Migratory Bird Protection Hitch #3

After the first two hitches, the Migratory Bird Squad had removed over 400 mining claim markers in the area south of Las Vegas. At the beginning of the third hitch, I thought that having a goal of 70 claim markers knocked down over the course of our eight field days would be a nice goal for the team. This goal would have placed the Migratory Bird Squad over 1,000 claim markers for the first three hitches.

The third hitch started out with a couple of positive events. Matt Hausserman joined our crew on May, 22nd, and on his first day, he was part of the team which found a living bird, probably a flycatcher, in one of the mining claim markers. This was a huge event for the team and for Matt to experience this on his first day was quite spectacular. The whole purpose for our work in the Southern Nevada Bureau of Land Management District is to save and prevent birds from dying. This specific incident brought me back to the team’s previous off days spent in Zion National Park in which we encountered a family of ducklings who were motherless. The poor ducklings were searching for their mother while swimming upstream and this made me think about all of the baby birds that these mine markers could be leaving parentless or all the potential hatchlings that could have been if It were not for these mine markers. While watching the ducklings trying to find their mother was saddening, being able to prevent a bird from dying and saving a life is our team’s focus.

The second day of the hitch was the most productive day of the project, not with the number of poles removed but with the number of potential birds saved. The two teams combined to find 311 bird remains and potentially save a similar number in the future. While this was an amazing feat and took most of the work day, there was still a great deal of other excitement. The two teams managed to save a lizard and a mouse throughout the day. The two teams also encountered a camel spider, while Joe and I saw a rattlesnake and some other kind of snake that was halfway in a hole and not moving. Hearing a rattlesnake rattle, probably a Diamondback, for the first time and looking down to see it within six inches of your foot is quite the experience.

After two very successful days in the field, we moved to the Jean and Goodsprings area because we were told that there would be a good amount of mine markers to remove from that area. Upon arrival, very few markers were seen and on further inspection of the area, only 26 markers were found over the course of two days. The campsite we had in Jean was probably the best site that we have stayed in visually, but as night fell, the wind picked up to the point where no one slept and one team member had the wind almost completely buckle the tent on top of her.

With the low numbers of markers found in the Jean area, and with half of them already filled in by other people, we decided to try the Nelson and Searchlight areas as directed by our Bureau of Land Management contact. We then spent parts of three days in Nelson, part of two days east of Searchlight, and part of one day closer to the California/Nevada border south of Route 164. We covered a large area of land in Nelson but only found 6 claim markers, similarly, we only found 6 claim markers east of Searchlight. We had a slight redeemer as we moved closer to the border with California near the Crescent Mine, removing 10 markers.

The last field day of the hitch was spent travelling to Mormon Mesa where we removed another 10 markers. Heather and I stumbled across a full desert tortoise shell that looked almost fresh since there were still some visible parts of the tortoise inside the shell, however, a scavenger had consumed most of it. Joe, Leah, and Matt found the largest scorpion that any of us have seen so far, unfortunately it was also dead. While at Mormon Mesa, we ran into a team working on a wild horse project, affiliation unknown, claiming to have been removing or capping mine claim markers. We also learned that California had recently passed a law making it legal to remove the claim markers from their land which is a huge win for environmentalists and wildlife.

Overall, we fell short of my original goal of removing 70 claim markers per day, totaling 214 claim markers removed but we did save three living beings, a bird, a lizard, and a mouse. We eclipsed the 1,000 bird mark by finding 394 bird skulls. This hitch started out as a huge success and then after the first two days we struggled to find work to do and spent most of our time searching for mine claim markers to pull. During this time, we covered a lot of ground but did not find much in terms of claim markers but hopefully because of the work we did, other teams and crews will not have to return to the areas where we were.

Written by Ian Laing