I've got to admit it, I get jealous sometimes. It's bad enough that birders in southern Utah can find show-stopping species like Vermillion Flycatchers, California Condors, and Phainopeplas almost any day they like. Add to that the propensity for rare birds to show up down there, like the recent Purple Sandpiper
, and I can get downright green when I think of my southern neighbors. (Certainly a part of the abundance of rare bird discoveries in southern Utah is due to the great birders that live there.) It is times like these when it pays to remind myself of the good birds of northern Utah, some of which are tough to find elsewhere in the state.
Some species reach the southern edge of their breeding range in Cache County. One example of this is the Grasshopper Sparrow, which was on the state review list until 2002. The only breeding records in eBird
for this species are north of Salt Lake City, and the species is pretty easy to find in Cache County. Another example is the Common Grackle. They are a pest bird in the east, hogging seed from feeders and keeping other birds away, but in most of Utah they can be difficult to locate. We have a few reliable spots for them here in the north.
But this time of year, winter, is when northern Utah really shines. Many of the species that breed in the arctic barely make it this far south in the winter, and so northern Utah is the place to be if you want to see northern birds. We get Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs almost every winter, for example.
Common Redpolls are more likely to be found here than elsewhere in the state. Winter owls are also more likely here: Cache and Rich Counties together have had four of the five Great Grey Owl records in the state, and Cache County has the only record of a Boreal Owl outside of the Uinta Mountains. Last year, Cache County was the winter residence of the first accepted Utah record
of an Iceland Gull
, and has hosted at least 11 other species of gulls. These are the things I remind myself of as I long for the bright, exotic birds of the southern reaches of the state; I've got plenty to look forward to up here, too.
Labels: blackbirds, Cache County, gulls, rare birds, sparrows, winter