Climate change needs to be everyone’s priority. Now.
I wanted to start off this message with on a positive note. There are many positive steps that Nevadan’s are taking to help conserve water and our environment. Water conservation goals for Southern Nevada are being met. Local and state agencies are being more aggressive with conservation efforts knowing that forecasts show the drought situation is not getting any better.
The megadrought in the southwestern part of the country is only one symptom of a
more widespread problem. Look at just one species of animals to see the impact in
North America. Two thirds of North American bird species are threatened with extinction due to increasing temperatures, fires and rising sea levels. The declines in the bird populations across the continent are showing us that the worsening environmental situation is far more extensive than most of us realize.
A few other symptoms should make our jaws drop. The water level at Lake Mead
dropped by 26 feet last year and is projected to drop another 26 feet next year. Many
other states are also experiencing drought conditions, record high temperatures and
massive wildfires. Across the country, temperatures are getting hotter (June 2022 was
the 6 th hottest month in over 143 years). These are all having a negative impact on the
health and welfare of our nation’s population. While there may be successes here and
there, it does not look like the overall situation is getting any better. We all need to do
more. Our actions caused many of these problems and by changing our actions we can
influence future outcomes.
But what can we do? How can we as individuals do our part individually, locally, regionally, and nationally? Start by getting information about the causes of climate
change. Increase your efforts to conserve water and electricity, use smart/energy saving appliances, or consider an electric vehicle for your next car, advocate for the funding of clean energy projects. We also need to make our voices heard with government officials. This is not a time to relax and point fingers at other people, states, or industries. We need to act on short-term and long-term solutions simultaneously.
We know that longer term initiatives are expensive. No matter how you look at it, we all
will pay the price. We will pay it either now or later. Decreased water and electricity from the Hoover Dam will continue to result in higher electrical and water rates. Food prices will continue to increase as droughts continue to expand. The price of using fossil fuels will increase and the emissions from their use will continue the vicious cycle of polluting the air making the atmosphere hotter until there is a massive conversion to clean energy systems. Either way, we must pay the price. The least we can do is plan to make it better for the future.
I do want to end on a positive note. Every day more people are concerned and
becoming engaged, more businesses and industries are committing to reducing carbon emissions and more government officials are listening to the public calls for action.
Look at these websites to learn more about what others in our community are doing and to see what you can do to fight climate change.
Clark County's All-in Community
World Wildlife's What if we don't act now
Red Rock Carbon Offset Pledge.
Our actions have contributed to our current situation and that means we can improve it. Let’s do our part and become part of the solution for climate change. Act now.
by Mary Marquez Bell
Thank you for another successful year! Together in Nevada we recorded 250 species and raised a total of $4,684.50 for Pinyon Jay conservation. Red Rock Audubon matched Team Costaways winning fund raiser drive with another $500 and Charlie Stower’s incredible T-shirt designs generated another $283.
Participation was broader due to the innovative outreach design by Alex Harper, Morrigan DeVito, Andrea Villanueva and Ned Bohman.
“Team Socially Hawkward” by Angel Poe (Big Day)
Loading up the car in the predawn darkness, I had a feeling that my team’s chosen birdathon day of May 12 would be one to remember. Even if the birding were somehow a bust, I knew that Alex Harper and I (team “Socially Hawkward”) would have some good laughs, soak in the natural world, and share in the camaraderie that birding can impart. It didn’t take long to realize as the sun rose at Pabco Wash that the day might be more spectacular than we could ever have thought. The night before had seen strong northwest winds, the kind of winds that cause migrating birds to take pause on their journey, seeking refuge in places with plenty of vegetative cover, energy rich food, and clean water. And the trees and shrubs in our pocket of the Mojave Desert were positively teeming with songbirds. Neither Alex nor I had ever seen a day of birding like this in Southern Nevada, where migratory species had seemingly dropped en masse upon the Vegas valley. Nowhere was this occurrence more evident than at the local, urban parks we visited – Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs and the Clark County Wetlands Park. At both places, we were on a mission to snag a few specialties we might easily miss elsewhere (Red-shouldered Hawk, Summer Tanager…), but the distraction of so many species of warblers and flycatchers, as well as dozens of Black-headed Grosbeaks and Western Tanagers, decorating the trees like ornaments may have slowed us down a bit. We were too enthralled by the birds to care about the schedule adjustments, and we still manage to log over 160 species for the day. The feathered frenzy that descended upon Las Vegas that day, however, was not without its poignancy. No doubt, the drought impacting our region, along with ever decreasing natural bird habitats, is making urban green spaces and water sources more and more of a haven for birds during migration. Although the day was the one of the most joy-filled days of birding I’ve ever experienced, its impact goes beyond my personal memories or birdathon totals. I discovered, more than ever, the refuge that these urban greenspaces are for birds. And this experience has made me even more determined to find ways to channel my own passion, time, and talents to be an advocate for birds in our community.
“Never Mind the Bullock’s Orioles” by Andrea Wirth (Green Carbon Conscience Big Day)
Never Mind the Bullock’s Orioles saw 66 species, biked ~17 miles, and walked a few more. We saw two life birds (Bronzed Cowbird and Clay-colored Sparrow). We went to HBVP, Cornerstone, and the Arroyo Grande Sports Complex. Our most memorable part of the day was how hot, windy, and dusty it was- not an ideal day for biking. We had fun figuring out how to carry the scope on Troy’s bike, though.
“Desert Shorebirds” by Karen McDonal (Big Day)
We gathered on Wednesday night before Saturday’s Birdathon day to plan our strategy. Of course, you want to be everywhere first thing in the morning so choices must be made. We started at Floyd Lamb and moved on to Corn Creek. Good birding but a little slow. We changed plans and went to Mt Charleston next to try and save some commute time. That put us at Henderson Ponds at 1:30 in the afternoon. The walk around the ponds never seemed so long! The song by Noel Coward “Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the noon day sun”, kept repeating in my head. We did add a good 18 species there but Next year, it’s back to Mt Charleston in the late afternoon, Henderson first. Again, we were more surprised at what we didn’t see that we should have.
“Grackle Gal” by Andrea Villanueva (Backyard Birding Apartment/Urban)
As a participant of the apartment birding category for the birdathon, one of my favorite
experiences was when non-birders at my apartment complex would see me birding and ask
questions. I'm sure initially they were a little concerned to see someone with binoculars and a
camera creeping around the apartment complex, but after a few questions they were really
interested in what I was doing. It was a great chance to get to know my neighbors a little bit
and get some attention for the Birdathon and the Pinyon Jay.
“Urban Verdin” By Irma Varela (Backyard Birding Adopt a Park) Raised $125
I enjoyed seeing a fledgling American Robin with its mother. Having the opportunity to observe three different types of flycatcher at the xeriscape garden was very exciting! Thank you for this gift of peace and joy. It was a great experience to spend time with Alex Harper and to confirm my expectation that Winchester Park, although small, can house a nice variety of birds.
“Costaways” by Jennifer Dudek – (Big Day) Raised $1,106
2022 marked the third year for Team Costaways, consisting of Cathy Kozmary, Andrea Wirth, Barbara Beck and Jennifer Dudek. Each year the excitement builds greater than the year before, and each year we strive to do better than the year before. All the locations we visit seem to have their own single bird memorable experience, but there are two experiences that made this year more memorable than others. The first being at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, a hawk is spotted in the sky. We had previously added to our list the usual suspects, a Cooper’s Hawk and a Red-tailed Hawk, and it’s easy to dismiss a hawk in this area for one we had already seen, but wait…check this one out, it doesn’t seem like the others…and there begins a more focused set of several eyes on the bird. Each of us noting a characteristic of what we are seeing to narrow down the list of possible options. Well hello Swainson’s Hawk, thank you for lingering over HBVP today while on your way north to parts unknown. Our second memorable experience for this bird-a-thon came in the last two minutes of our allotted time. The Team decided to make Sunset Park our last stop, we hadn’t seen a White-crowned Sparrow (“WCSP”) during the past 23 hours and despite it being the end of their wintering season in the area, we held out hope that Sunset Park would deliver for us. We walked the park for over an hour, and while we were able to add two more species to our list, we didn’t see the sought after WCSP. With exhaustion in full effect, we dragged ourselves back towards the cars and while it may have been considered the long way, we chose to return to the location we started from, the back of the Safe Key building where the mulberry trees were nearly picked over. Seeking shade but still trying to scan for any birds we hadn’t previously seen, we hear Cathy say, “I have a White-crowned Sparrow”. There was a collective “No Way” expressed by the rest of the group, she must be pulling our legs and trying to be funny as that was the bird that set us on the path to Sunset Park, but we had zero luck in finding it. Yet there it was, with two minutes left to spare in our 24-hour bird-a-thon. Thank you WCSP for being a procrastinator and not leaving to head north with the rest of your friends, you make #114 on our list look marvelous!
“Loathsome Doves” by Nancy Chang (Backyard Birding Suburban/Rural) $275
For Team Loathsome Doves the Nevada Bird-a-Thon was all about spending time with friends. Open invitation to birding open house on Global Big Day, stop by any time. Sit on the catio, enjoy the view of my back yard and its visitors, enjoy some food and iced teas (and maybe a little sangria). Some brought yummy treats to share -cream cheese stuffed strawberries, home-made brownies, a sushi tray. It brought together many friends from different parts of my life. Neighbor friends, Audubon friends, Buddhist friends, friends that rarely venture out and friends that are always out and about. Some friends from other teams dropped by after their teams dispersed. Even Reba the cat joined the group. Everyone who came met a new person, made a new friend.
Although the Backyard Birder category allowed teams to count species for a total of 15 days, Team Loathsome Doves limited itself to that one day, the Global Big Day. We saw a total of 10 species, including a rock dove (of course) and about a hundred house finches. Sure, the Seven Hills of Henderson backyard team recorded 38 species over the entire 15 day event but Team Loathsome Doves had a better PR campaign which netted $275 in donations! Winner! Thank you all!
People who know me know that I am not the stereotypical birder intent on adding to my life list or my knowledge of species identification. I do love to spend my time outdoors observing nature. My garden is a carefully crafted desert habitat and I take any opportunity I can to share it with others and show them it is possible to create a wonderful natural environment for birds and other creatures. Hope to see more of you next year! I had a great time.
“Seven Hills of Henderson” by Doug Chang (Backyard Birding Suburban/Rural)
Satomi Ishi and I decided to use the birdathon to show proof that lots of birds species are in our urban backyards if we look for them in a bird friendly urban habitat. We birded our desert tolerant backyards with hummingbird and oriole feeders for 14 consecutive mornings and afternoons spending one hour each. Tanagers, Grosbeaks, Finches and Hummingbirds dominated our small backyard habitat. The mindfulness birding techniques I learned from Morrigan and Alex were gamechangers. Without these techniques, I wouldn’t have the patience to enjoy my backyard habitat each day. This experience have caused me shift my
birding toward backyards and keeping a backyard “life” list. Summer Tanagers feeding three feet away was absolutely my “life” birding experience. Bird’s most favorite backyard places were the Chocolate plants, orange slices feeder and the water baths. Our cats enjoyed birding with me too, from the safety of our catio, of course.
“Beasts of Birdin” by Paul Rodriguez (Big Day) 167 species
My most memorable moment came after sundown. Chris, Zane, and I had been birding since 12 am. We were hot and getting tired at that point. We had pulled into the Pabco Trailhead and proceeded to the first weir, upstream from the parking lot. After birding there for about an hour or so, the sun had started to set behind the Spring Mountains. That’s when we started seeing Night Hawks. Just a few at first but within a few minutes the sky had turned this beautiful orange color and was fill with hundreds of them. A sight that I will not ever forget.
by Alex Harper
Still a force, the Colorado River once was mightier. It meandered out of its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains, across the plateaus of Utah and northern Arizona before turning southward by the time it reaches southern Nevada. From there, the river towed the current border between Arizona and California, flowed into Mexico, and emptied into the Sea of Cortez. All along the river and at its terminus in Mexico, dense cottonwoods and willows accompanied its riverbanks and flood plains, providing habitat and refuge for the rich biodiversity of the American deserts. Even Jaguars once wandered the banks of the Colorado in Mexico and the southern extents of adjacent border states.
by Morrigan DeVito
What can birds teach us about drought? Birds connect us to water in our community, and that connection is vital as we live through the 23rd year of drought in Las Vegas. At every March birding event, Red Rock Audubon will share water conservation facts, tips, and resources from the Southern Nevada Water Authority with the public.
by Morrigan DeVito
I am worrying about the drought again as I stand on the Weir Bridge at Wetlands Park. Below me, a great blue heron bobs on the current, feathers blue-gray like the cloudless, smoggy sky. Ring-necked ducks and American coots swim around him, diving underwater for plants to eat. He floats along, wings folded neatly and long legs tucked beneath his lanky body. When the current moves him to the center, he rises with a great shake of his feathers, startling the coot who swam too close to him. The great blue heron looks around, retracts his neck, and flies to the riverbank to take his place among cattails and reeds for the afternoon. Unworried, he preens himself and spreads his massive wings to sun his cape-like feathers. I point him out to people walking by and many gape, we have those here?
by Morrigan DeVito
What backyard is complete without a hummingbird or two? In Las Vegas, Anna’s hummingbirds are common visitors to gardens and feeders. They spend their lives chasing water, zipping from flower to flower as they drink sweet nectar and snatch tiny insects. In the sunlight, males have dazzling reddish-pink feathers that rest like little petals around their head and throat. They’re delightful to watch as they dart, dive, and dance through the air.
By Morrigan DeVito
Spring is here! What better way to celebrate than to garden in the fresh air? And if you plant native Mojave plants, birds are sure to come visit you. Here are five native, drought tolerant plants to conserve water and attract desert birds:
by Morrigan DeVito
While many of us stayed in the AC to escape the 2021 heat wave, burrowing owls had no such luxury. Out at the Rainbow Owl Preserve, burrowing owl parents hunted for beetles, scorpions, lizards, and mice in the sweltering heat to feed their families. But the prey they need is getting harder to find because of lack of water. The less food parents bring back to the nest, the harder it is for baby owls to survive.
Photos by David Anderson
On January 23, 2022, over 20 people attended Red Rock Audubon’s inaugural birding event at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Boulder City. Veteran’s Memorial is a very accessible urban park that contains a variety of habitats. Highlights of the morning included sightings of Eurasian Collared-Doves, Snow Geese, Ring-necked Ducks and Double-crested Cormorants catching fish. We'll continue to explore this urban park monthly throughout the birding seasons.