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A Day Worth Counting

posted by Jeff Bilsky at
on Tuesday, December 21, 2010 

Saturday, I participated in the Great Salt Lake Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC). A historical perspective of what these counts are about can be found at this link. My team consisted of just 3 total birders. We originally had a much larger cast but several cancellations trimmed it down to myself, Carl Ingwell, and Sarah Nelson. The count is segmented into territories, and for the 4th year in a row, I was assigned to an area that includes the town of Bountiful, a few miles North of Salt Lake City. Bountiful is unique in that it includes Mueller Park, a montane habitat and one of the few places within the count radius to find certain species. So naturally we maximized our time there, but we also drove all around searching neighborhoods, parks and the local cemetery for whatever species we could find. Anyone interested in a comprehensive list, please contact me and I'll forward our counts for the day.

The biggest surprise was a group of Wild Turkeys at Bountiful Ridge Golf Course. We had never seen them in this area before and were shocked. We counted 28 total, many of which you can see in the below photo.

It's always interesting what you come across spending an entire day scouring an area for all signs of bird life. It is a game of slamming brakes, illegal U-turns, shouting, taunting, and a lot of coffee. On this day, we also built a couple of incredible snowmen and then took turns destroying them with full-body tackles.

In the late afternoon, after trudging through the snow in Mueller Park and finding at least a few of our montane targets (Steller's Jay, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper), we called it a day. We were cold. We were tired. But we had fun.

There is always a post-count party to meet up with other teams and share in some food and drink and discuss what was seen. The last few years it has been in a banquet room at the Tracy Aviary. My brain, infused by both a day of relentless bird counting and a healthy amount of celebratory drink, attempted to add a number of the exotics living in the aviary to our day's list. I don't think anyone was as amused as I was. I guess talking to the birds and asking them if they want to be on our list in a loud and obnoxious voice isn't always the best way to make yourself look intelligent.

If you haven't participated in a CBC, make it a point to do so....

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Anonymous Jerry Liguori said...


At least you weren't "pants at your ankles" drunk....please tell me you weren't. By the way, I love turkeys, and wish it was our nation's symbol like Benjamin Franklin wanted. I believe they are the heaviest bird in North America, right?


December 22, 2010 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger Tim Avery said...

Can you imagine what we would be eating for Thanksgiving if Turkey were our national symbol? Yikes! I remember reading an article a few years ago in which it had descriptions from Audubon, speaking about the flavors of different species of birds. After he would shoot and draw/paint them, he would eat them. I recall him giving Pelican a poor review on flavor!

As for the the heaviest bird in North America, I think it might be a toss up between the largest Turkeys and Trumpeter Swan. Apparently there was a 31lb California Condor recorded once too.

December 22, 2010 at 10:14 AM  
Blogger Jeff Bilsky said...

Don't worry Jerry, my team ushered me out of there before I could jump in and swim with the Trumpeter Swans. Turkeys are cool birds. Do you ever get them wandering around your neighborhood?

December 23, 2010 at 7:32 AM  
Anonymous Jerry Liguori said...

Pelican had to taste digusting....I think all fish-eating birds are notoriously bitter. No Jeff, never had a Turkey in my yard, hillside, or neighborhood....does Steve Sommerfeld count?

December 23, 2010 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger Tim Avery said...

I imagine Pelican meat being green in coloration... I don't know why, I just do--and yes I know that is ridiculous.

Colby had a Turkey in Olympus Cove a few years ago. Completely random... I almost wonder if it came over from one of the canyons to the east...

And I think we can all agree that Steve Sommerfeld is a true Turkey--but most of all, he and Cindy are two people who are very fun to go birding with.

December 23, 2010 at 9:15 AM  
Blogger Stephanie Greenwood said...

I saw those turkeys today at the golf course; it was such a great surprise. I had heard they were there but had never seen them. We wouldn't have seen them had the coyote not rustled them up, though!

February 7, 2011 at 12:30 AM  

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