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Butterbredt Christmas Count–a Big Surprise

December 23, 2017

Our count was scheduled for Saturday, December 16th, but Mary Prismon and her daughter Carole went up on Friday, and what did they find? Fire trucks at Butterbredt Spring!

Carol Reed_2017-12-16_075533

Photo: Carol Reed 12-16-17

Doesn’t look so bad, right? That’s the most favorable angle. On Saturday afternoon my car went by and Chris Lord took a few snaps.


Photo: Chris Lord 12-16-17

This is where the fire started, according to the Park Rangers we spoke with. It could have been a car parked in the brush with a hot exhaust pipe – we don’t know.


Photo: Chris Lord 12-16-17

We’ve been mulling over just how we might get rid of the bulrushes that soak up all the spring water, but a fire was not one of our options. This view would have been 100% bulrushes before the fire. Temporarily, they are gone, but the roots remain and they will probably come back very soon. The area covered by the fire extended over a much larger area than you see here.


Photo: Chris Lord 12-16-17

The Important Bird Area sign built by Keith Axelson was destroyed. The Park Service sign survived.

We’ll bring news of the plans the Park Service may have when we hear them. Until then, most of the trees down the canyon from the spring survived and we don’t anticipate the burned areas will affect birds coming through, although it may encourage some Indigo Buntings to hang around. One never knows.

So, on to the count itself. The weather was quite cool, but winds were light and the sun came out so it was a good day to bird. After spending the morning from 8:30 a.m. chasing birds we ended up at Sageland Ranch and for the first time all the counters were gathered together. Our thanks to Reed Tollefson, Jake Abel, Steve Hylton, Mary Prismon, Carol Reed, Chris Lord, Jean Garrett, Alice Bragg, and a special thanks to Lys and Kit Axelson who opened Sageland Ranch for us.

Here’s the list. We saw an above average number of birds and species – perhaps the rain last year has encouraged more nesting. Nothing truly unusual showed up although we were very happy to see a Golden Eagle; they have not been around for a while. Once again I got skunked on Pinyon Jays, even when seen by my own group!


California Quail 68
Golden Eagle 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 7
Raptor sp. 1
Great Horned Owl 1
Swift sp. 1
Anna’s Hummingbird 2
Acorn Woodpecker 1
Williamson’s Sapsucker 1
Sapsucker sp. 1
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 3
Nuttall’s Woodpecker 4
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern (Red-shafted) Flicker 3
American Kestrel 2
Merlin 2
Prairie Falcon 1
Black Phoebe 1
Say’s Phoebe 3
Loggerhead Shrike 6
Pinyon Jay 12
California Scrub Jay 24
Common Raven 223
Oak Titmouse 4
Bushtit 12
Rock Wren 3
Bewick’s Wren 6
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 16
Western Bluebird 73
Mountain Bluebird 2
California Thrasher 7
Thrasher sp. 1
Phainopepla 3
Yellow-rumped (Audubon’s) Warbler 3
Fox Sparrow 2
Dark-eyed (Oregon) Junco 142
White-crowned Sparrow 526
Golden-crowned Sparrow 15
Bell’s Sparrow (belli) 53
Savannah Sparrow 2
California Towhee 9
Spotted Towhee 12
sparrow sp. 16
Western Meadowlark 1
Brewer’s Blackbird 150
House Finch 8
Cassin’s Finch 6
Total Seen: 1446
Total Species (net) 46
One Comment
  1. Mary Prismon permalink
    January 22, 2018 11:42 am

    Re this report, excellent, but, I need to correct the M. Prismon and Carol account. We spent the night in Mojave Friday and only saw the results at Butterbredt Spring on Saturday morning of the Count. Otherwise, we would have observed big fire and flames! The fire occurred on Friday. Most sad, the loss of Keith’s sign and the fencing which the SMBAS installed some years ago. The Spring area should recover well and soon, but damage to fencing and signage is definitely longer term issue.

    Mary Prismon



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