members to comment on environmental documents to urge greater protections for the Sage Grouse.
Lahontan Valley wetlands are critically important to shorebirds, waterfowl, and water birds and our Chapter has been instrumental in acquiring water rights to support their habitats. We will work with our partners to ensure that water deliveries are made and wetlands habitats damaged by recent floods are restored at Carson Lake Wildlife Management Area, a few miles south of Fallon, NV.
Another project is working with GBBO to update the Nevada Breeding Bird Atlas, answering questions about which birds are breeding and where in Nevada.
If you’ve recently or always wanted to get involved in the conservation of our birds and their habitats, Lahontan Audubon has lots of opportunities for you to help. For more information, sign up for our Conservation Action Alerts email where we will share upcoming volunteer opportunities, conservation issues, and calls to action.