Much like Carrie’s recent experiences being hoodwinked by non-bird sources of birdy-sounding calls, I’ve had my share of animal encounters out in the field. In New York and Chicago, they’ve been pretty mundane—a White-tailed Deer here, an Eastern Cottontail rabbit there. And of course, way too many chipmunks and squirrels and raccoons and turtles to count.

Nothing, however, prepared me for the fauna that awaited last weekend at the Spring Wings festival in Fallon, Nevada. We’ve got coyotes in Chicago and its suburbs, but I’ve never bumped into one in the field. The tours out to the Stillwater Refuge and Carson Lake, though, offered good looks at two coyotes. (Through the windows of our van, but good looks nevertheless.)

All kinds of don’t-have-that-at-home animals popped up along our travels, too. We got a quick peek at a Black-tailed Jackrabbit, which seemed to be bulkier than the bunnies I’m used to, with much longer ears. (Ditto for the Mule Deer who stood still for a few photos before bounding away.)


This lizard enjoyed its close-up, but none of us knew what it was. Any herpophiles out there have a clue?

Also new was a healthy sense of fear for some of the animals we encountered. Back home, the most I’d worry about would be a bee sting, or catching Lyme disease from a tick. (Not yet, knock on wood.) But the wilds of Nevada revealed rattlesnakes, lizards (OK, the lizards didn’t seem that dangerous), and more than one mama cow who stared us down when our vehicles got too close to a calf.


Our guide said baby rattlers are the most dangerous, because they don’t know to use their rattle to warn intruders away. Yikes! (Also, any ID help on this?)

The birds of Fallon were amazing, but I’ll also remember this trip for the incredible animal encounters. How about you? What are the most memorable beasts you’ve crossed paths with while birding?

Written by Meredith Mann
The lowly Red-winged Blackbirds in suburban New York triggered Meredith Mann's interest in birds. Five years later, she's explored some of the the USA's coolest hotspots, from Plum Island in Massachusetts to the Magic Hedge in Chicago to the deserts of Fallon, Nevada. She recently migrated from the Windy City (where she proudly served as a Chicago Bird Collision Monitor, rescuing migrants from skyscrapers and sidewalks) to Philadelphia, where she plans to find new editing and writing gigs; keep up her cool-finds chronicle, Blog5B; and discover which cheesesteak really is the best. And she will accept any and all invitations to bird Cape May, NJ.