Death Valley held its annual Christmas bird count on December 16th. The weather was clear, calm and cool – perfect for birding.
The bird count circle covers the Furnace Creek golf course and ranch, the Furnace Creek Inn’s gardens, Furnace Creek Wash/Travertine Springs, and the best viewing location for ducks – the sewage lagoons.
Park guests, neighbors, and employees rounded out a crew that named and counted as many birds as possible throughout the day. Some of the other highlights included several Say’s phoebes, a vermillion flycatcher, and a snow goose. The private Furnace Creek Resort graciously provides access to the golf course for the bird count one day each year.
This year’s best bird was a peregrine falcon, leisurely perched on the tower at the Furnace Creek airport. The bird was seen earlier in the week, poised near loose cables on the airport tower. Dennis Rivers of the Federal Aviation Administration was coincidentally servicing airport equipment and was able to observe the peregrine. Images of the bird, tower, and cables were provided to Rivers, and he is now working on a plan to secure the cables, reducing hazards both for this falcon and for other birds perching on the tower.
This is the second December in a row that a peregrine falcon has been seen in the Furnace Creek area. Both years the birds provided excitement for observers by successfully hunting American coots on the golf course; the park hopes they will take up permanent residence.