We had the pleasure of visiting the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve in Henderson, NV. It's a great spot to visit if you enjoy bird watching. The preserve is made up of 9 ponds that are the evaporating ponds of the City's Wastewater Reclamation Facility. The Wastewater Reclamation Facility, operates to treat wastewater and meet water quality standards. It then uses the treated water to irrigate golf courses and highway medians or discharges the treated water into the Las Vegas Wash and Lake Mead. In the process of all of this, the city unwittingly created habitat that appeals to birds..
Birds we saw while at the preserve:
Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) are native to the Basin and Range region and are common throughout western North and Central America. They are also found in areas of South America.
Historically cave roosters, modern times have found these bats choosing to roost in attics, bridges, and abandoned buildings. They often choose roosts near water, as water attracts the insects they eat, as well as providing a drinking source to meet their hydration needs.
As with many species of bats, Mexican free-tailed bats eat large amounts of insects including: moths, flying ants, beetles, and bugs. They'll fly up to 100 miles round trip looking for a meal, eating up to two thirds of their body weight every night. In large roosts it is estimated that 250 tons of insects can be consumed each night!
Known for their straight, fast and high flight, Mexican free-tailed bats can fly up to 60 miles an hour and at altitudes over 10,000 feet!
Mexican free-tailed bats are a medium sized bat with a mass of 11-14 grams. They are dark brown to gray in color. Their tail is considered "naked, " with half of the tail extending past the interfemoral membrane, hence the name free-tailed bat.
Click here to learn more about bats in the Basin and Range!
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center: Mexican Free-tailed bats accessed 4/11/19: https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bioeco/mftbat.htm
Arizona-Senora Desert Museum, Mexican free-tailed bat accessed 4/11/19: https://www.desertmuseum.org/kids/bats/mexican_free_tailed_bat.php
Nevada Natural Heritage Program Tadarida brasiliensis access 4/11/19: http://heritage.nv.gov/taxon_detail/16599
Just a few weeks ago we spent a sunny afternoon high in the Virginia Mountains. We had gorgeous views of Pyramid Lake and the surrounding mountain ranges. I wonder what this view looks like now, with all the recent snow?
A crisp, cool, fall day is a perfect day to take a hike up Nevada's Sentinel Peak (known to locals as Turd Peak). Located in the Pine Forest Range, Sentinel Peak offers gorgeous views of the Black Rock Desert, the Jackson Range, the Black Rock Range and the surrounding Pine Forest Range.
The US NWR system was officially established in 1903 by president Teddy Roosevelt, although the history of "official" wildlife habitat restoration goes back further, finding its genesis perhaps in the 1864 act of Congress that transferred Yosemite Valley to the state of California with the stipulation that its wildlife and flora must be protected.
The NWR System has more than 560 refuges, 38 wetland management districts, and other protected areas that protect 150 million acres of land and water from the Caribbean to the far reaches of the Pacific. Habitat is protected for over 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species, and more than 1,000 species of fish. More than 380 threatened or endangered plants or animals are protected on wildlife refuges. Each year, millions of migrating birds use refuges as as resting and recharging "fueling stations" while they fly thousands of miles between their summer and winter homes. There is at least one NWR in every state and territory and within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas.
Author Rachel Carson, who worked as the chief editor for the USFWS from 1939 to 1952, wrote about the refuge system:
Wild creatures, like men, must have a place to live. As civilization creates cities, builds highways, and drains marshes, it takes away, little by little, the land that is suitable for wildlife. And as their space for living dwindles, the wildlife populations themselves decline. Refuges resist this trend by saving some areas from encroachment, and by preserving in them, or restoring where necessary, the conditions that wild things need in order to live.
Grayia spinosa, spiny hopsage, is a common native western perennial shrub. In southern deserts it tends to be evergreen, however, in northern deserts it tends to lose its leaves in the summer. It has diffuse branches and varies between 1 and 5 feet in height, with a profile that is similar to sagebrush.
Spiny hopsage has fleshy, elliptical leaves. The flowers are small and inconspicuous., typically blooming from April to July. The color you see on many of the plants does not actually come from the flowers, but rather the large bracts that surround the seeds. Spiny Hopsage grows between 2,000 and 5,500 feet and is highly tolerant of drought and fairly tolerant of grazing and fire.
Native Americans ground "parched" seeds for pinole flour.
It is distributed throughout the the Western United States included all of the basin and range region. It is also known as applebush and has been known as Atriplex spinosa.
Most of the information on this page taken from the Utah State University Extension "Spiny hopsage" webpage.
“I am persuaded that the coyotes in my valley, which is narrow and beset with steep, sharp hills, in long passages steer by the pinnacles of the sky-line, going with head cocked to one side to keep to the left or right of such and such a promontory.”
Promontory, but that’s a word that relates to bodies of water, that is, the rocks or high points that overlook them. Here is the full entry, written by Robert Hass, in Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape, edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney, the really great resource for anyone interested in words about the landscape (and who isn't!):
Many of the promontories of the basin and range stand over lakes that are absent to the human eye, with its infinitesimally narrow view. What we see as desert peaks were a blink ago headlands standing against wind-whipped waves. Entire mountain ranges would have once stood as promontories over the long lakes on their flanks. So, while we might not see the water except in our imaginations, the promontories remain.
Meanwhile the coyotes continue to guide themselves by desert landmarks.
Interesting basin and range promontory factoid:
Promontory is also the place in Utah where the railroads met and the Golden Spike was spiked creating the first transcontinental railway.
The sky narrows to a ribbon as we enter the canyon. We have walked up from the eastern edge of the canyon, out in the Mud Meadows southeast of Soldier Meadows, where we have spent the morning volunteering to restore habitat for the desert dace. The work finished for the day, we leave the group to explore into Fly Canyon. The canyon was created when a natural dam holding back High Rock Lake gave way and unleashed a torrent of water that carved the steep walls and drilled holes, known as "potholes," in the canyon bottom. Read more about this at the Friends of the Black Rock/High Rock geology page.
From the distance, the canyon is unassuming, but as we near it reveals itself, a massive slice through a high ridge. We scramble down and the narrow steep walls envelop us. Twisted rock forms abound while puffy high desert clouds cross the ribbon of sky. We enter farther and the canyon deepens. We start to have to work our way around potholes, smooth and deep pools of unmoving water. Finally we are turned back by a rickety ladder climbing from one level to another and the lateness of the day.
We'll be back Fly Canyon! It is easily accessed from roads heading east from the main Soldier Meadows road. We camped at the Soldier Meadows Hot Springs, which had led to a long soak and many encounters with red spider mites, which left this writer pocked for a couple of weeks after our excursion, so be careful.
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