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

Migration and Southern Utah in April

posted by Tim Avery at
on Monday, April 30, 2012 

The last week of April the past 6 years I have headed to Washington County to meet the first big wave of northward passerine migrants as they arrive in Utah.  This weekend can bring large numbers of migrants and quite an array of species to the various oases around St. George.  Eastern vagrants are extremely rare this early, but the variety and numbers of birds make it worthwhile.  By now the majority of breeders to the Mojave Desert region are back and already nesting--while several species such as Brown-crested Flycatcher, Lesser Nighthawk, and Blue Grosbeak are still scant.  Each year the birding is different.  In 2007 when I was doing my Utah Big Year migration was in full swing and I picked up just about every usual migrant in the course of a couple days.  The past few years migration has felt a little slower.  There have been plenty of migrants, but nowhere near as heavy.  The last couple years we have seen a later than normal migration in Utah so it’s not surprising that the end of April hasn’t been as great.

Not a Migrant, but this Eurasian Collared-Dove
picture turned out pretty sweet.

Fast forward to this past weekend and it looks like migration is just about on schedule--that being not too early nor late.  Keeping up with tradition my wife and I hit the road Friday night and headed to Washington County.  We left Salt Lake later in the evening to miss the traffic through Utah County Construction.  That put us into St. George just after 11pm, where it was 70 degrees--wonderful!  We made out way out to the Beaver Dam Slope and set up camp above Lytle Ranch on the bluffs overlooking the Beaver Dam Wash.  I sat out enjoying the stars and singing COMMON POORWILLS all around us.  The highlight of the night were 5 or 6 large flocks of shorebirds that came flying over our campsite.  The whistling of their tiny wings and the chattering calls and squeaks were unlike any I have heard before.  I have no idea what species they even were--only that for a half an hour I was in awe of the sounds.

Saturday got a late start as we didn’t leave the tent till 9am.  Winds were thrashing the slope and we didn’t hear much singing.  A couple BLACK-THROATED SPARROWS and House Finches were about it.  We arrived at the ranch where there were more cars than I had ever seen there.  We had brought our dog so we opted to pass the ranch and walk Beaver Dam Creek.  But before we left the parking lot I enjoyed hearing the lovely notes of several SUMMER TANAGER, the melody of a lone HOODED ORIOLE, the chattering of a BULLOCK’S ORIOLE, numerous LUCY’S WARBLERS, and a couple BELL’S VIREO. Spring at Lytle is always a blast.

Lucy's Warbler are everywhere in Washington County in April

We hit the river and slowly made our way up creek about a mile.  This is the equivalent of walking just past the main pond on the ranch property.  There weren’t a ton of birds, but the water felt good on the feet, and I did manage to pick up all 6 species of regular swallows along the way.  I hadn’t been to Lytle since last May--my trip south in January skipped the wash--so all the local species were new year birds.  PHAINOPEPLAS, LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER, and BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER all were brilliant to see for the first time in almost a year.  The surprise of the morning was a WILD TURKEY zipping through the Cottonwoods--apparently there are more than a dozen hanging out on the property now.

Summer Tanager add a splash of color to the desert.

As we neared the gate on our walk back down river we ran into the Sommerfeld’s and Merrill Webb who had seen just about the same birds as us.  It seems like we always see the same faces this time of year down there--if we ran into Rick Fridell it would be a true end of April trip.  Back at the ranch I checked out the Hummingbird feeders and picked up Black-chinned, Costa’s and an ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD for the year while  WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS chattered overhead, and the tanagers continued to serenade the property.  The group of vehicles was an Audubon event that was scouring the ranch--with so many people around we decided to check out a few other places.

The Beaver Dam Slope

Driving across the slope we didn’t add any new birds for the trip--but at Utah Hill we added the expected BLACK-CHINNED SPARROWS, and a singing GRAY VIREO.  We ended up at Gunlock Reservoir for lunch where a pair of COMMON BLACK-HAWK are nesting again this year.  There reservoir is still full from last years runoff so there was a ton of activity at the inlet where some shallow water persists.  A surprise MUTE SWAN was hanging out here, along with a GREAT EGRET, a couple BLUE-WINGED TEAL, cormorants, White-faced Ibis, Spotted Sandpiper, and Black-necked Stilt.  Singing Rock and Canyon Wren kept us company while we ate as well.

Mute Swan at Gunlock (looks pretty ruffled)

After lunch we hit the usual spots around St. George in Ivins Reservoir, Tonaquint Park, Springs Estate Pond, and the Washington Fields.  Nothing out of the usual at those locations, although the young SNOW GOOSE that was present at Springs Estate in January is still there and all grown up.

Lingering Snow Goose at Springs Estate Pond

After getting our fix of city it was back out to the slope.  We decided to hike Welcome Springs Canyon which was wind free and a great hike to end the afternoon.  Birds were scarce, but a singing BLACK-THROATED GRAY-WARBLER was a new year bird, along with Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Bushtit.  The highlight of the trip came when I was watching the swifts and Violet-green Swallows dip and dive in the air above the canyon.  As I was looking up I noticed a very “blunt” looking hawk way up in the thermals.  When I got my binoculars on the birds I was stoked to see a dark adult BROAD-WINGED HAWK.  The only other spring Broad-winged I have seen in Utah was at Lytle Ranch less than 10 miles away--this same weekend in 2007.

Beautiful high flying dark BROAD-WINGED HAWK

We ended the day on the slope where Mockingbirds, CACTUS WRENS, Black-throated Sparrows, Ash-throated Flycatchers, and Western Kingbirds took turns singing for us.  While watching the sun dip over the desert a PRAIRIE FALCON let out a cackle and came curing past our campsite--a first for me on the slope.  It was a clear and calm night--great for camping in southern Utah.

Sunset on the Slope

Sunday morning we were up a little earlier, driving across the slope and adding a GRAY FLCYATCHER hanging out in a Joshua Tree.  Gambel’s Quail were everywhere, and flocks of BREWER’S SPARROWS were also on the move.  As we rolled into the ranch a CRISSAL THRASHER crossed the road.  This time I headed up ranch while Sam walked the dog down river.  It was calm near the camping area but windy in the orchard where I didn’t add any birds--but I did manage a sweet shot of a White-winged Dove.

White-winged Dove at Lytle Ranch

I guess it was an end of April trip though--as I ended up back at the campsite Rick Fridell was hanging out with his family at a camp site.  Rick had seen a handful of empids in the ranch but not much else.  I mentioned that I was surprised that I hadn’t seen or heard any Scott’s Orioles as they are usually quite prevalent by now.  He mentioned that he had heard one singing this morning nearby.  As I left I headed in that direction, and sure enough picked up the SCOTT’S ORIOLE for the trip--and the 3 Oriole Weekend.

Beaver Dam Creek in April

Sam and I headed to the river crossing where we added a couple more birds for the trip in FOY singing PLUMBEOUS VIREO and WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE.  After that we slowly made our way back into town stopping again at Utah Hill adding CASSIN’S KINGBIRD, Lark Sparrow, and Western Scrub-Jay for the trip.

Lark Sparrow at Utah Hill

After having lunch in town we swung by Quail Creek where one COMMON LOON and 5 RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS were both new year birds.  From there we hit the highway and headed north.  We stopped at Chicken Creek Reservoir in Juab County where waterfowl were out in force.  GREATER SCAUP, Bufflehead, and Common Goldeneye were all still present.  The lack of shorebirds was unusual for this date here--no phalarope, peeps, or dowitchers.  There were a few FRANKLIN’S GULLS on the lake as well a couple BONAPARTE’S GULLS.

We opted to skip I-15 through Utah County so we took the west side of Utah Lake.  Near Goshen we saw plenty of HORNED LARKS, and between Elberta and Saratoga Springs we picked up most of the usual raptors including: Red-tailed Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, Golden Eagle, Northern Harrier, and American Kestrel.

And just like that the weekend was over.  We tallied somewhere around 125 species in the 2 days.  That’s a little lower than normal as we didn’t pack as much birding into the weekend, and skipped out on any high elevation stuff. 150 species is about normal for this weekend.  Rick Fridell mentioned that last year they picked up 165 on their usual Washington County Big Day the last week of April.  If you’ve never been birding in Washington County this time of year, it’s a great time to go and well worth the drive.  It also takes care of having to wait for all those passerine migrants up here in the north!

Labels: , , , , ,

Nocturnal Migration April 27, 2012

posted by Tim Avery at
on Friday, April 27, 2012 

It's been a wild week of migration to say the least.  The beginning of the week saw our biggest flights of the year, while the middle of the week saw decent flights early in the evening that fizzled out shortly after midnight.  And last night put an exclamation on the week when migration was put to a halt by a large storm passing through northern Utah.

Let's talk about last nights storm:

This was taken just before 10pm as this massive cell passed over the lake.  For several hours it was very windy followed by the thunder, lightning, and then several hours of rain fall.  By about 3 am the storm was mostly cleared out, with the tail end to the east and north of the lake.

Quite the contrast to just a few hours earlier.  Had this storm come through a couple hours earlier or later, migration might have been a very different story last night.  I would expect things to start picking back up tonight, with decent movements as the weekend progresses.

The next three weeks will bring an onslaught of birds through our state as the height of passerine migration hits in mid May (or should hit in mid May).  Shorebird migration should start to slow down after this week.  Typically this last week of April brings in some of the best shorebirding of the year.  The past couple of years shorebird migration has peaked later into May providing great shorebirding through the middle of the month.  Based off current trends I would speculate this year will be more on par with the usual migration patterns and things should start to slow.

Labels: , , , ,

Nocturnal Migration April 24, 2012

posted by Tim Avery at
on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 

Last night was another superb night of migration over northern Utah.  The favorable conditions certainly are lending a hand to keeping things moving.  As I ogled the radar last night it was awesome to watch the stream of birds leaving the north end of the Great Salt Lake and heading off into Idaho.  Large numbers of birds in the 20-25 dBz level could be seen rising then heading north and dispersing.  Based off the density it is presumed that there are approximately 200-600 birds per km cubed where it reaches this amount of reflectivity. (via Clemson BirdRad).

I have put together an animation that starts at 9:00pm last night and lasts 90 minutes.  Check it out:

Just watch for the green to appear around 3:24 UTC and move northward till it blends into the blue around 4:02 UTC.  Pretty cool to see that high density of birds as they move north from the lake and north end of the Wasatch.

I expect there to be a fair number of new shorebird arrivals today given the movements last night.  Plus it's about time for some of the big waves of Yellow-rumped Warblers to be coming through as well.  Yesterday I had my first Yellow Warbler of the year as well as a Lazuli Bunting.  Reports of Bullock's Oriole, Thrushes, and other migrants have also been coming in.

Interestingly last night, I saw what was one of the coolest radar images I can remember.  It was the showing the entire US, and what was cool/odd about it was the fact that the Midwest was exploding with migrants, while the east half of the country looked just like the west half with very little showing up on the radar:

Typically this time of year the entire east looks like the Midwest, but last night migration in the east came to a crawling stop.  This could be in relation to the storm that passed through, but I'm not sure if that is the whole story seeing that everywhere from Florida norther to Maine, and the Carolina's west to Missouri were all effected.  In any event it made for a rather cool radar image--that makes me wish I were birding in Texas today!

Labels: , , , ,

Nocturnal Migration April 23, 2012

posted by Tim Avery at
on Monday, April 23, 2012 

If you were looking at the radar last night, you will probably agree that migration is definitely upon us.  It was the first night where we had a fairly decent number of birds moving across northern Utah.  Let's jump right into it and show a screen capture from a few minutes before midnight:

Although we are still on the lighter side of migration, this was by far the heaviest movement of the season mostly between 5-10 dBz.  If you look over the Wasatch range you can see some of the darker blue where there appears to be higher concentrations of birds.  Given that, today would probably be a good day to get out and check your local watering hole, patch of trees, or anywhere else where early songbird migrants, and right on schedule shorebird migrants might be.

Hopefully with a few more days of nice weather we can have a couple more nights like this before the coming storms slow things down.

Over the weekend migration was pretty light, but there was some interesting movement.  Of note was the fact that there was a stream of higher reflectivity over the Wasatch Mountains both Friday and Saturday Night.  In the image below (Saturday at 11:54pm) the area surrounded in yellow has a distinct north south line of blue.  The browns over most of the image are very low density objects--often associated with being insects, dust or other objects.

On both nights around 10pm the radar was a little more interesting when what appeared to be large numbers of birds leaving the north end of the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Range showed up on radar shortly disappearing to the north into Idaho.  Here is an animation from Friday Night between 9 and 10pm:

You can see at the beginning there isn't much happening then all of the sudden the top of the images is filled with blues and greens expanding northward.  By midnight things were rather slow and the radar looked very similar to the one from Saturday night.

Finally, on Thursday night migration in Utah was extremely slow.  I thought with the storms having passed things would pick up quickly--but it took a couple nights to get moving.  However, while we were having a slow night in Utah, that southeast United States was having what they would call a slower than average April night:

We can only dream of nights like that out west.  Happy Migration Everyone.

Labels: , ,

Nocturnal Migration April 19, 2012

posted by Tim Avery at
on Thursday, April 19, 2012 

Last night and the night before we were again treated to light migrant movement.  Storms came in across the lake both nights keeping the majority of birds either below the radar or completely out of the sky.  Two nights ago there were more birds in teh air than last night.  I put together this animation showing what happened between 8pm and 4am.  You can see migration pick up as the sunsets, but then it comes to a halt as the storm hits the lake.

The other cool thing you can see in this image is the storm coming in from the west form near nothing to completely filling half the screen.

These storms are certainly keeping the majority of migrants out of the sky at night--but that could all change this evening.  According to the Weather Service, the storms are supposed to push through the Wasatch Front today and tonight will be partly cloudy--followed by 3 mostly clear nights (and great nights for night migrant listening with temps in the 50's)... Plus, the next 4 nights also happen to center around the new moon.  There are potential ups and downs to this.  The plus side being that there has been evidence presented that the moon can interfere with with stellar navigation. So no moon may mean that more birds are out--although this is purely speculation and has no real science backing it up.  The major downside is that it makes it harder to find your way through the dark.  It also means that if you were planning on scoping the moon to try and watch for passing migrants, you can't.  No moon won't effect your ability to listen for night flight calls though!

On a side note, with the new moon being this week, that means that May 1st through May 15th will be nights filled with plenty of moon, so if you wanted to test out scoping the moon for passing migrants you could (I personally will be trying to pick up my first Flammulated Owl of the year I think!).

So above I mentioned scoping the moon, and some of you may be left scratching your heads.  I haven't really touched on this before, only because I have never had much luck with it, but many observers back east can attest to the fact that you can see migrants even a couple miles above the Earths surface passing in front of the moon.  I had a friend from Michigan who on multiple occasions shared stories of doing this from his yard.  I may give it a whirl here in a few weeks once the moon is out in full force again.  If any of you try please feel free to share your comments on the blog and let others know form where, what time, and what kinds of numbers you saw.

Anyways, back to the radar.  Last night was a far lighter night of migration than the previous night but still there were a few birds moving.  Something interesting that I noticed was the line of birds apparently over the Wasatch Range on the east side of the Great Salt Lake.

This is something that I have noticed in the past and appears to be pretty common during both the spring and the fall.  One assumption is that these could be sparrows, and other forest birds starting to arrive,  They could be wintering species heading back north.  Something that many wouldn't think of but makes a lot of sense right now would be migrating loons.  Possibly hundreds moving over the mountains right now as they head north to breed.  As you watch the radar the next couple of weeks look over the mountains and see if you notice any patterns.  As migration picks up it may be harder to actually pick this line up as there are going to be hundreds and thousands of birds up there.

Another reason I am pointing this out is that it may be worth your while to listen for night migrants at higher elevations.  A few years ago when Colby Neuman and I would listen for migrants around Salt Lake we tried a number of locations.  Almost always it was higher than the valley floors but not way up in the  mountains.  The hills above the State Capitol Building, and South Mountain were 2 places we tried.  Colby tried a few other high elevation areas, and I did a couple nights over 9000' feet in the Uintas.  The best night I had listening for migrants in Utah was at 9400' in August 2007 in the mountains south of Strawberry Reservoir.  Overall however it's always a mixed bag, or like Forrest Gumps mama always told him, "you never know what you're gonna get".

I will leave it at that for now, good luck listening for night migrants--let us know if you're hearing anything!

Labels: , , ,

Nocturnal Migration April 17, 2012

posted by Tim Avery at
on Tuesday, April 17, 2012 

This year I've decided to try and post about spring migration in Utah at least a couple times per week.  Most of what I am going to talk about is nocturnal migration by radar--with some followups of actual day time migration birding.  I will try to keep up with this until the end of May.  I decided to start in mid April because March and early April migration is so light.  Plus at this point we are getting in to heavier passerine migration.  So let's get started.

I have been periodically checking the radar the last couple weeks.  There hasn't been much in terms of birds moving, but there has been plenty of weather.  Last night was the first night over the last couple weeks where there were actually birds visible on the radar.  Below is a compilation of the previous 5 nights (April 12-16th):

The large masses are storm systems moving through late last week.  The two images with smaller masses are also weather, but much just small storm bands moving through the past few nights.

I was beginning to think I wasn't going to seen any migrants on the radar anytime soon--but last night that changed:

I added labels pointing out the birds on the radar and the weather.  If you want to learn more there are some links at the end of this post that go to past posts where I explain how to read the radar.

Migrants were light last night, but at least they appeared on the screen.  This image is from just before midnight--to be consistent over the next few weeks I will try to be consistent and use images from this same time frame.  However, if something cools shows up I will definitely show images for other times.

I also took a shot of the velocity screen to show something:

You can see that the birds in the center of the radar are headed due north at more than 10 knots, while the storm appears to be moving north east at about 5 to 10 knots (1 knot = 1.15077945 mph).

We can assume based off the radar that a few birds were trying to move north as the storm approached.  By 3am migration was all but over for the night as the storm hit the lake.  It's hard to say what types of birds these were, though given the timing shorebirds are likely.  Hopefully, in the coming days as the storms move out and better weather greets us, we can get a few nights with some heavier migration.  In a couple weeks it will be full on passerine migration and the radar images should be chock full of birds.

As I mentioned above here are some more resources for Nocturnal Migration and Birding by Radar:

Utah Birders Blog: Nocturnal Migration Part 1 - Introduction

Utah Birders Blog: Nocturnal Migration Part 2

Utah Birders Blog: Nocturnal Migration Part 3 - Base Reflectivity

And if you are interested in looking at the radar at night you can check it out here:

NEXRAD images from WSR-88D radars

and also here:

National Weather Service Radar

Labels: , , ,

Cooper's Hawk on OR birds

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Sunday, April 15, 2012 

Several people have asked me about this accipiter on the Oregon bird list, so I thought I'd just comment on the blog. And, if there are raptors being debated on local bird lines in the future, I may just do the same instead of giving my ID behind the scenes. This bird was photographed by Jack Williamson, a beautiful photo and great documentation. Here is the link to the photo, made public, so I'm assuming it is OK to post it here...but if not, I'll take the blame:

Click here to view the photo

This bird in question is absolutely an adult Cooper's Hawk for the following reasons:

- Very long tail with a broad, white tip.

- 'Large' head with blackish cap and contrasting pale nape (also smallish eye appearance). Sharp-shinned have blackish heads and napes that blend in with the upperback.

- Paler bluish upperside (as opposed to slaty) and grayish cheek make it a male (the reason it is more difficult to ID than if it were a female Coop). Many males in their first adult plumage have rufous cheeks...and this bird has hints of rufous and a pale eye (so, likely it is a bird in its first adult plumage, but not definite).

I am working on an article on this very subject, but too busy to get it together at the moment

Labels: ,

Nikon, Always Top Notch

posted by Tim Avery at
on Thursday, April 12, 2012 

It all ended with a smash!

What was left of my Nikon Sky & Earth after the fall

But let's rewind to May 2005 where it all began.  I had just graduated from college and was headed to Wyoming for my 3rd summer of field work with Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory.  For the previous 4 years I had fumbled around Wisconsin, Utah, Wyoming, Oregon, New Hampshire, Colorado, and various other states with a spotting scope that left a lot to be desired.  I don't remember the brand, but I remember the 20-40X50 power scope was a piece of junk--but a piece of junk a kid in college working part time on minimum wage could afford.  And that scope saw lots of birds.

Great Gray, Northern Hawk, and Snowy Owl had been viewed through that scope. Scarlet Tanagers, Blackburnian Warblers, and Veery had graced me with views through the glass.  For the $100 or so dollars I paid for that scope I got my moneys worth--but every opportunity I had to look through better scopes left me envious of what I didn't have.  So with college behind me, and an entire summer to spend hoofing around Wyoming I decided I needed to drop a little bit of money on a better scope.  I actually spent about a month trying to decide what to do.  I could afford something in the $300-500 range.  I wanted something in the $2000 range.  What I found at the time is there wasn't a whole lot in between those two that I saw value in--and there was no way I was going $2000 in to debt for a spotting scope.

So after going to Sportsman's Warehouse a 1/2 dozen times and looking through every scope under a grand, I chose a reliable brand that I had been using since I started birding a decade earlier--Nikon.  The 20-60x80 Nikon Sky & Earth was a beefy scope.  It came in a $549 and although a little bit out of my price range, it was well worth the price to move up from the scopes around $200.  When I got it into the field it made all the difference in the world.  Shorebirds, Gulls, Lark flocks, distant Waterfowl, Grebes, and Loons all were brought in much closer and clearer than previously.  It still wasn't anywhere near top of the line, but man was it an improvement, and it got some serious usage.

The Old Faithful Sky & Earth looking at Gulls

Fast Forward to the winter of 2011-2012 and you would still find me lugging the same Nikon Sky & Earth with me along the dikes at Farmington, across the landfill in Salt Lake looking at Gulls at Lee Kay, at the south shore hoping to turn up a Snowy Owl, and various other places.  This scope had like my previous scope seen a lot of birds.  During the Park City CBC the mounting bracket came off.  I "fixed" it with Super Glue, but it wasn't long before it came loose again--this time in the middle of a country road in Lehi, Utah.  I had turned my back to grab my camera when I heard the crash.  Turning back around I already knew what lay in wait.  The scope on the ground, obviously misshapen inside the scope case.  Picking it up I could tell it was in 3 or 4 pieces--The Sky & Earth had met it's maker.

But it wasn't the end of the road for my scope.  See Nikon has this wonderful 25 Year No Fault Warranty.  That is, Nikon will repair or replace any binocular or scope regardless of how it became damaged and all you have to do is cover shipping and handling plus a $10 fee.  It's a philosophy that has won over many customers, and one that many other optics companies have followed suit with.  Most of the top end companies already had a similar warranty, but Nikon was the first with affordable optics that I had heard of with such a deal.

In any event, I packed my scope back in it's original box, paid the $26 for shipping with insurance, and sent the scope back to Nikon.  10 days later, and $13 for shipping plus the $10 fee and I arrived home to a brand new spotting scope on my porch.  But there is a twist.  As with most optics, and a variety of other products on the planet, most years companies come out with new and better versions of the previous models.  The Sky & Earth had been abandoned just about the time I picked mine up--and Nikon was now into their 2nd version of the new line called the Prostaff.  They didn't send me the newest, but I did pick up the first version of a the Prostaff, a 20-60x82 scope with superior optics to the Sky & Earth, a more rugged build, and a very nice case.

New Nikon Prostaff 20-60x82

And just like that I should be set for another 7 or 8 years hopefully.  I gave the scope a quick test in my yard, scoping out the mountains about 2 miles to the east.

Looking east to the mountains

The view was amazing.  Clear, bright, and crisp.  I snapped a shot with my phone at 20x to show how nice the 2 mile distant peak looked through the scope.

Not a bad view at all

Today I plan on getting out in the field and actually trying it on some birds.  I can't praise Nikon enough for their customer service.  The level of quality provided, along with the coverage of products has made me a Nikon user for life.  The fact that $49 eight years later got me a new $549 scope seems unbelievable.  There just aren't that many business like that anymore

I would still love to go out and pick up a $4000 Nikon Edg Scope, but I don't see the benefit in it for me when I've got a great scope that gets the job done.  In birding it's not about having the best optics and the most expensive equipment.  It's about having the best optics that you can afford and make sense for you.  If you can afford the top of the line stuff, then absolutely go for it.  IF you can't there are a plethora of brands with great warranties that will get the job done and keep you happy for a long time.

So thank you Nikon for always being Top Notch.

Labels: , , ,

My Next Big Adventure: 3.5 Months in the Pribilof Islands

posted by Ryan O'Donnell at
on Saturday, April 7, 2012 

I recently accepted a summer job working as a tour guide, mostly for birders, on St. Paul Island in the Pribilofs!  This will be an amazing experience, and a nice paid "vacation" (although I'll be working a lot of hours), before I start a real career in the fall.

The Pribilofs are a small cluster of islands in the Bering Sea, between Alaska and Russia.  They are less than 200 miles from Russian waters and about as close to Russia as they are to Anchorage.  The Pribilofs are a popular destination for birders, for two reasons.  First, there are a lot of north Pacific/Bering Sea species that can only be seen in this area.  For example, Red-faced Cormorants, Steller's Eiders, Least Auklets, Crested Auklets, Parakeet Auklets, Thick-billed Murres, Tufted Puffins, Horned Puffins, Red-legged Kittiwakes, and McCay's Buntings all breed here.  Second, because the islands are so remote and so close to Asia, they are a likely spot to find lost Asian birds.  This is a big deal for North American birders who are trying to build their life lists, especially for those who are concerned with their American Birding Association (ABA), North American, or United States lists.  Some of the more regular Asian vagrants on these islands include Gray-tailed Tattler, Wood Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Slaty-backed Gull, and Eastern Yellow Wagtail.  But perhaps the biggest draw are the rarest birds: tours in previous years have found Brown Hawk-Owl, Gray Heron, Chinese Pond-Heron, Eurasian Hobby, Spotted Redshank, Great Knot, Solitary Snipe, Oriental Cuckoo, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Rufous-tailed Robin, Oriental Greenfinch, Hawfinch, and many more very rare species for North America, and you never know what might turn up here next.  To see the complete list, click here.

If birds aren't your thing, there's still plenty to see on the island.  The Pribilofs were once known as the "Seal Islands" because of the large colonies of Northern Fur Seals that breed there.  Walruses can be seen here, more rarely.  A feral herd of reindeer now roam the island.  The Pribilof Island Shrew lives only on St. Paul Island, where I'll be, and nowhere else in the world.  There is an island subspecies of Arctic Fox that is very common there.

If you are interested in visiting the island, you can go with any of several tour companies, but I'll be working for St. Paul Island Tours.  I hope to see you there!

Parakeet Auklets on St. Paul Island, in the Pribilofs.  Parakeet Auklets are one of the specialty species of the Bering Sea and they can be seen breeding on the cliffs around the island.  Photo by Francesco Veronesi and available through Creative Commons license.
Arctic Fox pup on St. Paul Island.  These adorable canids are common throughout the island.  Photo by "im me" and available through Creative Commons license.
Brown Hawk-Owl, photographed somewhere in Asia.  A Brown Hawk-Owl found on St. Paul Island in 2007 was the first record for North America.  Photo by Andy Li and available through Creative Commons license.

Because my posts for the summer will be consistently off-topic for a Utah blog, I'll probably be posting at my own personal blog and not here for that period.  If you're interested in reading about my adventures in the Bering Sea, watch my other blog: 200Birds.

Labels: , , ,

A Few More Finished Drawings

posted by Tim Avery at
on Sunday, April 1, 2012 

Nothing like a rainy day to finish up a couple of the drawings I started in the past week.  I wrapped up the Golden Tanager this morning:

This afternoon and evening I dove into the details on the Bearded Mountaineer.  It was 100's of strokes for the feathers, but it was worth it, turning out nicely:

Next Up:  Gilded Barbet, Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Paradise Tanager, and Golden-collared Tanager.  I also have a few more hummingbirds I want to work on, and plenty of tanagers I will get to.  Not to mention the Fruiteaters, Aracaris, and Parrots.  

Labels: , , , ,