I am the first to admit that I came very late to the Nevada Bird-a-thon game. I learned about it only a month prior to the Birdathon date. It gave me enough time to register as a solo birder representing Lahontan Audubon Society. In terms of bird marathons, I had previously read The Guardian article about the World Series of Birding, and the extremes contestants go to in pursuit of the competition. Although I admire bird watchers with this level of devotion, I could not make the same vast financial, physical, and mental expenses myself, but I had a fun time and saw an excellent number of species. With this in mind, I was truly surprised when I found out I had won the Solo Division of the Nevada Bird-a-thon. My surprise prompted me to review my experience of the day and see what lessons it imparted.
Before my Birdathon Day arrived, I developed an itinerary within or close to Reno. I would travel in a loop visiting parks and birding hotspots. As a user of eBird, I was able to see a map of hotspots, compare and contrast these hotspots, and then pick which ones to visit. I settled on six different parks for my adventure. Coincidentally, several of my parks (including Diamond Creek Pond, Swan Lake and Rancho San Rafael) are featured in our Birding By Bus program, and therefore accessible by RTC bus service.
Some extreme birders are wide awake and ready to begin their journeys at 12:00 AM sharp. This did not apply to my beginning, but I was on the road and arrived at my first park at 7:00 in the morning: Davis Creek Regional Park. I had heard stories about the park’s summer visitors, including Warbling Vireos, Western Tanagers and Black-headed Grosbeaks. I was lucky to find all three of the bird species.
My next stop was the Damonte Ranch wetlands. Damonte Ranch wetlands is one of my favorite places to bird watch in Reno, as it offers paved paths and excellent views of the birds, like taking a visit to a zoo. Luck was with me this day, as I observed breeding pairs of both American White Pelicans and Sandhill Cranes at the wetland. Of course, the wetland’s usual guests of Black-necked Stilts, American Avocets and Ruddy Ducks were present as always.
My next stop was searching for birds in a truly unexpected location. According to our volunteer, Kath Giel, a family of Great-horned Owls were spotted under the roof of a Home Depot’s Garden Center. I took another gamble and went to the Home Depot. Sure enough, I found the four owls inside the center, two parents and two fledglings. This surprised me, as I had known owls to be species sensitive to light and noise from humans. Yet, here they were, fifty feet above ground in the rafters, while dozens of shoppers were walking below. Birds continue to amaze me.