Article and Photos By: Cathy Kozmary
Whilst some may think that Shoshone CA was built around the Crowbar Café & Saloon, the true source of the tiny town lies in it’s incredible spring. From it flows more than 700 gallons of water per minute, and provides the town with drinking water, fills the pool, the pond and the wetlands. Back in 80’s, a small population of the Shoshone Pupfish was discovered – 12 of them in total. They were put into a small pond near the source of the spring, protected and have grown into a thriving population. These Pupfish exist only in Shoshone, a small city with a variety of wildlife. Len Warren, with The Nature Conservancy, agreed to spend a Sunday morning hosting a Red Rock Audubon birding event, and show us his work in the Shoshone Wetlands. He said, “Let’s meet at the CROWBAR!”
Len Warren has spent the last 13 years mapping and tracking the birds and their nests, chicks and fledglings. The 800 acre Shoshone Wetlands has been the focus of his work building up an extensive trail system through the area. Len knows where every nest is located, active or old, how many eggs exist, approximate hatch date, and whether or not the chicks fledged. In the last couple of years, the data shows that on average, nest success is about 40%. Len has built a path which goes through the heart of the wetlands providing a unique view into the undergrowth of the mesquite, tamarisk and quail bush. It is known as “Len’s Den” and has evidence (several piles of feathers) of local hawks using it as a protected place to eat their prey.
We had the pleasure of spending a few hours with Len, and learning these facts and more. He has built up incredible and understanding of the local bird behavior as well as migrants that pass through the wetlands. Verdins, Phainopeplas, Crissal Thrashers and the Least Bell’s Vireos are the local birds that build nests throughout the wetlands. We learned that the Phainopepla is the only bird that migrates between clutches. They will nest in one place, continue to migrate and repeat the nesting routine. No other bird is known to do this.
For years experts documented that Verdins built several nests in the same area using all but one as decoys. Through his research, Len discovered that those that appear to be decoys are actually old nests from previous years. One nest is used for the nesting period, and a new one is built in the following year. He also observed that the Verdin pair will take the lining of the nest, which consists of a small clump of fine feathers, from one nest to the next. We saw one of the active nests and saw how Len counts the number of eggs in a Verdin nest. This one had one more egg than his last check yesterday. The active nest can also be recognized by the fine spider web balls that the nesting pair will use the decorate the entrance.
The Crissal Thrasher is another local bird that nests in the Shoshone Wetlands. This is an extremely secretive bird that spends the majority of it’s time low in the undergrowth. Nests are a rare sight but Len has found a handful – two of them in branches overhanging the trail. One nest was within Len’s Den, and he was able to capture video of how the Thrashers behave during the nesting period. One key observation is that the pair will build the nest together, each bringing large size twigs and place them together to create the basic nest structure. Once this is completed, the female completes the nest by bringing fine leaves & grasses to create the lining within the nest.
We thank Len for sharing his vast knowledge with us and look forward to returning soon!