American Robin ( Turdus migratorius )

The American Robin (Turdus migratorius), a member of the thrush family is a migratory songbird commonly found across North America. Recognized for its bright orange-red breast, this species is a member of the thrush family, Turdidae. It is often considered a harbinger of spring due to its early arrival from migration and its prominent presence in backyards and gardens.

An American Robin ( Turdus migratorius ) pearched high in the branches of a pine tree.
An American Robin ( Turdus migratorius ) pearched high in the branches of a pine tree.

Physical Description

The American Robin measures about 9-11 inches (23-28 cm) in length with a wingspan of 12-16 inches (31-41 cm). Adults display a striking coloration: a reddish-orange breast, a dark gray to black head, back, wings, and tail, and a white lower belly and undertail. Their bill is yellow with a slight curve, and their eyes are surrounded by white rings, giving them a distinctive appearance.

Habitat and Distribution


More details
Approximate range/distribution map of the American Robin (Turdus migratorius). - Ken Thomas
More details Approximate range/distribution map of the American Robin (Turdus migratorius). – Ken Thomas

American Robins are highly adaptable birds that inhabit a wide range of environments. They are found in woodlands, farmlands, urban areas, and suburban gardens. Their distribution extends from the northern parts of Canada to Central America. During breeding season, they prefer habitats with abundant trees and shrubs, while in the winter, they may flock to areas with ample fruit-bearing trees.

Behavior and Diet

American Robins are known for their characteristic behaviors, such as running and stopping on lawns while foraging for food. Their diet is omnivorous, consisting mainly of insects, earthworms, and fruits. In the spring and summer, they predominantly feed on invertebrates, switching to a fruit-heavy diet in the fall and winter. Robins play a significant role in controlling insect populations and seed dispersal.

Reproduction

Breeding season for American Robins starts in early spring and can continue through late summer. They typically have two to three broods per year. Nests are built by the female using grass, twigs, and mud, and are often located in trees, shrubs, or on man-made structures. The female lays 3-5 blue eggs, which she incubates for about two weeks. Both parents are involved in feeding the nestlings, which fledge approximately two weeks after hatching.

Migration

American Robins are partial migrants. Northern populations migrate southward in the fall to escape harsh winter conditions, while southern populations tend to be more sedentary. Migration patterns are influenced by food availability and weather conditions. Robins migrate in flocks and can travel considerable distances, often returning to the same breeding grounds each year.

Vocalization

The American Robin is known for its melodious song, which consists of a series of clear whistles and phrases. Their song is often described as “cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up.” Males sing to establish and defend their territories and to attract mates. Robins are also known for their “tut-tut-tut” alarm calls when threatened.

Conservation Status

The American Robin is currently listed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Their population is stable and widespread, benefitting from their adaptability to human-modified environments. However, they face threats from pesticide use, habitat loss, and window collisions.

Cultural Significance

American Robins hold a significant place in North American culture, often symbolizing renewal and the arrival of spring. They appear in various folklore and literature, celebrated for their vibrant appearance and cheerful song. The robin is also the state bird of Connecticut, Michigan, and Wisconsin, reflecting its widespread recognition and admiration.

The American Robin is a resilient and versatile bird that plays an important role in ecosystems across North America. Its striking appearance, melodious song, and adaptability have made it a beloved bird among birdwatchers and the general public. Ongoing conservation efforts ensure that this iconic species continues to thrive in its natural habitats.

References

White-throated Swift (Aeronautes saxatalis)

The fast flying White-throated Swift (Aeronautes saxatalis)
The fast flying White-throated Swift (Aeronautes saxatalis)


The White-throated Swift is a medium-sized bird known for its swift and agile flight, sleek body, and distinctive white throat patch. Adults typically measure around 6.5 inches (16.5 cm) in length, with a wingspan of approximately 15 inches (38 cm). They have a dark, glossy plumage that aids in camouflage against the rocky cliffs where they often dwell. Their wings are long and slender, adapted for rapid and maneuverable flight, while their short bills are perfect for catching insects mid-air. Juveniles resemble adults but may have less contrast in their plumage.

Habitat and Distribution

White-throated Swifts are primarily found in the western regions of North America, ranging from the southwestern United States through parts of Mexico. They inhabit rugged, rocky terrain such as canyons, cliffs, and gorges, where they nest in crevices and on ledges. These birds are particularly well adapted to arid environments and are often seen in desert landscapes, although they may also occur in mountainous regions.

Behavior and Ecology

White-throated Swifts are highly adapted for aerial foraging, feeding primarily on flying insects such as flies, beetles, and mosquitoes. They are renowned for their impressive flight abilities, performing intricate maneuvers as they hunt on the wing. Their swift and agile movements enable them to navigate through narrow passages and steep cliffs with ease. Breeding pairs typically construct cup-shaped nests made of twigs, feathers, and saliva, which they attach to vertical rock faces. During the breeding season, males perform aerial courtship displays to attract females.

Conservation Status

The White-throated Swift is not currently considered globally threatened, although local populations may be impacted by habitat loss and disturbance. Conservation efforts are focused on protecting nesting sites, particularly in areas where cliffs are subject to human development or recreational activities. As an insectivorous species, White-throated Swifts may also be vulnerable to pesticide use, which can reduce their prey availability.


The White-throated Swift is a fascinating species well adapted to its rugged habitat and aerial lifestyle. Its graceful flight and striking appearance make it a favorite among birdwatchers and enthusiasts. By understanding the ecology and behavior of the White-throated Swift, we can better appreciate the importance of conserving its unique habitat and ensuring the long-term survival of this remarkable bird.

Field Guide Description

“Black above, black and white below, with long, forked tail. Distinguished from Violet-green swallow, (page 322) by longer narrower wings, bicolored underparts. In poor light, may be mistaken for Black Swift but smaller, with faster wingbeats. Common in mountains, canyons, cliffs. Nests in crevices.”

Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Third Edition, pg 262

Classification

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderApodiformes
FamilyApodidae
GenusAeronautes
Speciessaxatalis

Resources

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)


The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) is a medium-sized woodpecker found across North America. It belongs to the family Picidae, which includes woodpeckers, sapsuckers, and flickers. This species is known for its distinctive sharp bill, behavior, and widespread distribution.

Northern Flicker nesting in the cedar siding of a Big Bear mountain cabin.
Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Third Edition, pg 318

Description

The Northern Flicker exhibits sexual dimorphism, with males and females displaying different coloration. They have a length ranging from 28 to 36 centimeters (11 to 14 inches) and a wingspan of approximately 42 to 54 centimeters (16.5 to 21.3 inches).

  • Plumage: The upperparts of the Northern Flicker are brown with black barring, while the underparts are beige or tan with black spots. They have a black bib on their chest and a prominent black crescent on the breast. The undersides of their wings and tails are a vibrant yellow or red, depending on the subspecies.
  • Head: Their head is distinctive, with a gray face, a long, slightly curved bill, and a black malar stripe extending from the base of the bill to the neck.
  • Behavior: Northern Flickers are primarily ground foragers, often seen hopping on lawns or probing the soil for insects with their long, barbed tongues. They also feed on ants, beetles, termites, and fruits.

Habitat

Northern Flickers inhabit a variety of habitats, including open woodlands, forest edges, parks, suburban areas, and occasionally urban environments. They prefer areas with scattered trees and ample open ground for foraging.

Breeding and Nesting

Breeding season for Northern Flickers typically begins in late April and extends into August. They are cavity nesters and will excavate their own nest holes in dead or decaying trees, fence posts, or even buildings.

  • Eggs: Clutch sizes usually range from 3 to 8 eggs, which are white and elongated.
  • Incubation: Both parents participate in incubating the eggs, which lasts for about 11 to 14 days.
  • Fledging: The young birds fledge after approximately 25 to 28 days and remain dependent on their parents for several weeks after leaving the nest.

Migration

Approximate range/distribution map of the Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus). In keeping with WikiProject: Birds guidelines, yellow indicates the summer-only range, blue indicates the winter-only range, and green indicates the year-round range of the species.
Approximate range/distribution map of the Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus). In keeping with WikiProject: Birds guidelines, yellow indicates the summer-only range, blue indicates the winter-only range, and green indicates the year-round range of the species.

While some Northern Flicker populations are migratory, others are year-round residents. Migratory populations breed in northern regions and winter in southern areas, while non-migratory populations may remain in the same area throughout the year.

Conservation Status

The Northern Flicker is widespread and generally considered to be of least concern in terms of conservation status, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as competition for nest sites with invasive species such as European Starlings, pose localized threats.

The Northern Flicker is a fascinating species with its distinctive appearance, behavior, and adaptability to various habitats. Understanding its ecology and conservation needs is crucial for ensuring the continued well-being of this iconic woodpecker across its range. Further research into its nesting habits, population dynamics, and response to environmental changes can aid in effective conservation strategies.

Field Guide Description

“Two distinct groups occur: “Yellow-shafted Flicker” in the east and far north, and the “Red-shafted Flicker” in the west. These flickers have brown, barred back; spotted underparts, with black crescent bib. White rump is conspicuous in flight; no white wing patches. Intergrades are regularly seen in the Great Plains. “Yellow-shafted Flicker” has yellow wing lining and undertail color, gray crown, and tan face with a red crescent on nape. “Red-shafter Flicker” has brown crown and gray face, with no red crescent.”

Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Third Edition, pg 318

Classification

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPiciformes
FamilyPicidae
GenusColaptes
Speciescauratus

References

Bullfrog Goldfield Railroad

The Bullfrog and Goldfield Railroad, often referred to as the B&G Railroad, played a significant role in the late 19th and early 20th-century mining boom in Nevada, United States. Its story is one of ambition, perseverance, and the allure of riches.

Bullfrog Goldfield Railroad in Rhyolite
Bullfrog Goldfield Railroad in Rhyolite

Founding and Early Years (1905-1907)

The railroad was founded in 1905, primarily to serve the mining towns of Rhyolite and Goldfield in Nevada. These towns had experienced a rapid influx of prospectors and miners following the discovery of gold in the early 1900s. Recognizing the need for efficient transportation of ore, supplies, and passengers, investors pooled their resources to establish the Bullfrog and Goldfield Railroad Company.

Construction and Expansion (1907-1909)

Construction of the railroad began in earnest in 1907, with crews working tirelessly to lay tracks across the rugged Nevada terrain. The route was challenging, requiring bridges, tunnels, and cuts through rocky hillsides. Despite these obstacles, the railroad made rapid progress, fueled by the promise of the region’s abundant mineral wealth.

By 1908, the B&G Railroad had reached Goldfield, becoming an essential lifeline for the booming mining town. Its arrival facilitated the transportation of gold ore to processing mills and connected Goldfield to wider markets, driving further growth and investment in the area.

Peak Years (1910-1913)

The early 1910s marked the peak of the Bullfrog and Goldfield Railroad’s operation. With its network expanded, the railroad played a vital role in transporting not only ore but also passengers, mail, and supplies to and from the bustling mining towns it served. The railroad’s locomotives and cars became a familiar sight, chugging through the arid Nevada landscape, carrying the hopes and dreams of those seeking fortune in the desert.

Decline and Legacy (1914 onwards)

The prosperity of the B&G Railroad, however, was short-lived. As the gold rush began to wane and mines reached their peak production, the demand for transportation dwindled. The onset of World War I further impacted the region’s economy, leading to a decline in mining activity and a subsequent decrease in rail traffic.

By the mid-1910s, the Bullfrog and Goldfield Railroad faced financial difficulties. Maintenance costs soared, while revenue declined, forcing the company to cut services and lay off workers. In 1918, the railroad ceased operations altogether, its tracks falling into disrepair and its locomotives left to rust in the desert sun.

While the Bullfrog and Goldfield Railroad may have faded into history, its legacy endures. It played a pivotal role in the development of Nevada’s mining industry, facilitating the extraction and transportation of precious metals that fueled the region’s economy. Today, the remnants of the railroad serve as a reminder of the boom and bust cycles that have shaped the American West.

Bullfrog and Goldfield Route

Locomotives of the Bullfrog and Goldfield

Bullfrog Goldfield Railroad Route

Bullfrog Goldfield Railroad Summary

NameBullfrog Goldfield Railroad
LocationNye County, Nevada
Length84.78 Miles
Operational1905–1928
GaugeStandard Gauge

References

Charles W Friend House, Observatory, and Weather Station

Charles W Friend was a scientist and astronomer who resided in Carson City, Nevada for forty years. The site of his home honors Friend with Nevada State Historical Marker number 258.

Charles W. Friend built an observatory into his house on Stewart Street, between Carson and Musser. Here you can see the V&T Railroad tracks running along Stewart Street in the foreground.
Charles W. Friend built an observatory into his house on Stewart Street, between Carson and Musser. Here you can see the V&T Railroad tracks running along Stewart Street in the foreground.
Charles W Friend was an early weatherman in Carson City. Here he is posing inside the observatory he built at the corner of King and Stewart Streets. He is posing next to his telescope.
Charles W Friend was an early weatherman in Carson City. Here he is posing inside the observatory he built at the corner of King and Stewart Streets. He is posing next to his telescope.

Born in Prussia on July 7th 1835, Charles Friend migrated from the old county to Folsome, California with his father during the California gold rush. Friend apprenticed as a jeweler and optician before moving to Carson City in 1867.

Between 1875 and 1876, Friend constructed the first Observatory in Nevada at his house on Stewart street, in Carson City. Utilizing the help of Nevada’s U.S. Senator William Stewart, Friend obtained a six-inch equatorial mount telescope and other instruments from the U. S Naval Academy.

Friend outfitted his observatory with a series of weather observations instruments, including rain gauges, thermometers, barometers an anemometer to measure wind speed. He took great care to ensure that all of his scientific instruments were properly calibrated and that his observations were as accurate as possible.

All the thermometers are placed in an instrument shelter, made of lattice blinds and projecting 20 inches from a large pane of glass in the north wall of the observatory, 12 inches from the window and at the height of the eye of the observer. The thermometers are placed on wooden bars one inch square, and while there is free access of air to the shelter, all radiant heat and rain or snow are effectually excluded.”

Friend recorded observational readings from his instruments daily at 7 am, 2 pm and 9 pm to compile a climate record of Carson City.  His observations were forwarded to the U. S. Army’s Signal Office.

Nevada State Historic Marker 259 Text

Charles W. Friend House, Observatory, and Weather Station

This is the site of the house and observatory of Nevada’s first weatherman, astronomer, and seismologist, Charles William Friend.  Born in Prussia in 1835, Friend immigrated by way of South America to California during the 1849 Gold Rush.  In 1867, he moved from Folsom to Carson City where he set up his own jewelery and optical store.

Friend built Nevada’s first observatory located southwest of his house and east of the Nevada State Capitol.  Nevada’s U.S. Senator William Stewart helped him obtain the use of a six-inch equatorial mount telescope and other instruments from the federal government.

Charles Friend also established Nevada’s first weather service.  In 1887, the Nevada Legislature passed authorization for a weather service station in Carson City.  Friend became its director and created volunteer weather stations throughout the state.  He compiled the data into reports that are still referenced today.

Charles W. Friend died in 1907.  Since his death, the Association of Weather Services has recognized him as a pioneer in weather service west of the Rockies.

STATE HISTORIC MARKER No. 258
STATE HISTORIC PRESERVATION OFFICE, NEVADA STATE MUSEUM, THE BRETZLAFF FOUNDATION,
NEVADA STATE LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES, THE CARSON CITY HERITAGE COALITION
BUILDINGS AND GROUNDS

Nevada State Historic Marker 259 Map

Nevada State Historic Marker 259 Summary

NameCharles W. Friend House, Observatory, and Weather Station
LocationCarson City, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude39.1642, -119.7637
Nevada State Historic Marker258

Nevada State Historical Markers identify significant places of interest in Nevada’s history. The Nevada State Legislature started the program in 1967 to bring the state’s heritage to the public’s attention with on-site markers. These roadside markers bring attention to the places, people, and events that make up Nevada’s heritage. They are as diverse as the counties they are located within and range from the typical mining boom and bust town to the largest and most accessible petroglyph sites in Northern Nevada Budget cuts to the program caused the program to become dormant in 2009. Many of the markers are lost or damaged.

References