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Homing In on the Range
In Nevada an annual tour of Carson Valley takes visitors on a trip through ranchlands in search of birdlife.

Visitors observing what are likely soaring eagles at the Eagles and Agriculture tour in Carson Valley, Nevada.

Carson Valley’s fifth annual February Eagles and Agriculture Tour kicked off this past February 22 to celebrate the bounty of birdlife and agricultural existing on the region’s ranchlands. The event had more than 20 sponsors, from environmental organizations—such as the Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy—to ranch owners, as well as the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

Cooperation by diverse groups like these is key to preserving the future of the valley’s fertile landscape. “In the big picture, we’re all on the same page,” says Dan Kaffer, coordinator for the Western Nevada Resource Conservation and Development Council (an arm of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service), who dreamed up the event. “Everybody wants more open space and beautiful land and healthy food and wildlife habitat.”

Guests can tour area ranches via buses, which make stops that would otherwise be unavailable to the general public. Golden and bald eagles are big on the birding list, although herons, egrets, and owls aren’t uncommon. International wildlife photographer Steve Noble, who has taught photography workshops at the event for the past three years, has seen his share of winged participants—many of which are attracted to the valley at this time because it’s calving season for the local cattle herds, and the birds are attracted to a by-product of that annual occurrence: afterbirth and, now and then, a dead calf. Noble says the area’s wildlife revolves around this cycle. “The eagles and the coyotes and all up and down the food chain are living off the byproduct of this calving process.”

Below are a few of Noble’s own shots, taken around the time of past Eagles and Agriculture Tours.—Julie Leibach

An adult bald eagle (right) and a juvenile vie over the carcass of a dead calf. Typically, mature eagles and juveniles get along, says Noble, “but there are flare-ups of dominance that occur.” Photo 1 The juvenile recoils to defend himself. Photo 2 The adult and juvenile are “doing this ballet in mid-air,” says Noble. Photo 3 Two to three seconds later, “the mature eagle sits on top of his prize.”


Noble snapped this shot of a red-tailed hawk along Genoa Lane, a street in Carson Valley.


A woodpile at the Mack Ranch. The image is “very indicative of the Carson Valley, [with] these large meadow areas,” he says, “and you’ve always got the Sierra [Mountains] in the background.”


Visitors to the Dangberg Home Ranch point to what Noble recalls was a cottonwood tree off camera where nesting owls or eagles likely perch.


A now-defunct utility wagon at Dangberg Home Ranch. There are at least a dozen of these wagons on the ranch, whose head quarters have become a state park.   



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