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OUTDOOR BRIEFS

FOR THE BIRDS

Mountain bluebirds wintering in the area

Ever get those winter blues? You and many of the rest of us, but sometimes the blues are just the thing to perk you up. Against the dull grays of winter, the bright color of the mountain bluebird lights up the landscape. The mountain bluebird is Nevada’s state bird and is present in much of the state year-round, but lingers in the southeastern tip during the winter. This is the edge of its winter range that actually reaches south into Mexico.

These birds also winter in the plains states or farther south, preferring open areas and avoiding the mountains when it’s colder. Summer ranges of this western bird extend all the way up into Alaska.

The males are primarily a brilliant sky blue in color while the females are grey with just a touch of blue in wings and tail. This coloration enables the females to more easily blend into the winter landscape.

You can tell the mountain bluebird from the western because the western bluebird has red on its chest.

Mountain blues are medium-sized (6-8 inches) and fairly easy to spot whether they are perched or flying by in a colorful flash.

“They’re also fun to watch, often pursuing insects and berries on the ground,” said Margie Klein, NDOW wildlife educator. “If you listen quietly, you may hear the nasal-sounding whistle that is their song.”

How many mountain bluebirds make their winter home in Southern Nevada? No one knows for sure. The Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve lists them as a winter visitor, but a representative said that they can also be seen at other area locations such as Corn Creek Station, Overton, and Spring Mountain Ranch State Park.

GET EDUCATED

Follow a firearm gift with hunter education

When presents are opened during the holidays, it’s quite common for people to find a new firearm inside the colorful wrapping paper and ribbons. Some of these firearms will be used for hunting and some will be used only for target shooting or shotgun sports. In either case, the first step beyond peeling the wrapping paper and ribbons from the firearm gift is obtaining knowledge of safe gun-handling practices. And whether one hunts or simply enjoys punching holes in a paper target, Nevada’s Hunter Education Program is a place to get started.

“Some people overlook the Hunter Education Program as a place to learn about gun safety because they don’t plan on hunting with their new firearm, but it’s still a great place for all shooters to learn the principles of safe gun handling and the ethics associated with the responsible use of firearms in a variety of settings,” said Martin Olson, hunter education coordinator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

In addition to firearms safety, students are introduced to outdoor ethics, principles of wildlife management and wilderness survival.

Information about the class and a course schedule can be found at www.ndow.org.

“One of the important things we teach in the Hunter Education Program is the four principles of safe gun handling,” Olson said. “In short, those principles are treat every gun as if it were loaded, keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to discharge the firearm, and make sure of your target and what’s beyond it. If people will follow these principles, they will greatly reduce their chances of causing a firearm-related accident.”

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