AZFO FIELD EXPEDITION
Virgin Valley and Mountains, Mohave Co.
18-19 February 2017
Leaders: David Vander Pluym and Felipe Guerrero
En route from the high country of southwest Utah to the edge of Lake Mead in Nevada, the Virgin River cuts a brief but prominent course through the far northwestern corner of Arizona. Here, in northernmost Mohave Co., few field ornithologists visit and those that do rarely venture far from the arterial roads and small towns dotting I-15, and seldom in winter. Unsurprisingly, the Virgin River Valley and nearby Virgin Mountains present many exciting opportunities for exploration and discovery. Our expedition will seek to increase our knowledge of the wintering birds of this region.
The Virgin River runs some 25 miles in Arizona and ranges from over 2300 ft. near the Utah border to about 1600 ft. near the town of Mesquite, Nevada. The vast majority of the Virgin Valley is Mohave Desertscrub and small-scale agriculture, with the exception of the river corridor, which contains native and non-native riparian vegetation. Climbing out of the valley into the Virgin Mountains the vegetation transitions to chaparral, woodland, and in the highest reaches, isolated islands of conifer forest.
The high-elevation conifer forests of the Virgin Mountains, particularly Black Rock Mountain, have only recently been found to host Stellar’s Jay and Pygmy Nuthatch, with records coming primarily from spring and summer observations. More observation is needed in this area during the winter months to further document the winter birds of these forests. In the Valley below, riparian vegetation in places such as Beaver Dam Wash and Mormon Well present opportunities for many interesting birds, including vagrants (old record of Snow Bunting), and irregular/rare winter residents.
The expedition will be based out of Mesquite, NV, where a range of sleeping accommodations can be found. Depending on road conditions and weather a small group may camp near our survey location(s) in the Virgin Mountains. Please contact expedition leaders to register.
Friday: Expedition Leaders and participants arrive in Mesquite, NV in afternoon/evening and check-in to lodging (contact expedition leaders about carpooling). Dinner/expedition discussion that night (details to come).
Saturday: Expedition departs Mesquite at 6:00 a.m. to expedition areas. Expedition commences surveying, possibly splitting into teams to maximize coverage of the area, and depending on number of participants/vehicles. Expedition continues through morning and into the afternoon. Return to Mesquite. Expedition participants return home or stay the night in Mesquite to participate in Sunday’s component. OPTIONAL: A small team camp in the field in the Virgin Mountains. Cold weather camping gear is required. Owling in the evening and continued exploration the following morning, returning to Mesquite Sunday afternoon. Note additional things to know and bring, below.
Sunday: Expedition departs at 6:00 a.m. for target areas. Expedition continues through morning and into the afternoon. Return to Mesquite. Leaders and participants return home.
Things to know and bring:
NOTE: THIS EXPEDITION IS PLANNING FOR COLD WEATHER
Carpooling and Parking
If you would like to carpool to Mesquite, please inform the expedition leaders. During the expedition parking will be available at Smith’s, on the on the corner of N Sandhill Blvd and Hillside Dr. Please do not leave valuable items in your vehicle.
If you have a high clearance 4WD vehicle you are willing to use for this expedition please notify leaders.
Depending on the number of participants, there may be some light-moderate hiking involved in one or more teams. Please come prepared with appropriate day-hiking gear, including a backpack, layers, and raingear.
Participants need to be prepared for cold temperatures and rain. Please dress accordingly.
If Camping: It will be cold. Tents and cold-weather sleeping bags/insulated sleeping pads are required.
Food and Water
Participants need to provide their own food and water. Be sure to plan for at least breakfast, lunch, and snacks in the field on Saturday and Sunday. Bring 1.5-3 liters of capacity for water.
If Camping: In addition to the above, you will need to plan for dinner on Saturday, breakfast and lunch on Sunday, as well as another 1.5-3 liters of water, totaling 3-6 liters for Saturday and Sunday.
Participants should bring what they need to be comfortable for a full day in the field. This might include the following: binoculars, spotting scope/tripod, field guide/phone, camera, hat, sunscreen, layers, raingear, daypack, hiking shoes that support the ankles, food, and water.
If Camping: In addition to the above you will need a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillow, hat, gloves, flashlight, toiletries, etc.
“No Trace” practices are encouraged when in areas without toilets. Please bring your own toilet paper.