Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge
Pacific Southwest Region, California, Nevada & Klamath Basin
Archived Birders' Sightings

July 14 2012 - Stillwater NWR

No White-tailed Kite (seen by refuge biologist on July although I didn't really expect to see one). I did see 3 Western Sandpipers, at least 6 Loggerhead Shrikes (also several Northern Mockingbirds), a couple of Swainson's Hawks flying overhead, lots of White-faced Ibis, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, and Snowy Egrets; a fair number of Eared Grebes, Gadwall, Mallard, and Ruddy Duck, several with young; a couple of Greater Yellowlegs, Soras, Virginia Rails, Pied-billed Grebes, Clark's Grebe (with young) and Black-crowned Night Herons; several American White Pelicans; and one very charming Short-eared Owl who posed not far from the road.

Meg Andrews
Reno, NV

April 22, 2012 - Carson Lake-Sunday


On Earth Day, Sunday, April 22nd, I birded portions of Carson Lake from about 10 AM to 3:15 PM. My birding route started at the first tower on the Madsen Levee, continued back west to and out West Road and a few laps through the "Longspur" fields, back to the Madsen first tower, south along the Holmes Levee to the southern-most tower, out to the end of the Lott Freeway, back to the Holmes Levee and south almost to East Road, back north on Holmes to the first Madsen tower, east along the Madsen Levee along the deeply-rutted road (high-clearance vehicle needed) from the first tower out past the second Madsen tower at the York Unit and back, out to the Rice Unit and back to the entrance. As with last Sunday, a lot of the usual suspects were seen/heard (Avocets, Ibis, Stilts, Pelicans, Gulls (California, Ring-Billed, and one that appeared to be an immature Herring), Sparrows (Savannah, White-Crowned, Song, Brewer's), American Pipits/Horned Larks, Snowy (ten) and Great Egrets (five), Barn/Northern Rough-Winged/Cliff Swallows (busy building their mud nests), Virginia Rails and Soras, Marsh Wrens, waterfowl. etc. etc.) and the following were some selected miscellaneous highlights:

LONG-BILLED AND SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER-as with last Sunday, just east of the eastern-most Madsen tower was a flock conservatively estimated at about 1500 that consisted of mostly Long-Billed with a few Short-Billed mixed in. This is the best area to get up-close looks of the Dowitchers. Total of large flocks of Dowitchers observed at various locations throughout the area conservatively estimated at around 9-10,000.
WHIMBREL-one in wet area south of road out to Rice Unit, about one mile east of the entrance road
DUNLIN-several hundred total at end of Lott and near second Madsen tower
WILLET-eight in the wet area viewed south from the first tower, two elsewhere
WESTERN SANDPIPER-conservative estimate of around 1200 with the largest flock at end of Lott and many near second Madsen tower
LEAST SANDPIPER-various flocks totaling about 250-300 birds
AMERICAN BITTERN-one heard at first tower
CATTLE EGRET-four off of West Road within a herd of Cattle (go figure)
BALD EAGLE-one immature near the eastern-most Madsen tower
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER-67 at end of Lott Freeway, around 55 in the wet area viewed south from the first tower
CASPIAN TERN-four total
BONAPARTE'S GULL-six in the wet area viewed south from the first tower
FORSTER'S TERN-around 50 noisily perched on posts within the water and floating on the water on the north side of the rutted road between the Madsen towers, another 10 or so in the wet area viewed south from the first tower
SWAINSON'S HAWK-two along Rte. 95 between Pasture Road and Fallon
RING-NECKED PHEASANT-one in the usual area on the north side of Pasture Road at the curve east of the Carson Lake entrance
PEREGRINE FALCON-scared up one out of a tree in the same area as the Pheasant, it then soared overhead for several minutes

Directions to and a map of Carson Lake are on the Lahontan Audubon Society web site under "Area Bird Guide" (Area #1 is Carson Lake) at (external site)

Rob Lowry
Carson City

April 12, 2012 April Winds Bring Spring Migrants to Fallon - update

Lots of shorebirds coming into the Lahontan Valley now, peak migration will be affected by weather, which has been anything but normal so far this year.

As of April, the long-billed curlews, marbled Godwits, Avocets, Black-necked stilts, long-billed Dowitchers, Snow Geese, N Harriers, Redtail hawks, kestrels, Swainsons hawk pairs setting up nesting sites; along the now full canals and ditch banks are Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, along the ditch roads are plenty of plovers (killdeer),; overhead white faced Ibis flying flocks over the irrigated pastures, a handful of Whimbrels, Sora and Virginia rails in the Carson Lake marsh, along with some Yellowlegs, Pipits, marsh wrens and sparrows, and the assorted Blackbird trio - Yellowhead, Redwing and Brewers.

February 28, 2012

I faced the winds head on, and took off for Fallon and the Winter Waterfowl Tour at Stillwater.

On the way out to the refuge in van #3, we stopped at a Heronry and viewed several Great Blue Herons and one nesting Red-tailed Hawk.

Having never seen Tundra Swan before, I was thrilled that enough had stayed around for my viewing pleasure (I'm sure they knew I was coming).

Other highlights for me was a Barn Owl, a fair number of American White Pelicans, Bufflehead, Common merganser, a large flock of Northern shoveler and Marsh Wrens singing their little hearts out in the rushes.

We were prettysure we saw an Adult Bald Eagle although at a vast distance.

Also saw a Shrike, not too sure if it were Northern or Loggerhead. I certainly couldn't tell as it kept flying away as I tried to focus in with my camera. I think the more experienced birders in our van can tell you which it was.

We also spied a Sandpiper, and think it may have been a Lesser Yelllowlegs.

Not to shake my own rattle, but I got a really smashing head and shoulders shot of a Rough-legged Hawk.

Red-tailed and Rough-legged Hawks were all over the place, as were Northern Harrier.

Heading back into town, we stopped and enjoyed a nice close-up of an American Kestrel.

For me, heading out of town, a Sharpie fly-by, and further up HW 95 close to I-80 an immature Golden Eagle. These birds almost led me into a ditch.

I fought higher winds on the way home and ended up clocking 260 miles.

Heading into Winnemucca, three Rough-legged Hawks were battling the high winds. A great end to a great days birding.

March 7, 2011 - Birding results - Stillwater NWR and Carson Lake, Churchill County

I had a nice tour of Stillwater (northeast of Fallon) today with Mike Goddard's (Stillwater refuge Manager) LAS (Lahontan Audubon Society - Reno chapter) trip. Many ducks, of course, but also about 50 White Pelicans, lots of Tundra Swan, 3 bald eagles, and a Barn owl in the owl box.

I stopped by the Merton Drive location off of Hwy 95 just south of Fallon, and the Western Screech Owl was sitting in the knothole where it has been seen before.

I then spent a few hours out at Carson Lake/Pasture, about 8mi. south of Fallon off Hwy 95. There were more Tundra Swans, and thousands of Snow Geese. Most of the Snow Geese were bunched together at the southwest corner of Sprig Pond and were making a huge racket. I've never seen so many outside of California before. Nearby were 65 American Avocets.

Out on Madsen Levee were some more snow geese, 15 Avocets, 15 Greater-Yellowlegs, 75 Long-Billed Dowitchers, and 1 Marbled Godwit. 

Directions to Stillwater and Carson Lake can be found on the Lahontan Audubon Society's website under "area birding guide".>

Meg Andrews

January 28, 2011 - Churchill County, Fallon area birding report:

I spent much of yesterday in the Fallon area, stopping at several places. Overall, the birding was pretty slow, with generally low numbers of birds. I was surprised by the general paucity of raptors throughout all of the agricultural areas.

First stop was the Carson Diversion Dam west of Fallon. It was pretty quiet and had a number each of Northern Flicker and White-crowned and Song Sparrows, with a few each of American Robin, Common Raven, Black-billed Magpie, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Bewick's Wren, two Hermit Thrushes, two Spotted Towhees, and one Belted Kingfisher. A Red-tailed Hawk and an American Kestrel were along Pioneer Road just to the east.

Next was Carson Lake south of Fallon. Horned Larks were the most common birds by far, and they were accompanied by a few American Pipits (no longspurs that I could see or hear). Waterbirds included abundant Tundra Swans and California Gulls, about 20 Greater Yellowlegs, four Long-billed Curlews, and a scattering of various ducks (maybe 20 total). I was going to go out the Lott Freeway, but the gate was closed and the shotgun noise was pretty steady. Raptors included one each of Prairie Falcon, Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, and Golden Eagle (which I didn't notice until all the waterbirds went berserk). A Loggerhead Shrike was about the only other interesting bird.

Next was Harmon Reservoir east of Fallon, which was about as dead as a lake can get: two Common Mergansers, two Great Egrets, and two Mallards. Not even an American Coot. A Sharp-shinned Hawk cruised through the low trees at the northwest corner.

The final stop was Stillwater NWR. It was getting late, so I didn't go far into the bowels of the area. From the viewing area at the southeast end, I could see and hear quite a few Tundra Swans, Canada Geese, and Mallards. I took the relatively short driving loop, which produced several Western Meadowlarks, a lot more Horned Larks, one Bufflehead, one Great Blue Heron, and six American Coots. When I start counting (or even noticing) coots, you know it's slow.

So, not terribly productive in terms of birds, but what a great place to be on a nice day.

Alan Wallace
Reno NV


The following are on the refuge checklist listed as uncommon, rare, and not found in summer.
(Also saw the usual/common summer species; great flyovers of Avocets coming in to land!) Location: Swan Lake, Willow Lake: great bunch of shorebirds!
3 Snowy Plovers
3 Black-bellied Plovers (not listed for summer.)
Greater & Lesser Yellowlegs - side by side to compare.
flocks of LB Dowitchers,
a few Long-billed Curlews,
M. Godwits,
1 Willet.

Other birds seen around the refuge;
Golden Eagle
N. Mockingbird;
Canvasbacks and Redhead ducks;
Forsters and 2 Caspian Terns on another lake.

A ratty looking Prairie Falcon flew over and a few minutes later a Peregrine Falcon (also not on your summer list) started to dive on the birds resting on the water. They took flight and it pursued them for several minutes, until it landed and sat on the shoreline for several minutes.

(refuge note: several Peregrines have been sighted this year on or near the refuge - great ariel shows by all!)

Submitted by: Denise and David Hamilton, Napa CA - First-time refuge birders visited on Aug 3, 2010, 3:00 - 7:00 pm.

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Last updated: January 9, 2013