Alaska Birding, Sightseeing & Gold – Part 3

This is my last installment of my Alaska trip. It has been fun writing this blog series on my trip. I had forgotten all the wonderful birds and sights I had seen while there.

On one of the days, I hitched a ride with one of the owners to go into town. I knew of a couple of ponds that looked promising for bird sightings. When I arrived I was not disappointed! My first sighting was of a Wilson’s Phalarope. I love these little birds.

Wilson’s Phalarope

I soon saw a Glaucous Gull – a lifer for me!

Glaucous Gull

Then to my delight I saw a pair of Red-Throated Loons (another lifer!). I got to watch them do a mating dance together. So much fun!

Red-Throated Loon

Also at the pond were several pairs of Artic Terns (lifer!). They loved hanging out on an old piece of mining equipment. They were so tame I was able to get very close to them for photos.

Arctic Tern

While birding at the ponds, another birder drove up and stopped to talk to me. It was obvious he was a birder by all the high dollar camera equipment in his car!

He was specifically looking for the Slaty-Backed Gull. The Nome area is known for this rarely sighted bird. I told him I hadn’t seen one but I had only been there for a short time. He glanced around, seemed disappointed in what was there to see and drove off down the highway.

To my delight and his loss, not long after that two Slaty-Backed Gulls flew overhead. They were there then gone. I barely got a photo but I did. Lifer!

Slaty-Backed Gull

After that excitement I decided to cross the highway to walk along the beach and see what might be about. I saw a Common Raven eating some kind of shorebird. He posed briefly for a nice portrait photo.

Common Raven

Then a Ruddy Turnstone came walking by me. I followed him for some time taking lots of photos. The thing I’ve noticed about the birds in this area is their lack of fear of people. It’s a wonderful thing for a birder!

Ruddy Turnstone

Also on the beach was a Glaucous-Winged Gull.

Glaucous-Winged Gull

Back at camp I was excited to see it was King Crab for dinner. Yum!!! They get them live in town and butcher them in camp. I kinda of felt sorry for the crab…well, no I didn’t.

Here’s me holding up my dinner. You can see some of the gold mining equipment behind me. I have to say, the entire time at the gold camp I looked like crap. Ah well! I was too busy having fun outside to take time to do my hair or makeup.

While checking out the crab another lifer showed up for scraps. A Mew Gull.

Mew Gull

While the husbands were busy searching for gold, one of the camp helpers took the wives out sightseeing. I’m so glad they offered that because otherwise I would not have seen some of the beautiful sights within the area.

The first place we visited was called “The Trains to Nowhere”. These trains were brought in to haul gold from the hills back in the late 1800s. When the gold played out, they brought the trains down to shore to take them away. But for some reason they decided not to ship the trains back to their originating destination. So for the last 100+ years they have sat on the shore of the Bering Sea rusting away. I thought they were very picturesque!

Trains to Nowhere

While driving there we passed by a large patch of Fireweed. These flowers are so pretty. They are also tasty. The locals make Fireweed jelly and it’s delicious.

Fireweed

I also had some opportunities to photograph the coastline again.

Bering Sea

While driving down there, the girls knew I was looking for any birds. They were helpful in seeing some of the sea birds hanging out in the bays. I got another lifer here – a Common Eider. The birds were quite a distance away, but I managed to get a good enough photo to identify them.

Common Eider

Another trip we took was to Teller, Alaska. It’s about a 75-mile drive there on a lonely dirt road. It took us almost 3 hours to get there. It is a tiny little town on the Bering Sea inhabited by about 100 Eskimos. We went there to see if they had any of their art for sale. We were told you could get some nice handmade items for a fair price. It was to be the only shopping I did on the entire trip.

The drive was very picturesque. We went from sunny, to rainy, to snow to sun again. Crazy weather. I got a nice full rainbow after one of the spells of rain.

Rainbow of the Tisuk River valley

We also crossed several large rivers. So much water! I’m not used to that living in New Mexico.

Sinuk River

We arrived in Teller and it was a miserable day. But it was worth the trip to meet the locals and buy beautiful handmade items directly from the artist. The people there were very friendly.

Bering Sea at Teller
While waiting for the local artists we walked the coastline
Thomas Weyanna carved this little bird out of Walrus Tusk
Donald Weyanna holding a carved Whale Rib inlaid with Caribou Antler. And I look like crap again. It had rained and snowed on me and the wind was blowing 40+ mph. Ugh!

On the way back we stopped at the bridge crossing the Sinuk River to see if there were any bears feeding on the running salmon. No bears but I got another lifer! A Green Sandpiper!

Green Sandpiper

The whole time I was there in Nome, everyone but me had seen the Rock Ptarmigans in the area. I was so upset that I hadn’t seen any. This would be a lifer bird for me.

Can you believe on the trip home from Teller, which was my last day in Nome, I finally saw a Rock Ptarmigan! Yay!

Rock Ptarmigan

All the while I was birding and sightseeing, Tim was busy hunting for gold. When I got back to camp, he had me follow him to a hole he had been digging. It was 4 feet deep! Sadly no gold in this whole.

Tim by his monster hole. And look how good he looks. It’s maddening! Men can look good even in the worst conditions.

While my husband was looking good digging for gold, this was me. LOL! Do I look tired or what!?!

Bundled up against the cold rain and wind!

But he did find gold on the trip. Here’s a pic of him with his nuggets. He found the most gold that week at camp. He was pretty happy.

Here’s a picture we took on the plane. Admiring his gold!

Sadly we had to head home. As we were flying out of Nome I got a beautiful sunset from the plane.

Alaska Sunset above the clouds

As we flew into Albuquerque, we were greeted by the summer monsoon rains as we headed for the hot summer days in New Mexico.

Monsoons over New Mexico

I hope you enjoyed my adventures in Alaska. It was a fun trip for us!

One of my favorite photos of the trip. My handsome husband looking for sea glass along the shore of the Bering Sea at midnight




Alaska Birding, Sightseeing and Gold – Part 2

The next day we flew to Nome to stay at a gold camp in the hills above the town. The terrain here is way different than Anchorage. No majestic mountains or old forests. Just rolling hills and tundra along the Bering Sea. That’s not to say it isn’t beautiful, quite the opposite.

The scenery in Nome was beautiful! I especially loved the Fireweed!

We arrived with several other visitors to the gold camp. Getting everything in the van (including ourselves) was a real challenge.

Tim trying hard to get the last suitcase in the van

We arrived mid-day so we had lots of time to settle in and then get out and explore. This far north in the summertime, it only gets dark a few hours a night. So at 8 o’clock it seemed like noon.

That’s the gold camp AKAU (Alaska Gold) at the top of the hill

We each had a our own ATV to explore. We quickly headed out – Tim to find gold and me to find birds! It didn’t take long for me to find some lifers. It looks flat and uninhabited but there were birds everywhere!

First bird sighting – Golden-Crowned Sparrow

While I birded I saw my husband Tim busily searching for gold with his metal detector.

Tim detecting for gold

I would call out “I got another lifer!”

Hoary Redpoll

He was still searching for gold…

Still searching….

“Wow! Another lifer!” I exclaimed

Common Redpoll

Tim was still searching….

Digging another target that wouldn’t be gold…

“There are so many birds! I got another lifer!” I cheered

Fox Sparrow

Hmmmm….Tim finally got a gold nugget! I was so happy for him!

Hard work getting gold – this hole had a little nugget!

We were having a great time! The day was warm and sunny. Soon we started getting tired and headed back for dinner and some sleep. The sun didn’t set until 2:30 am and was up again by 6 am.

Sunset at 2:30 am

The next day was another beautiful sunny day. Tim went off with some other guys to hunt for gold along a river. I stayed at camp and happily birded. I’m not very adventurous riding an ATV, and it sounded like a challenging drive for the guys.

This day turned out to be one of my best birding days of the trip. I birded for hours and saw so many species of birds. Some new ones and some old friends.

Olive-Backed Pipit
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Not the best photo but the only photo I got of a lifer – Northern Shrike
Least Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Another lifer! Arctic Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler

One of my favorite sightings was of a Northern Waterthrush. He was very curious and a great singer! I have seen this bird once before and only had a terrible photo. This time I got so many good photos! And he got so close to me I had to back up to get any photos.

Northern Waterthrush

Another exciting sighting for me was the Bohemian Waxwings. There was a whole flock of them feeding at a small pond. They didn’t seem to mind me at all. It was so much fun watching them dart out to get a bug and then land again to look for another. Such a stunning bird!

Another lifer! Bohemian Waxwing

While at the pond with the waxwings, I noticed a Semipalmated Plover. And to my delight it had two babies that looked like they had only recently hatched.

Semipalmated Plover
Semipalmated Plover juvenile

At another little pond nearby I saw a phalarope. It took me awhile to identify it as it was clearly a juvenile. But I finally realized it was a Red-Necked Phalarope – another lifer!

Red-Necked Phalarope

I loved exploring the little ponds. So unique and so much bird life.

I especially loved the little flowers that looked like something from Whoville 🙂

Whoville flowers 🙂

Something large caught my eye flying overhead. I quickly headed over to where I thought I saw it land. As I approached I heard a hawk giving warning calls to me. To my delight I saw it was another lifer for me. A Rough-Legged Hawk – and it had 2 babies!!!

I never did get very good photos of the adults. But I got some great photos of the babies. I was lucky to see them because within the next day or so they had fledged and left the nest never to be seen again.

Rough-Legged Hawk juveniles

While exploring the area I came across a big male Muskox. I had heard not to get too close as they can be very dangerous. Thankfully I had my 800mm lens and could get a decent photo without it knowing I was doing so.

Muskox

I definitely had a wonderful day exploring. So many bird sightings and beautiful scenery.

I drove to the top of one of the hills on my cute red ATV. Epic 360 degree views!

One day Tim and I drove our ATVs into Nome. I’d never been to the Bering Sea before and was dying to take some photos. It’s not a very picturesque beach like so many out there. But I still found it beautiful.

Bering Sea
The sand in the foreground is very unique – it’s crushed garnets! You can believe I brought home a little bottle of it!

One of my favorite photos of the trip I took just outside of Nome. It is a preserved gold mining dredge. Such wonderful lighting at midnight 🙂

Nome Dredge

I hope you enjoyed all of my photos of the great birds and scenery I saw. Stay tuned for Part 3. Lots more to come!



Birding in Southeastern Arizona – Days 4 & 5

Our last two days in southeastern Arizona were spent in the Greaterville and Sierra Vista areas.

We spent one whole day exploring the mountain area near Greaterville.  Tim was determined to find some gold on this trip.  This area was known for some good gold in the early 1900s.  Tim spent the day in the bottom of an arroyo.  While he did that, I explored the hills around him.

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Tim metal detecting

Nearby there was a small pond.  It really seemed to attract the birds.  There were a pair of Killdeer on the shore.   And several Acorn Woodpeckers were hanging out there too.  There were some large trees at one end of the pond, and I scared a Great Horned Owl out of them when I walked under the branches.  He flew too far away to follow for a photo.

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Acorn Woodpecker

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Killdeer

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Lewis’s Woodpecker

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Cordilleran Flycatcher

There was a very tame Mockingbird hanging out by our vehicle.

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Northern Mockingbird

I kept hearing birdsong I didn’t recognize.  When I finally saw the bird that was singing, I got very excited.  It was a Bridled Titmouse,  a new bird for me!

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Bridled Titmouse

While watching this beautiful Titmouse, a band of Bushtits came through.  I got a nice photo of a male Bushtit before they moved on.

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Flying overhead was a gorgeous Red-Tailed Hawk.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

Tim spent hours digging holes in that arroyo.  And it paid off!  He found several pieces of gold.

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Tim’s nuggets

On our way back to our hotel, I spotted something in the dim evening light.  I made Tim turn around so I could see if my guess was right.  I thought I saw a Great Horned Owl sitting on the ground.  And I was right!

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Great Horned Owl

The next morning we were to head home.  We got an early start, so I asked Tim if we could spend about 30 minutes at a B&B in the area.  This particular B&B had had sightings of the Lucifer Hummingbird.

The yard of this B&B was full of birds.  I could see why too.  She had so many different types of food for the birds as well as several water sources.  I hadn’t been there 5 minutes when the Lucifer Hummingbird showed up.  Sadly, he landed on a feeder right above my head.  I managed to get one terrible photo before he flew off.  And I never saw him again while I was there.  🙁  But I was still excited.  Such a beautiful bird!  And a lifer for me!

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Lucifer Hummingbird

But I wasn’t to be disappointed at the short view of the Lucifer Hummingbird.  Because right after seeing him, I saw the Magnificent Hummingbird.  And boy was he truly magnificent and a lifer for me!

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Magnificent Hummingbird

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Magnificent Hummingbird

Another lifer quickly showed up to feed on the grand buffet.  A Mexican Jay!

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Mexican Jay

There were lots of other birds in that small yard.  A very shy Scott’s Oriole came to feed on an orange.  And several Yellow-Rumped Warblers came for the suet.

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Acorn Woodpecker

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Gila Woodpecker

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Scott’s Oriole

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

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House Finch

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Green-Tailed Towhee

Sadly, we couldn’t stay long at the B&B.   I could have easily spent an entire morning sitting in my chair there with my camera glued to my face!  LOL!

On the way home Scarlett needed a potty break.  So we stopped in at Steins, New Mexico.  It’s a neat old ghost town.  It was closed to tours, but I was still able to enjoy looking at the old buildings from outside the fence.  It is a nicely preserved town.

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Tim spotted what looked to be an old still for making moonshine.

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While photographing Steins, the train came through 🙂

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We had a wonderful long weekend exploring southeastern Arizona.  I hope we get to go back again someday!  Looks like Scarlett had a great time too.  She snoozed the whole way home.

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Scarlett was one tired dog!

 

 

20th Anniversary Trip – Day 5

It was finally time to leave Winnemucca, NV.  Tim found 3 nuggets over the last couple days, so he was pleased.  Upon further reading on the internet about the Rye Patch area, we learned that in September 2015 they had a nugget hunting rally in the area.   This place is small, about 2 square miles.  Last year they had over 600 people out there over a 3-day period swinging metal detectors looking for gold.  So for Tim to find two nuggets there makes you realize he’s pretty good at finding elusive gold.

The night before when we were heading to the Mexican food restaurant, I told Tim I had seen a sign for a brothel.  He said it couldn’t be for real.  So the next morning we drove over there before heading out of town.

Sure enough, it was an active brothel! Of course, I wanted to take a picture of the sign before we left.  While we were out taking pics, the owner came out to ask if we needed anything…really??  LOL!

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Brothel in Winnemucca, NV

We told him no, we were just curious.  He introduced himself as Mike and proceeded to tell us all about the place.

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Mike – owner of the brothel

Next thing we know, we are getting a tour of the place.  Sadly I was not allowed to take pictures inside.  The brothel has been open nonstop since 1864 in that location.  He showed us where the original building walls were and what had been added on over the years.  It was a fascinating tour!

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Sign at brothel

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Tim being lured in!

He has a working girl that is 64 years old.  She even married her latest husband there at the brothel and continues to work there.  He said she keeps the lights dim so she looks better.  LOL!

We asked him about rates.  He said a basic hour, with no special requests, starts at a minimum of $400 a hour.  Some girls charge more.  If you want extras, like a party in the hot tub, it can cost $1,000 an hour.  If you want a date outside the brothel, it starts at $700 a hour. He takes 50% of the fees and then charges them room and board.  Crazy right!?!

Soon we were on our way to Ely, Nevada.  Tim wanted check out an old ghost town outside of Ely called Osceola.  The largest nugget ever found in Nevada was found there.

We saw some Sandhill Cranes in the lush valley while heading south to Ely.  I’m sure they are in the process of migrating to my home state of New Mexico to the Bosque del Apache NWR.

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Sandhill Cranes

To get to Ely you have to travel the “Loneliest Highway in America”. And I survived! according to the literature I came across 🙂

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Eureka was a cool old town.  It’s creation was attributed to the large silver deposit in the area.  Today there is still a large silver mine in operation.  We liked this town because it had a lot of its old buildings still in use.  We enjoyed stretching our legs and walking main street.  We also stopped in at the local saloon for fries and a root beer 🙂

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Jackson Hotel in Eureka

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Eureka Courthouse

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Famous opera house in Eureka

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Tim checking out the old mining equipment

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Eureka Courthouse

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Tim in front of the saloon where we had a snack

Next stop of Ely, NV.  Another great town that was started due to a large copper deposit in the area. The Kennecott Mine is still in operation today.

Before stopping for the night in Ely, we drove on through to visit the old ghost town of Osceola.  It is located in the Great Basin National Heritage Area.  It is a fascinating town.  You can learn more about the history of this area at this website  Osceola District – Great Basin Heritage.

The highest peak in Nevada is known as Wheeler Peak – the same name as the highest peak in New Mexico.

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Wheeler Peak – highest peak in Nevada at 13,065 feet above sea level

When we got to Osceola the wind was blowing at 40 mph+.  Needless to say, I wasn’t too keen on spending much time out exploring and taking photos.  But we did take time to walk around the famous Osceola cemetery.

The view from the cemetery was beautiful.  I couldn’t think of a nicer resting place for these souls.

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View from Osceola cemetery

There’s not much left of the old gold mining town of Osceola.  But what was left was great for photos.  Especially that old truck.  I love rusty old trucks!

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Osceola Ghost town

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Stone foundation of old home

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Great old truck!

There is still one gold claim still in production in the area.  You can see the extensive workings from the road up the canyon.  Tons and tons of earth have been removed to get to the elusive gold in the area.

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Current mining operation at Osceola

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This canyon has been worked for well over a 100 years

I saw several birds as Osceola.  But with the strong winds, it was almost impossible to get a photo.  I did manage to get a couple decent pics.

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Western Tanager

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

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Rock Wren

On the way back from Osceola, just outside of Ely is a small lake called Comins Lake and is part of the Steptoe Valley Wildlife Management Area.  Of course I just had to stop there that evening so I could photograph some birds.  By now I was in birding withdrawals as I hadn’t seen hardly any birds since we left Provo, UT!

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At a long distance away – I believe these are Wilson’s Phalarope in winter plumage

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Yellow-Headed Blackbird

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Green-Winged Teal

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American Coot

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Sora

We had dinner at hotel Nevada. It opened in 1929, was the tallest building in Nevada well into the 1940s and was the state’s first fire-proof building.

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Great historical hotel and very popular with the bikers

It was nice touring the old part of town.  There wasn’t anybody around, so I got some nice photos.  I think they turned out nice in black and white.

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The main building of the railway was built in 1910.

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A lot of the original constructi0n is still standing and in great condition

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I loved this old truck

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Engine house

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Ely rail yard

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I thought of my fellow blogger Donna Catterick when I took this photo 🙂

It was a long, fun, full day!  Tomorrow we head back to Utah and Zion National Park! Stay tuned!

 

 

20th Anniversary Trip – Day 4 Nevada

We were up again early in Winnemucca, NV.  Tim decided to check out a new gold area north of Winnemucca called Dutch Flat.  Evidently it was small area that produced good gold.  It was a pretty drive there.  Farm land with a river running through it with surrounding hills.

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Driving north of Winnemucca to Dutch Flat

As we were heading into the canyon, we came across an old boxcar.  Not sure what it was used for, but it’s useful days are just about over.

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Old boxcar

You can see the old diggings as we drove in.

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Once parked, Tim didn’t take long getting his detector out to hunt for gold.  While he prospected, I went exploring and birding.  Once again, I just wasn’t seeing or hearing very many birds.  Northern Nevada is a very quiet birding spot.

While exploring the area, I noticed Tim had made his way up a hill.  I took a picture of him detecting.  When I got home and was editing my photos, I realized there was an antelope on the hill looking at Tim.  I never heard or saw any large mammals that day.  Amazing how quiet they can be.

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Can you see the antelope in the upper left looking down at Tim?

The view from the area was very nice.

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Expansive view!

I did manage to see a few birds in the area.

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Rock Wren

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Loggerhead Shrike

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Sage Thrasher

I did see a lizard! 🙂  Those have been scarce on this trip as well.

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New Mexico Whiptail

There wasn’t much evidence left of the old gold works in the area.

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Foundation of old mill

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Old foundation of large building

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Old tailings pile

Tim did finally find a piece of gold.  It was a nice sized piece.  He was hoping to find more, but luck wasn’t with him that morning.

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Looking hard for that yellow stuff!

After spending the morning at Dutch Flat, we decided to head back over to Rye Patch for the afternoon.  As we were driving through the farm land, we saw a coyote run by.

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Coyote

Tim was driving pretty quick down this dirt road.  I saw a dark spot in the open area along the road and told him to turn around.  Upon closer inspection, we saw it was a Burrowing Owl.

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He was hiding out…I’m surprised I saw him from the car

I got out of the car and was surprised it let me get pretty close.

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Burrowing Owl

As we hit the highway, we saw some people having fun on ATVs in the sand dunes outside of Winnemucca.

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Sand dune fun!

As we turned off the highway, I noticed a hawk roosting in an old dead tree.  He was quite a distance away, but I did manage to get a good enough photo to identify him.  When I entered my bird sighting into eBird, I saw the Harris’s Hawk was considered rare for the area.  I even got an email from eBird asking me about my sighting.  They were thrilled I had a photo that showed it was a correct ID.

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Harris’s Hawk

Back at Rye Patch, Tim wasted no time getting out prospecting.  Tim found another piece of gold which made him very happy.

I didn’t see any birds as it was late afternoon.  But I did manage to see another lizard!

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Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard

We had just enough light to explore another gold area.  We drove out to Willow Creek in the East Mountains (creative name huh? LOL!).  We came to a locked gate and we realized someone had an active gold claim and was working the claim.  There’s a long history of people looking for gold in these mountains.  So you can see old buildings and machinery along with modern items.

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Old stamp mill

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Old trommel for separating gold from dirt and rocks

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A new wash plant for separating gold from dirt and rocks

After playing all day, we were tired and hungry.  I was really craving Mexican food and margarita!

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Ahhhhh…perfect end to a perfect day!

Stay tuned for Day 5. Lots of good stuff ahead!