February. Yuck. I think for many birders this is a thought that runs through their minds. It’s the tail end of the winter--it’s been cold, cloudy, and snowy (most winters). In Salt Lake we’ve had the wonderful inversion choking the air. The excitement of new winter arrivals has long passed. This winter we had hopes that Redpolls and Snowy owls would be abound--but in the end our chunk of state has largely missed by these irruptions. Surrounding states had more than their fair share and are still seeing plenty of these delightful birds. For the craziest of us, winter gulls tide us over till March reaches us and the first spring arrivals cover the state. But for others there isn't a ton to look forward to. We do have the annual Snow and Ross's goose Migration that will peak here in the next 2 weeks, but that's almost a spring starter and if you wait long enough you can catch them in northern Utah the first week of March--by then it's basically spring right?
But what about the ides of February? The middle of the dreariest most boring month of the year in Utah? What is there to keep us focused till the calendar pages turn to March and we can start dreaming about fallouts and warblers? Well that is truly up to you! February has it's highlights just like any other month, but unless you get in the field to look you will miss those things. This past weekend a group of us had a 7 gull species day and also picked up Wood Ducks, and Greater White-fronted Goose. It was a dreary and cold day but the birding was amazing.
Utah Birder Carl Ingwell challenged Utah Birders to submit as many checklists as possible into eBird this month. I accepted the challenge and have submitted more than 100 checklists in the past 15 days. I have made a habit of entering a multitude of lists every day that cover my every move outside of my house or office. I thought this was a great challenge and hope other will grab the reigns and make an effort to enter more checklists in these "boring" months--hopefully leading to even more checklists when there are lots of birds around.
I've also continued my daily treks around Lehi checking the same fields, ditches, tree lines, and fence posts that I have all winter. I've seen a lot of the same birds but that's okay. I have made a habit of trying to track down a wintering Harlan's Hawk almost daily. Before this winter I could count on 2 fingers the number of Harlan's Hawks I had seen--which matched the number of encounters... This winter I have seen at least 7 different individuals on countless occasions. Just today I added a new one for the winter, and besides being another Harlan's Hawk, it provided me with a great photo opportunity...
What I am getting at is birding is what you make of it. Even when there aren't a lot of birds around, and even when it's the end of one season and you've been looking at the same birds the past 4 months, you can find something to make it just as exciting as seeing that first migrant each spring and fall. So make the most of these next two weeks and get out in the field, or your yard, park, parking lot at work--wherever. Enjoy the waning days of winter, they'll be gone soon, and with them all the birds from the great white north.