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a blog by and for Utah Birders

eBirding Your Home Town

posted by Tim Avery at
on Friday, February 20, 2015 

I've been tied a lot closer to home the past 6 months with the addition of a son to our family.  It's meant I don't manage to go birding for as long, or as far from home as usual.  I've still managed to do a lot of birding, but really changed my pattern.  One thing I have decided to work on is building out locations in and around Sandy, Utah creating a patchwork of personal birding location in eBird to micro list as I go about my day to day.  It's actually really simple and ends up keeping me in tune with what birds are where around my current home town.

My personal locations in blue--hotspots in red.

It started rather simply a couple years ago.  I had my house as a personal location, my neighborhood as another, and then I created a spot for a woodlot along my drive home from work.  There are two hot spots along my routes to and from work--the Sandy City Cemetery and Dimple Dell Park. I also created a location a few years ago at La Caille for the trail down to Quail Hollow Park, that is now listed as Little Cottonwood Canyon -- Mouth (incl. La Caille). Larkin Sunset Gardens also has a hotspot but I rarely make it up the road to this location.  East of I-15 and in Sandy City these are the only hot spots.  There are a couple spots long the Jordan River, and of Course the Sandy Urban Fishery.  But you get the idea, there just aren't a ton of birding spots on the map.  So I changed that.

Sandy -- Porter Rockwell Trail at 10600 South

I started by creating two spots along the Rail Trail (Trax)--one at 9000 South and another at 10600 South.  The locations were named accordingly Sandy -- Porter Rockwell Trail and Sandy -- Expo Station @ 9000 S 146 E. I decided to use the eBird naming schema for locations in a given area.  Since these were all personal I used Sandy as the location with each sub location following dashes.  Next I added Lake Hills Cemetery on State Street, and then another location along 10600 south at about 1050 East just past the Dimple Dell Rec Center.  I also had a location that I rarely used listed at the Sandy Amphitheatre, which I adjusted to Sandy -- Quarry Bend and Amphitheatre.  From here I branched out and while out and about in the past week I created 3 location along the I-15 corridor just east of the freeway.  One near 9000 south at the old Classic Fun Center where a small ditch has a marsh habitat.  I also created two locations around the Southe Town Mall.  One north of the mall along Centennial Parkway  where a tiny pond is surrounded by marsh.  And another along the freeway the length of the west side of the mall where these is an expansive marsh.

Sandy -- South Towne Center Marsh

Deciding I needed to break Sandy down even more I decided to create locations at a number of local parks: Storm Mountain Park, Lone Peak Park, Bell Canyon Park, Pebble Brook GC, Falcon Park, Flat Iron Mesa Park, and Quail Hollow Park.

Sandy -- Flat Iron Mesa Park

I didn't create spots for every park, but ones I pass or spend some amount of time at on a monthly basis.  My goal going forward is to submit at least 1 list per month at each location in Sandy, and eventually work on getting a list for every week of the year to create a full data set for these locations.  It won't be comprehensive but will give me a good overlay of the entire city!

Generally the lists contain a lot of Rock Pigeons and European Starlings--a realistic look at what most urban birding looks like.  But the lists get sprinkled with Mourning and Eurasian Collared-Doves, Americn Robins, Western Scrub-Jays, Black-billed Magpie, American Kestrel, House Finches and Sparrows, California Gulls, etc.  Just for laughs I have submitted 61 Checklists for the Sandy Ciy Cemetery--comprising exactly 14 species! With this micro birding there are far more checklists than species generally.

American Kestrel

On a daily basis I try to enter lists when I stop at lights or keep an eye out for birds while driving.  I also usually stop at one or two locations on the way home for a just a couple minutes to listen to what's calling. It gives me the opportunity to fit in a little birding every day away from my home and office.  It has also made me really aware of specific birds that have set up territories along the route. I have 2 spots where I know American Kestrel are on territory; 1 Red-tailed Hawk that frequents a certain woodlot; and of course the specific locations where you almost always find American Crow in the city.

American Crow

So if you can't get away from home as much as you'd like, or you prefer birding locally, without a car, on foot, bike, or scooter I suggest creating your own patchwork of local birding locations and working on micro listing your area. Not only will you provide valuable data for citizen science, but you'll really get to know the birds around you.

If you'd like me to share any of my personal locations with you just let me know--I don't suspect a lot of folks go birding at many of these places, but if more than one were interested I would certainly love to add more data from more birders!

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