Utah Birds, Utah Birding, and Utah Birders. Promoting the sharing of information, and the conservation of habitat for birds in Utah and elsewhere. We are a group of people who want to share what we know, and create a positive birding experience in Utah.


a blog by and for Utah Birders


posted by Jeff Bilsky at
on Sunday, February 27, 2011 

I'm really excited about the launch of our new listserv today: UBIRD. I made this video using some photos I "stole" from Tim Avery. I wanted to create something visual to show what we're working towards; Hopefully this captures it. See you out there!

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UBIRD & UtahBirders.com

posted by Utah Birders at

Jeff Bilsky, Carl Ingwell, and I have spent the last couple days working on furthering the Utah Birders project and are pleased to announce two new things.

First we have created a new listserv for birds and birding in Utah: UBIRD

Second we have launched a new website: http://www.utahbirders.com/

Currently the websites sole purpose is to promote the UBIRD listserv, but eventually we hope to use it with the rest of the Utah birding community to promote birding in Utah.

The listserv is open to EVERYONE, and the rules are pretty simple right now. Click through any of the links in this post and you can find out more information. You can also use the contact from at the top of this page if you have any questions or comments.

We look forward to the future of online birding in Utah with UBIRD and http://www.utahbirders.com/

Good Birding
The Utah Birders

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Eastern dark-morphs?

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Friday, February 25, 2011 

Are there dark morph Red-tailed Hawks of the Eastern race? A few people have asked me this question in the last several years. First off, the term borealis is synonymous with “Eastern subspecies”, and I use the term borealis more often these days because “Eastern” implies birds in the East only. The true range of borealis is misunderstood (and other races for that matter). Borealis (or at least birds that look identical to borealis) occurs from the East Coast, to central Texas, to the east side of the Rocky Mountains, into southeast Alaska, and across southern and central Canada….that is a fairly accurate “imaginary line” for the most part. There are variations of borealis as it stands today, as some areas of southern Canada are populated with heavily marked Western-looking birds called abieticola, I refer to as “Canadian borealis”, while a pale form called “Krider’s” (named after John Krider) inhabits the northern Great Plains.

To answer the original question…no, dark-morph borealis do not occur. I say this (1) because there is no breeding records anywhere significantly “East”. A dark-morph Red-tail was spotted in upstate NY in or near summer once but was never confirmed breeding or seen throughout the summer. Many dark Western (and Harlan’s) are seen in “eastern” states in winter or on migration, but birds do wander out of their expected range quite frequently. (2) How would one know if a dark Red-tail was a Western or borealis, what traits would be definitive? Having or lacking multiple tail bands on adults is inconsequential; both tail types are seen throughout the entire range of calurus (and much of borealis) and each is more common in certain areas. Same for being completely dark on the underbody as opposed to rufous-breasted. Borealis does interbreed with other Red-tail races where their ranges overlap, so “intergrades” can be terribly confusing to identify to race based on plumage.

Another question asked recently was: Do only Red-tails wearing their first adult plumage show multiple tail bands? An interesting question…Red-tails (referring mostly to the Western race) can have multiple tail bands at any age of adulthood. And, birds in their first adult plumage can lack multiple tail bands.

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St. George Hot Spots Map

posted by Jeff Bilsky at

This map is a work in progress, but I wanted to share it as I have had several inquiries lately about places to go birding in St. George. With Spring Migration imminent I wanted to make sure this was available. I will be updating it periodically, so check back on it, and/or make suggestions about what else should be on here. In the future, look for a lot more maps to be shared and created as we work to make this website a valuable resource for all.

View St. George Area Birding in a larger map

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posted by Tim Avery at
on Thursday, February 24, 2011 

A Redwing, not to be confused with Red-winged Blackbird.
Via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s talk about nomenclature. Bird names follow a certain nomenclature that has been prodded, and pinched, and flipped, and flopped over time. We have gotten to a point where the vast majority of bird names are standardized and will not change. There are certain species which seem to change every couple years; there are species splits which create new names for now multiple species; there are delistings where similar species are again grouped and now share one common name; there are strange changes some due to science that may precipitate a name change every so often; and there the occasional decisions to change whole groups of birds common names for one reason or another (take the robins that are now thrushes in central America).

In any case back to that first point—that most bird’s common names have been decided upon and are not changing. I have to admit I have a pretty big pet peeve when it comes to bird names, and that is when birders use the incorrect nomenclature when posting about birds, or listing sightings. Here are a few of my personal “favorites” from recent years—many of which get used on a regular basis:

Redwing Blackbird - as opposed to - Red-winged Blackbird (use those hyphens)
Greenwing Teal - as opposed to - Green-winged Teal (use those hyphens)
Buffalohead - as opposed to - Bufflehead (although the name is derived from Buffalo)
Icelandic Gull - as opposed to - Iceland Gull (named for, not from)
Redhead Duck - as opposed to - Redhead (no need for the duck at the end)
Herman’s Gull - as opposed to - Heermann's Gull (double "E", double "N")
Stellar’s Jay - as opposed to - Steller's Jay ("E" not "A")
Crystal Thrasher - as opposed to - Crissal Thrasher (not named after a gem)
Albert’s Towhee - as opposed to - Abert's Towhee (no "L")

The term “blue jay” - This is a species and doesn't encompass all jays that are blue.

What bring this to my attention? There was a post on the Idaho Birding List this morning about 3 “Redwings” visiting a feeder. My immediate thought was the species “Redwing”, and in Idaho Falls close enough for a quick drive up to see a lifer and a mega rarity. But I quickly gained my composure and emailed the person who wrote the email and asked if the meant “Red-winged Blackbirds”. After a few minutes I received a reply, “Yes, Redwing Blackbirds.”.

I was slightly bothered in the fact that mixing up those two species is a pretty big deal. You are comparing the most widespread native bird in North America to a mega rarity. I was more bothered at the response, when they still typed out “redwing” which is not the correct nomenclature. Call me grumpy; call me a stickler; whatever. As a birder I think it is important to learn, promote, and use the correct nomenclature when sharing information about birds. I can understand the occasional slip up like Great-horned Owl, or American Three Toed Woodpecker, but in general these are avoidable

I myself am far from perfect and have on numerous occasions spelled species names incorrectly, forgotten a hyphen, forgotten to capitalize something, or just blatantly butchered a bird name. It happens. My challenge to you is to take pride in those bird names and make sure the hyphens are where they need to be, the capital letters are in the right place, and everything is spelled correctly. Not only does it show that you have taken the time to learn the bird names, it also adds a bit of credibility to reports. After all the kind of Redwings I want to see are something very different from the Red-winged Blackbirds found everyday all over the country; and that is the kind of posting mistake that can lead to a number of issues with other birders

For the most recent ABA checklist click here. This will be more up-to-date than any field guide you are currently using. Now be kind to me, this is just a commentary, as I am sure I will now be pointed out every time I mess up a bird name!

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Life Birds

posted by Tim Avery at
on Wednesday, February 23, 2011 

My Lifer Island Scrub-Jay on Santa Cruz Island.

Let’s face it, everyone loves life birds. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing something new? Plenty of bird watchers will tell you they don’t keep lists, and don’t care about things like “lifers”. But I guarantee those same people know when they are seeing something new—a lifer. Life birds are fun. Life birds are exciting. Life birds breathe new life into birding for people who need a second wind. Life birds keep people interested in birding.

I will be the first to admit that I love life birds. I know what birds I haven’t seen and always look forward to seeing something new. The difference in how I act when “just” birding, or when I am seeing a life bird is like night and day. I enjoy birding and it is fun, but when a lifer comes into the picture, I get ecstatic! Carl and Jeff have both seen me “just” birding, and have seen me when I see a new Utah bird (similar to a lifer for me, new birds for my Utah list are exciting), they can vouch for the change in me.

So why the post about life birds? Well that is simple; I added a few to my life list this past weekend. On Wednesday of last week Sam and I headed to southern California. I haven’t been in almost 20 years and had a laundry list of species I could pick up. The 15 or so species that I haven’t seen from this area would fill a big hole in my life list and that had me excited before I had even seen my first bird of the trip. It wouldn’t be until Saturday that the birding really started and between Saturday and Monday I would tally 11 new life birds.

It started in Malibu with BLACK SKIMMER. I was able to view 4 sitting on a sandbar in a lagoon at some distance. I stupidly didn’t take and pictures because I had planned on seeing more further north. Little did I know these would be the only ones I would see all weekend. After the Skimmers I spotted an ALLEN’S HUMMINGBIRD displaying near the parking area at the Malibu Lagoon. Next I headed into Trancas Canyon and grabbed both CALIFORNIA TOWHEE and CALIFORNIA GNATCATCHER. That was followed by NANDAY PARAKEET that I first heard in the canyon then tracked down in a field by the Pacific Coast Highway.

Lifer Nanday Parakeet in Malibu.

Up the coast at Point Mugu I seemingly couldn’t find anything I had hoped for. No Black Skimmers as I had expected. No Tricolored Blackbird that were supposed to be there and no White-tailed Kite. I couldn’t complain too much though, 5 lifers in a day is a pretty good tally!

The following morning we hopped on a boat headed to Santa Cruz Island to look for Island Scrub-Jay. On the way out I had distant looks at a BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATER on the crest of the waves. I had expected more of these birds and was a little surprise that this was the only one seen. Alcids were few and far between with a couple Rhinoceros Auklets and Common Murre—two species I had seen in Oregon previously. Otherwise the boat trip out was pretty lackluster for birds. Upon arrival it only took an hour to find the first ISLAND SCRUB-JAYS, of which we eventually saw 9 all together. I will post more about this later. That was it for lifers on the island—I didn’t expect anything else as the trip out was specifically for the jay. On the boat ride in there seemed to be a lot more birds on the water. On several occasions alcids zoomed by the boat and out of sight, many of which happened to fast to ID. But one bird in particular caught my eye. Coming form behind and flying past the boat a single XANTUS’S MURRELET made a pass before disappearing into the waves. I had high hopes of seeing this rare little alcid, but didn’t really expect it. Afterwards I was just happy that I had managed to snap a couple of shots that had the little dot in it, and one close enough that the bird actually showed up decently.

Lifer Xantus's Murrelet on the Santa Barbara Channel.

Monday morning we were up early to head back to Salt Lake. I wasn’t quite done yet though. I had a couple stops in Oxnard where I felt I could add at least two more lifers, and maybe even four. While driving I was continually scanning the fields for blackbirds hoping to pick up a Tricolored. By pure chance I pulled over to look at a map and in the field next to the car were tons of birds including 9 TRICOLORED BLACKBIRDS! A few minutes later I pulled into Camarillo Regional Park and headed up the road. It was only a couple minutes before I heard my first NUTTALL’S WOODPECKER rattling off in the distance, followed by another nearer to me. Things were good, but only got better when a CALIFORNIA THRASHER started singing from the bushes along the road.

And that sums it up. 11 life birds in the course of three days. I had planned to drive about 70 miles north to an area where Yellow-billed Magpie are found but the weather was so bad on Saturday afternoon that we canceled. Aside from the magpie I likely would have picked up White-headed Woodpecker, and had a shot at Mountain Quail. Perhaps the biggest miss and my current North American nemesis bird the White-tailed Kite eluded me despite passing through plenty of great habitat and locations where they are often seen. Otherwise, who can complain about 11 life birds? Now I just have to get to south Texas and a few stops in Florida to fill out the remaining holes in my list.

What are your thoughts on life birds? Any good stories, or memorable lifer moments? Feel free to share by leaving a comment.

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1874 Checklist

posted by Anonymous eBirder at
on Monday, February 21, 2011 

I have scanned up the 1874 Utah checklist & converted it to a PDF. I'd love to put it up on the blog & have everyone discuss it, but I'm not sure how to post a PDF file. If anyone wants to take a look at it, let me know your email address and I'll send it to you.

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The Skipper Bay Trail 2/19/11

posted by Jeff Bilsky at
on Sunday, February 20, 2011 

Skipper Bay often stacks up with waterfowl in the early days of spring and late winter, as temperatures climb and snow and ice melt. I believe the fields to the east of the trail where the majority of the birds congregate are actually private land but I'll have to check their status in terms of whether they have any protection or not from development/sale. There are some Osprey nesting platforms on the land as well that have been used for at least the last few years. The Utah Lake is to the west of the trail and the farm fields are to the east. The trail runs through a narrow riparian sect. During migration this is the definition of a "hot spot" - a perfect storm of habitats and location. Last year the area had 3 Greater White-Fronted Geese for several weeks - well into March. Yesterday on my quick walk up and down the trail, I located a lone Snow Goose amongst the thousands of other waterfowl including: Wigeon, Cinnamon Teal, Pintails, Mallards, Canada Geese, and Green-winged Teal. It really is a spectacle and well worth a visit - especially as spring gets closer and closer. I'll be leading a field trip on 4/2 for the Great Salt Lake Audubon and more than likely this will be one of our stops.

To get to Skipper Bay, take Center street in Provo all the way west to just before the Utah Lake State Park entrance. Turn right, following a chain link fence and turn left at the "T" intersection. The trail runs North from here. Best of luck and good birding!

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Annotated List: Birds of Utah (1874)

posted by Anonymous eBirder at
on Saturday, February 19, 2011 

I am blown away right now!

Last night, we headed down to Moab, for a vacation with friends. On the way down, we tried for the Curve-Billed Thrasher that was reported in Castle Valley just outside of Moab. We had no luck with the Thrasher, but did see a Spotted Towhee, Dark-eyed Juncos, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser & Great Blue Heron. The Thrasher was reported at a feeder in Castle Valley; birdlife was sparse at the feeder because a Kit Fox was hanging out below it. I was honestly more excited about the Kit Fox than I would have been for the Thrasher.

Tonight we were shopping around town and I dragged everyone into my favorite bookstore, "Back of Beyond Books." I found a bird checklist from the year 1874: "Annotated List of Birds of Utah (1874)." I'm totally stoked about this checklist!!! Tonight I've been looking through it & I think it's so neat to see what birds were reported as common & uncommon in the year 1872 (the year they took the data for the checklist). It's also really interesting to try and figure out the names of the birds from 140 years ago. Some of them I can figure out, like "Long Crested Jay. Common. Found only in the mountains. Resident," which I'm sure is a Stellar's Jay. Some I'm not sure of, like, "Yellow Bird. Common. Permanent resident," which was found with the finches, sparrows, buntings, etc. It's also interesting to note that "Cow Bunting," which I believe is a Brown Cowbird was not very common in the state in 1874; probably because cows weren't that prevalent. Lark Buntings were also "Abundant. Everywhere on plains and benches."

What an awesome find. I might scan it & send an eCopy to people that want to take a look at it. Let me know if you'd like to check it out.


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The Big Picture

posted by Jeff Bilsky at
on Thursday, February 17, 2011 

Part of my desire to begin writing on this blog was to of course share in some great discussions on bird specific topics but also to share information that extends beyond just birding. I consider myself somewhat of an environmentalist and to that end try to keep myself educated and aware of the environmental issues that face our planet. Birds are part of the greater picture, as are we, so at times I'll pass along articles and information and thoughts about some of these "bigger picture" concepts. I'm confident a lot of you will be as interested as I am. I felt like this brief disclaimer was needed before sharing the following articles.

First, there's this, which I just read on scientists search for 100 missing species of frogs, salamanders and caecilians and the disheartening conclusion. LINK

I also recently read about the disease afflicting bats: White-nose Syndrome. It appears to be having some pretty devastating effects. LINK

My intention is definitely not to be a downer but I understand this is some pretty heavy stuff. If you need to be cheered up just remember that spring migration (the big push of it anyway) is mere weeks away and in spite of the seemingly impossible challenges facing them, the birds will soon be back on their summer breeding grounds, singing and thriving.

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The Wild Within

posted by Jeff Bilsky at
on Monday, February 14, 2011 

I recently tuned in to a television program called The Wild Within. It airs on The Travel Channel with new episodes showing on Sunday nights. The host, Steven Rinella, is an outdoorsman who claims his goal is to reawaken the spirt of hunting and gathering. Here's a video that explains it.

I was almost immediately captured by it. Listening to him speak about hunting for survival and understanding the enormity of taking an animal's life offers a great perspective. I highly recommend checking it out. Some of the scenes are quite graphic but I admire the authenticity of it and of the host.

I know this strays a bit from the usual sharing of bird related topics, but I figured a lot of you might be interested nonetheless!

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The Crossley ID Guide: A Review

posted by Tim Avery at

There is a new birding guide on the market this week and it is certainly making waves on listservs, blogs, and review sites around the U.S. The guide is The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds. The author has said that the book is revolutionary. Some critics have said that is hogwash. Many people have praised it; thus far it is definitely causing a stir both ways. I have to admit when I first heard about this guide a year or so ago I was skeptical. Some of the initial plates I saw left me shaking my head. As more hype was built I thought it was a little messy. Each plate was filled with lots of pictures of the birds. It seemed hectic, and in some cases crowded. I didn’t see the positive in it, it was just too overwhelming.

Then this past week when the book launched I saw a video the Crossley put out to speak about the book, and it finally made sense to me. This book is not geared for the seasoned birder. It isn’t a "field guide" so much as an at home reference, or a learning guide. Looking more into it and thinking back to my early days I realized this is the perfect guide to give someone that is going to get into birding. It is trial by fire so to speak. When you look at a plate like the one below you see multiple images of the bird, in a somewhat natural setting (the background have all been photoshopped into the pictures):

Lesser Scaup

These plates show the bird in different poses, in different plumages, at different angles, and in flight. It gives an idea of what the bird might actually look like in the field from different distances, and vantage points. I still think some work could have been done to improve on the quality of the plates and the organization, but the idea is there and as a first try it truly is somewhat revolutionary and here is why.

Guides with a single pose, or single drawing of a bird, with no reference to where the bird is and how it fits into its habitat are missing something. They are great for looking at field marks—however field marks are something that we as birders have come up with. How many birders in the field see something and say, well based off that field mark that bird is a so and so bird. Most advanced and intermediate birders don’t do that, and I haven’t met a lot of beginners that do that either. When it comes to learning birds and what they look like this guide hits it on the head. Give this bird to any 10 or 11 year old that is just getting into the hobby and they will be able to learn species quickly and have a good idea what to look for when they go into the field. It’s a learning tool and in my opinion might be the single best for learning birds before ever stepping foot into the wild to look for them.

The downside is that I do not see this as a field guide. It isn’t right for a field guide, as it shouldn’t be dragged into the field with you. In general I will always say look at the bird first, look at the guide later. Seeing the bird in real life and being able to study it will be very helpful in IDing it later if you are unsure. Trying to use any book in the field often leads to more confusion than confirmation when you are trying to identify something. Peterson and Sibley are far better field guides, and are what you should take with you if you feel the need to have a guide in the field. That is when those subtle details that these guides show come in handy.

As for the Crossley ID Guide, a western version is on the way in the future, and it will be interesting to see what happens with it. If you are a pro, then this book probably isn’t for you, but if you feel you are still learning or have a ways to go it may be worth picking up just to help with learning birds before you go afield. Seeing pictures and poses that you will actually see of these birds adds a new dimension to the bird guide book, and I am sure innovations will be on the way. It does need some work, but I like the idea, and even in this first try I feel it has something great to offer.

Blackburnian Warbler

So pick up a copy of the eastern version today, so you can be ready for those eastern warblers when they start coming through on their way north in May!

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Feeding Birds at the Bird: Part 2

posted by Tim Avery at
on Sunday, February 13, 2011 

After setting up a couple feeders at Snowbird last night I decided to see if anything had stumbled upon them yet. When I arrived at the feeders they looked as full as yesterday so I moved on and did my regular birding loop of Alta on the bypass road. After doing that and not finding any birds I headed back to the feeders, pulled off the road, and parked the car to sit and wait. It didn't take long for a Steller's Jay to show up, followed by a Mountain Chickadee, and then another, and another Steller's Jay. The birds were not using the feeders, but instead picking seed up I spilled the day before. So I made the decision to pull down one of the feeders, emptying its contents on the snow below the other feeder. After a few minutes the same birds returned. I spent a little while photographing before I took off, here is one of the jays:

Click the photo above to view more.

The traffic was a bit annoying, but didn't seem to bother the birds. I think the food on the ground will be a little more effective than that in the feeder, but both are nice to have. Now let's see if the Rosy-Finches can find their way to this new spot!

Oh yeah, I did see one other bird while I was up there... It was the rare and infamous "whirly-bird". Pretty cool photo opportunity being in the right place at the right time.

Click the photo above to view more.

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St. George Trip Recap

posted by Jeff Bilsky at

Carl Ingwell and I decided to get out of Salt Lake and head to warmer weather down in Southern Utah last weekend (2/5-2/6). We have a great camping site on the Beaver Dam Slope that we visit from time to time.

The first night, we were greeted by a vocal Great Horned Owl and howling coyotes. A fire, some whiskey, the stars and the sounds of the night; there's a magic to being out there.

The birding was relatively slow throughout the weekend in terms of what is possible in such a unique habitat, but we still picked up some the area specialities. Saturday morning the Cactus Wrens were quite noisy on the slope. A drive to Lytle Ranch and we picked up Verdin, Western Bluebirds, and Ladder-backed Woodpecker. The ranch was closed so we were only able to briefly bird from the main road. Due to recent flood damage it is not looking likely to be open to the public again any time soon.

We visited a lot of the St. George area hot spots. Other highlights included a flock of geese at the SR-9 Sewage Ponds that included 3 Ross's and 6 Snow Geese. Quail Creek Reservoir had a Common Loon and the Red Cliff's Campground had a presumed female Anna's Hummingbird. Any inquiries about any of these sightings or a complete list, let me know and I'd be happy to share.

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Feeding Birds at the Bird

posted by Tim Avery at
on Saturday, February 12, 2011 

This winter has been dismal at the bird. It's already mid February and I am without a Rosy-Finch for the year. Typically Alta and Snowbird produce decent numbers of easy to view Black and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches, but this winter it seems to be pretty miss and miss. I am not sure of others luck but each trip I have made up the canyon has been to see empty feeders. Well today I decided I wasn't going to drive up to an empty group of random feeders again this winter--I was going to make my own luck.

I picked up two cheap feeders from Home Depot, grabbed a couple pounds of mixed see from my garage, and Sam and I headed up Little Cottonwood Canyon to scout a few locations. After driving around a bit I decided on a tree right off the main road with an area that has enough room to safely pull off and out of traffics way, and hung the two feeders at eye-level:

Ah, two feeders, filled to the brim with seed and easy to find. So here is what I am asking. If you go up to view the feeders please bring a little bit of food with you to help keep the feeders full. As long as they are still there, birds will come in and be easy to view. You can walk right up to the feeders and twist the tops off to fill in a minute or two as they are only about 25 feet from the road.

As for the where, they are exactly 6.15 miles up the canyon from the park and ride right at the mouth. Once you have gone just about 6 miles you will pass the 1st entrance to Snowbird, and from there it's .2 miles to the feeders on the right (south) side of the road just before the 2nd entrance to the Bird.

Please let us know what you are seeing if you go up there, hopefully these will stay up for a while. I am also working on getting a couple more up at another location and will post more about that if it happens.

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My Favorite Places! (Utah)

posted by Jeff Bilsky at

Following in the wake of Mr. Ingwell's post on favorite birds, I thought it would be fun to talk about some of our favorite places to bird in the state of Utah. As with birds, it's tough to pick one favorite. So what defines a favorite place? Good birds? Good habitat? While I love looking at birds (and other wildlife), I actually loved hiking first. So for me, I love spots that are out of the way and up in the mountains. The Lamb's Canyon Trail off of I-80 is great for that. Also Willow Lake in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Anywhere that has singing Hermit Thrushes is usually pretty solid for me. I really like the Conifer/Aspen mix. If I shift to thinking about just pure birding for the goal of seeing the most variety of species, I'd obviously say Lytle Ranch in Southern Utah and Deseret Ranch in Northern Utah. Picking Deseret is sort of cheating since it is so large and has such a variety of habitats. But there's no rules to favorites other than for this post I'm saying Utah only! We can do a follow up post of "My Favorite Places! (World)" next. So anyway, let's hear where others like to explore...


My Favorites!

posted by Anonymous eBirder at
on Friday, February 11, 2011 

People always ask me what my favorite bird is, and I’ve never really known what to say. Today, I actually thought about the answer to that question. I couldn’t name 1 particular favorite. I broke my answer up into two different categories: Non-Utah Birds & Utah Birds. Here’s the list.

Utah Birds- Ferruginous Hawk (probably the closest you can get to #1), Sandhill Crane, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Common Poorwill, Stellar’s Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Cedar Waxwing, Green-tailed Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Brewer’s Sparrow, and Lark Sparrow.

Non-Utah Birds- Brahminy Kite, Wedge-tailed Eagle, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Pied Imperial-Pigeon, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Superb Fairy-wren, and Red-headed Honeyeater.

Okay, so I only put on species that I’ve seen. If I were to add a few that I haven’t seen, I’d have to put on Harris’s Hawk and Great Gray Owl. That was fun. What are everyone else's favorites?



More Conservation BS Part II

posted by Anonymous eBirder at
on Thursday, February 10, 2011 

I have to take back my cantankerous post from earlier. For those of you that didn't see it, too bad, it's deleted forever :).

The point I was trying to drive at was this: As birders, and as humans who care about the plantet, we sometimes act in direct opposition to our superficial claims. I see it all too often in myself and others. Every day, I try and improve my relations with the Earth, celebrate biodiversity, and support conservation. I hold birders to a high standard, and hope they do those same things too, so it disappoints me when I see that they're not.

There is an interesting question that comes from all of this. How much conservation should we support? Do our interests outweigh the interests of capitalism, recreation, etc.? In my own opinion, they do. Conservation biology and the environmental movement can't be squashed by big business, overpopulation, or anything else if we are to survive as a species on this planet. I don't think any God, or new technology, will save us from the destruction we inflict upon ourselves, so why wait?

Where do we draw the line? Should we remove all Tamarisk from the Colorado River at the expense of nesting Willow Flycatchers? Do we shut down all natural gas wells because they are negatively affecting Greater Sage Grouse and our water quality? Should we all trade in our SUVs for bikes? I know the choices that the birds would like us to make, but what choices will we make?

I wish you all good luck in your quest to become better stewards of the Earth. Let me know if you'd like to join forces.


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posted by Anonymous eBirder at

Call me crazy, but I love Magpies. They're beautiful, intelligent and just plain fun. No one else has to like them, because my opinion only matters to me. I saw a Magpie flying over the freeway today and I smiiiiiiiiiiled big.


Golden Eagles wear "socks"...?

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Monday, February 7, 2011 

Check out the above photograph (click to enlarge). The bird on the left is a juvenile Golden Eagle, the bird on the right an adult. The juvenile looks like it has wool socks on, the adult has feathered legs but the feathers are dark...is this an age difference trait? I have seen this before on juveniles but would need to see a large sample size up close to know for sure if only juveniles show these whitish "socks". Either way, it is kinda neat looking.

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Birds of Utah - A field guide

posted by Tim Avery at
on Saturday, February 5, 2011 

For a few years I have wanted to work on a field guide to the birds of Utah. Obviously it wouldn't be a big ticket item in book stores, but more of a reference guide for locals, and visitors. The current guide to birding Utah by McIvor is now over ten years old, and although it contains some good information, things have changed since 1998. Last year one of my goals was to start ground work on at least a digital guide to the birds of Utah and where to find them. I didn't get a whole lot done, but did some base work, and a few layout designs. Tonight I put that up on my website, as I plan on having an initial digital version of the guide as early as next spring. Take a look:

Click on the image above to visit my website

I guess we'll see what happens. And of course, feel free to leave some feedback on these VERY initial designs, and the information in them.

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A Big Year Revisited

posted by Tim Avery at
on Friday, February 4, 2011 

Back in 2007 I set out to break the Utah Big Year Record. It was an impressive 332 species, and it had been set in 2004 by Dennis Shirley. The previous high was 327 in 2001. I figured the 3 year pattern could only help my odds even though that really was just something to add to the fun. When the year started I had high hopes, but no idea how far the year would actually go. By the end of April I quit my full time job and took a seasonal position with DNR to conduct riparian breeding bird surveys in southern Utah. It was a strategic decision that I knew would help my big year. It would put me at a number of natural migrant traps during the height and tail of spring songbird migration. And it did help. When the summer came to an end, I had enough money saved up to spend the rest of the year birding pretty much full time. By mid-September my big year turned into an attempt to set my own high mark after I saw my 333rd species.

Birding for at least 2 hours a day more than 20 days a month the last 4 months saw a number of great species, including a couple of first state records. By the time the end of December rolled around I was ready for the year to end as I ticked off my 355th species. I won't get into more details, but if you have some free time check out the big year list I added to my website with pictures and/or video of 332 of the species I saw:

The page will take some time to load all the images, so be patient when you get there, it may take a few seconds to fully come together. And if you are on a dial-up I probably wouldn't bother.

Since my big year I have fallen out of big listing, and spent more time just taking pictures and trying to find new birds for my Utah list. If I never see 300 species of bird in Utah a year I will be okay with that. I have no plans of putting together a Utah big year ever again--but if you ever have the chance, I highly recommend giving it a go--as it can be a lot of fun.

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Now That's a Strange Field Mark

posted by Tim Avery at
on Wednesday, February 2, 2011 

A few days ago I peered out the window at the feeders and noticed a Lesser Goldfinch feeding on the ground beneath a packed thistle feeder. I was surprised to see what looked like a white stripe of feathers up the middle of the crown. I went into my office and set up to take some pictures. After I snapped one I thought the stripe looked odd, and then I realized why. It wasn't feathers, it was bird crap! This goldfinch was feeding right beneath a flock of others feeding, and one had apparently dropped a bomb that hit its target... Check out the pictures:

Click Images to View Larger

And this is the reason you NEVER eat where you poop! The little guy eventually took a place at the feeder so he was no longer a target for his buddies!

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