Monday, 12 October 2015

Death Valley - 22.8.15

Too Hot For Breakfast?!
After one of the worst nights sleep I've ever had due to fly and bug infestations (every room not just ours) and the loudest air conditioning unit on earth (which in the hottest place on earth is quite annoying!) I was awake before sunrise and so rather than lay in bed I washed (using the cold tap as it was roasting hot!) and got dressed and went to see what birds I could find in what appeared to be a barren area. I stepped out the door and put up 4 Killdeer which soon landed again in the corner of the car park. I then heard a call from a small shrub that I recognised from the start of my trip and sure enough out flew a Black Phoebe. Across the road was a fuel stop and wandering around the pumps was a Mourning Dove. My attention then turned to further down the road when I noted a Great White Egret and a roosting Turkey Vulture on what I presumed to be the local sewage works. Wanting to get a better view I headed towards the area and was about 200 yards away when all of a sudden a loud howl tore through the morning stillness followed by another and another. Unseen somewhere nearby was a pack of Coyotes! With the potential threat of being eaten by a pack of hungry, thin Coyotes I turned round and made a hasty retreat back to the hotel. What I hadn't realised was that I'd walked past another unseen Coyote and with the howling it had got up and was walking back to the pack just 15 feet from me. Holding my bins in my hand just in case it fancied a go I was relieved to watch it walk past me giving me a quick glance before vanishing! Luckily I didn't have to go back and change my underwear!! A bit later a worker drove up to the works and put up around 30 or so ducks. Annoyingly I was too far away to ID them but there were at least 2 species due to size differences and both had blue-ish panels on the wings so if I had to guess they were most likely Cinnamon and Blue-Winged Teal. I got back to the room and Carey said did you hear those Coyotes howling? I replied yes!!

Turkey Vulture
Brown-Headed Cowbird

Deciding it was probably safer to walk around the hotel I quickly noted a flock of 20+ YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD around the pool area along with the odd Brown-Headed Cowbird.. A few Barn Swallow hunted overhead and with them were 3 Cliff Swallow. Just then a wader flew over and to my surprise it was a Spotted Sandpiper! I then turned the corner and sat on top of a water tank were 2 ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER and a LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE! I thought Death Valley was a strange place to stop and visit but I was a unique area with multi coloured mountains, a sand dune and that people actually made their home here! In fact at dinner the night before we sat next to an English woman who worked at reception who lived in Watford and she said she'd welcomed a couple from Watford that evening! You just can't escape even in the remotest of places!

Badwater Basin
Great-Tailed Grackle
Funny T-Shirt
Once the van was packed and the air con was on we headed to Badwater Basin which is the lowest place in North America. A small pool of water and a lot of dried salt welcomed us and at 9am it was already over 100C. A small plaque on a rock face behind us showed were sea level was 86m above us. 2 largish birds flew over but vanished and briefly over the pool was a juvenile Tree Swallow. To escape the heat we then headed to Furnace Creek visitor centre. Outside was a thermometer and it reached 106C at 10am! In the car park were 7 Great-Tailed Grackle and a lovely Red-Shouldered Hawk circled over.

Death Valley From Dante's View
Wilson's Warblers
Our last stop before leaving the valley was Dante's View which gave you a wonderful view across miles of the valley floor. Surprisingly at the car park was a Bee infestation so dodging them was fun! A Loggerhead Shrike started things off and soon after I had good view of my first ROCK WREN though seeing it was down a steep side I didn't try to get brilliant views! A few Turkey Vulture were overhead and it was while watching them I picked out 2 PURPLE MARTIN (adult and juv) as they headed south. But the best bird was saved for when I got back on the bus. A couple of others on the bus said did you see those lovely yellow and green birds outside? My answer was no but where were they? They pointed to a small isolated shrub and after a minute up they popped. They were only a pair of WILSON'S WARBLER!! I managed a couple of crappy pics before we left.

The final bird of the day were 2 American Coot seen on a roadside pool near Mequite,NV.

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