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a blog by and for Utah Birders

Utah Birders 2013 Year in Review

posted by Tim Avery at
on Tuesday, December 31, 2013 

Without further ado, here it is! Click to view full size!

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Bilsky's 2013 Highlights

posted by Jeff Bilsky at
on Monday, December 30, 2013 

A few years ago I started making highlight reels of all the pictures and videos I'd taken during that given calendar year at the conclusion of December. It's a way for me to relive the memories by going through all my pictures, and also, to finally get around to sharing some of the great sights I hadn't posted yet. This is by far the longest one I've made, which is a reflection of both how much fun I had in 2013 and also the fact that I bought a new camera in mid 2012 (The Nikon P510). It's a decidedly cheesy endeavor, but one that I admit I thoroughly enjoy doing. I hope that for some of you, this may bring back your own 2013 memories, and also perhaps inspire some goals for 2014. Personally, I hope to get to the Uinta Mountains more next year as many of my favorite 2013 pictures and memories are from just 2 visits there. All of these pictures and videos are from Utah except the very last one, which is from Chicago a couple of days ago. At times my excitement outweighs my steadiness or focus savvy, which will be evident in some of these, but I hope you enjoy nonetheless. I'm grateful for all the new faces and friends I've met this past year (as well as the familiar ones) and look forward to seeing you all out in the field in 2014. Thanks and good birding... BILSKY

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Goshawk Refresher

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Saturday, December 28, 2013 

Posted on http://jerryliguori.blogspot.com

My original post on this subject had lots of nice color photos of Goshawks, and the B&W composite below, and I thought to myself -- why am I showing these color photos when the composite is the only thing I want to show? Goshawks are easy to identify in pictures showing all the field marks, but in the field with less than ideal views…maybe not so easy? Knowing how to identify Goshawks in flight is absolutely a matter of experience, there is no trick -- the more you see and study, the more familiar you become with them! But knowing the key ID traits helps speed the learning process.

The absolute #1 thing to look for is the shape of the wings. Goshawks have broad wings that taper toward the tips, and in some poses look like "broad-winged falcons", but in a soar show a nice angle where the base of the wings meet the hands. The tail is always long giving it that classic accipiter look! Adults are shorter-tailed but still look like the classic accipiter in most poses. The other trait that is important is the way they flap. Goshawks can flap their wings confusingly quickly (often smaller males), or labored and somewhat slowly (often larger females), but the wing beats are not snappy and weak (like Sharpy) or stiff (like Cooper's), but "fluid". I'm not going to say tail shape is useless, but it is far less helpful when separating them from Cooper's Hawks. Both can appear as "broad-tailed" as the other, but Goshawks vary more in regards to tail tip shape (rounded, squared, or wedged). Goshawks often appear slightly smaller-headed than large Cooper's Hawks, but male Cooper's Hawks after look tiny-headed.

Anyway, wing shape and wing beat are the keys to Goshawk ID in flight with less than ideal views! And here's a color photo of the juvenile plumage for those who want to file it.

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My 2013 Year of Birding

posted by Tim Avery at
on Friday, December 27, 2013 

In just a few days 2013 will come to a close--another year, another batch of birding memories.  For me 2013 was an excellent and memorable year.  I made my first trips to several continents and a handful of countries.  I saw lots of birds, lots of endemic birds, and lots of life birds!   Instead of rambling on with a blog post, I thought I would share my year of birding via an infographic:

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2013 Park City CBC Recap

posted by Tim Avery at
on Thursday, December 26, 2013 

Saturday, December 21st, the Utah Birders held our 3rd Annual Park City CBC.  This year 9 birders took part during the blustery winter day in Park City and unofficially tallied 52 species.  The day started with the group meeting first thing at Kneader’s in Newpark for a little breakfast, before we split into groups and headed out to scour the 8 sections of the count.  Four teams comprised of 2’s or 3’s headed out to the 4 main quadrants--City, Mountain, Canyon, and Lake to get the day started.

The Lakes

Kenny Frisch and I took the lakes portion of the count, which is mostly spent scanning the hopefully open water of the 2 reservoirs that lie in the count circle.  We started the day off taking I-80 east to Wanship to check the Weber River below Rockport Reservoir.  In Wanship a TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE was perched in the tallest pine in town.  At the river were numerous AMERICAN ROBINS and a few MALLARDS, but no other waterbirds.  3 MUSKRAT were sitting out in the open, while a BALD EAGLE flyby provided excellent looks.

Bald Eagles were prevalent this year on the count

From Wanship we headed towards Rockport where we had a NORTHERN SHRIKE just below the dam.  The reservoir was frozen solid so no waterbirds.  At the inlet we picked up an AMERICAN DIPPER, and a small flock of CANADA GEESE were the only for the count.  Above the reservoir we saw several BALD EAGLES along the river.

American Dipper at Rockport

Next we headed over to Jordanelle to scan the north arm--if it were open.  Luckily it was and there were a number of waterbirds present.  Plenty of COMMON GOLDENEYE and COMMON MERGANSER.  Several GADWALL, LESSER SCAUP, and BUFFLEHEAD along with the usual Mallards rounded out our waterfowl effort.  We scored three species of Grebe with 5 WESTERN, a PIED-BILLED, and the best bird of the day, 2 very late HORNED GREBES.

Terrible record shot of 2 Horned Grebe at Jordanelle

The fog and snow made it difficult to san everything very well, but we figured we covered most of what was expected.  We were done with the lake pretty early, so headed over to Deer Valley Resort to check the ponds where a pair of BARROW’S GOLDENEYE were present with a Common Goldeneye and pair of Ring-necked Ducks.  We decided to run through South Snyderville Basin to check the warm springs, adding GREEN-WINGED TEAL to the count for the day. With some time left we made a quick drive north to The Preserve, but didn’t add any birds--just a couple of bull ELK.

Rocky Mountain Elk at the Preserve

The City

Alex Peterson recaps the city portion of the count:

We left the morning rendezvous point and headed east along the I-80 frontage road (Highland Dr) and the Swaner Preserve watching the posts for raptors.  Right before we reached the Old Ranch Road turn, we were rewarded with an AMERICAN KESTREL swooping down on a vole and then enjoying its earned breakfast on a post right next to the road.  An amazing start to our Park City CBC--which we only captured with memories.  We then headed along Old Ranch Road, turning into the Trailside Drive neighborhood to observe some feeders.  Many feeders were empty or frozen over; but we found three terrific feeders that were a hot bed of activity.  Besides the innumerable doves and starlings, we were rewarded with both MOUNTAIN and BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES.  We also counted some Mallards in the neighborhood ponds.  Despite the usual odd looks from the locals, we braved onward especially after one gentleman rewarded us with a vigorous #1 sign with his middle finger.  With that encouragement, we then headed past Trailside Park and over into the Silver Summit area neighborhoods.  Again, many empty feeders, but those that had seed not only rewarded the birds, but also us with plenty of activity.

Heading back to Old Ranch Road we crept slowly along counting the water birds (mostly Mallards, but also American Coot, RING-NECKED DUCK, and the only AMERICAN WIGEON of the count.  We also found a number of raptors including RED-TAILED and ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS on posts in the preserve.  Following Old Ranch Road to the end (and counting the chickadees on the way), we entered into the neighborhoods of Southwest Snyderville.  Regretfully only a couple of feeders in this area, but we continued to count the doves, magpies, starlings, robins, and mallards.  To finish our morning, we entered into the Canyon Resorts neighborhoods where we were rewarded with a WESTERN SCRUB-JAY and a friendly Canyon employee who kindly shared his diverse vocabulary and hand gestures when he was momentarily delayed by our bird counting efforts.  Not to end on a disparaging note, we also counted a BELTED KINGFISHER calmly perched alongside Hwy 224 by St. Mary's as well as a GREAT BLUE HERON.

The Mountains

Stephanie Dolmat-Connell and her husband Conor participated in their first ever Park City Christmas Bird Count (second CBC overall).   Recap from Stephanie:

We were given the mountain region and were tasked with finding as many species of birds as possible.  This sounds like a manageable task until you consider that we are fairly amateur birders that still have to reassure each other that we are, in fact, looking at a bird and not a bird stick or a bird tree or a bird rock.  But we set off determined to do all we could in the name of citizen science.  We headed first to Summit Park to see the infamous feeder off of Matterhorn Drive.  The owners of these several feeders, which gave me several ideas for my own yard, were very nice and even put out peanuts to bring in the STELLER’S JAY, among DOWNY and HAIRY WOODPECKERS, a NORTHERN FLICKER, both Mountain and Black-Capped Chickadees,CASSIN’S FINCHES, PINE SISKIN, and DARK-EYED JUNCOS.

Steller's Jay from the mountain section of the count.

We moved on to Pinebrook and found one friendly Chicago couple with several feeders with more siskins and finches, but not much else movement.  Driving by Utah Olympic Park gave us our three raptors of the day, including a ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK and a SHARP-SHINNED HAWK along with an American Kestrel.  Moving southward on 224 to the golf course gave us some American Coots and some Common Goldeneyes.  All in all, we saw 18 different species and had a fun time reassuring each other that a robin was a robin and that we'll get better at IDing in the future.  Thanks to the crew for helping us with IDs and for a great morning of birding.

Rough-legged Hawk from the Mountain section.

The Canyons

The canyons group covered the area north of I-80, which this year didn't turn up a lot of birds.  In 2012 the feeders in the neighborhoods in this area produced some great finds--but with a typical winter it was quiet on the canyons front.

The afternoon...

After the morning we met at the Cafe Rio in Newpark to look over checklists and see what we had missed in the morning.  Several participants had to take off, so we regrouped and as one large team decided to head back to Jordanelle where hopefully with more visibility we could find a few more species of waterbird.

As we approached the entry station, a COYOTE ran across the road in front of us and then along side.  The 4th mammal species of the day

Coyote at Jordanelle

Scanning the north arm from the parking area, we didn’t add any new birds but did find a 3 HORNED GREBE, and a BARROW’S GOLDENEYE we had missed here earlier.  Alex spotted a pair of BALD EAGLES  in the trees on a far beach that no one else was even scanning, upping our total for the day.

Kenny scoping at Jordanelle

From the reservoir, we headed north into the developments on the northwest side of the lake.  There was a pond here we were alerted to by Nate who had seen good birds here in previous years.  On the way we had a mixed flock of RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS and AMERICAN ROBINS, that also included one BREWER’S BLACKBIRD.  Along the road everyone in the group got great looks at our 2nd NORTHERN SHRIKE of the day.

Scoping at Jordanelle

At the entrance to the development we had a good view of a sliver of the reservoir that was open but had ice around the edge connected to the main body of the lake.  2 BALD EAGLES were sitting on the ice and in a tree here, while a huge flock of waterfowl sat in the small opening of water.  Scanning through them revealed 2 NORTHERN SHOVELERS, new for the day.  While we were there a flock of CEDAR WAXWING flew by, another new species for the day.

We made our quick stop at the pond Nate told us about, but didn’t add anything new for the day.  We headed back towards Park City--at the Silver Summit Exit, Kenny spotted 2 GOLDEN EAGLES in the distance, and the underpass housed a few ROCK PIGEONS.  We headed towards Pinebrook to check a  feeder out that Stephanie had told us about at lunch.  The feeder had both PINE SISKIN and CASSIN’S FINCH when we arrived, but not much else.  To end the day we headed to the feeders at the south end of Matterhorn in Summit Park.

Driving into Summit Park

As usual the birds were flocking.  New for the day was a calling RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, and we did get “Oregon”, “Pink-sided” and “Slate-colored” Dark-eyed Juncos.  While we watched a new count bird flew over in a pair of CLARK’S NUTCRACKERS.  In all 6 ended up passing over while we watched.

As the count came to an end we all parted ways, excited about what we might be able to do next year in expanding the count and upping participation.  Our obscure count nestled in Summit and Wasatch County has a lot of possibilities--but it needs some love from the birding and local community to really help it grow.  We were excited to have 4 locals take part this year and share their knowledge of the area--if we can double that next year 60 species for the count could be a real possibility.

As usual we had our miss list, which includes some shockers:  Song Sparrow was perhaps the biggest miss, while White-crowned Sparrow still eludes us for the count.  No Ruby-crowned Kinglets or Yellow-rumped Warblers.  No Western Meadowlarks, and again no game birds.  No California Gulls, no owls of any kind, and no Killdeer or Snipe.  

Thanks to Connor and Stephanie Dolmat-Connell, Alex Peterson, Nate Brown, Sarah Crane, Jeff Bilsky, Kenny Frisch, and Carl Ingwell for helping make this count a success again.  As long as we keep hitting 50 species a year, I think we’re doing pretty good!

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Exquisite Harlan's Red-tail!

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Sunday, December 22, 2013 

Brian Sullivan passed these photos on to me of a bird found by Robert McMorran thinking I'd like to see them….and all I have to say is "WOW."

Check out this gorgeous juvenile Harlan's Red-tail that Robert photographed (click photos to enlarge). The topside plumage is intricate, just a great looking bird and an excellent example of another variation in the endless variation of Red-tailed Hawks! I have seen a few with heavily "spangled" topsides (below) but none with quite so much as this. Anyway, thought I'd share it with Robert's permission, thanks Robert!

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"Eye spots" on hawks

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Friday, December 20, 2013 

Certain birds are known to have "eye-spots" on the back of their head, especially a few species of hawk and owl. I've heard several reasons why some birds have them, but would like to hear what others think about their function or purpose?

And, don't identify hawks by this trait alone…several of them can show it. It was believed years ago that it was a good trait for perched Rough-legged Hawks (below), but I have seen too many Red-tails (below) and a few other buteos show this. These are just a few examples, including this male Harrier (below) with a neat pattern they typically show. These spots on hawks don't really resemble eyes, but just wanted to make a point.

 Rough-legged Hawk

 Red-tailed Hawk

 Northern Harrier

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Top Ten Utah Birds pt. 2 - The Top 10

posted by Unknown at
on Thursday, December 12, 2013 

Now for the top ten!!

As a reminder, we had 63 participants which made a good enough sample size for us to be really excited about how it turned out. 174 different bird species were represented across the many lists. The variety was fun to see.

Scoring was done by giving a first place vote ten points. The second place vote received 9 points and a third place vote 8 points. All the way down to a tenth place vote receiving 1 point. If there was a tie then the bird with more total votes was bumped up.

And the top ten birds of Utah are...

#10 - Peregrine Falcon

"I started with 35 and had to beat it down to 10. Not easy! Then to put them in order. So not easy!"

• • •

#9 - American Kestrel

• • •

#8 - Greater Sage-Grouse
by Tim Avery

"Just about all my species were lifers for me after I moved out to Utah two years ago and most of them are found in habitats that were new to me before I moved to Utah, whether it be pinyon-juniper, sagebrush, desert or mountains. My top 3 are birds that are only found in a handful of states which makes them even more special.  Gunnison Sage-grouse is very range restricted and only found in Utah and Colorado. To see several of them on lek was an experience I will never forget."

• • •

#7 - American White Pelican

• • •

#6 - Black Rosy-Finch
by Tim Avery

• • •

#5 - Bald Eagle
by Shyloh Robinson

"Because I lived in the midwest previously and didn't have experience with many birds of Utah, many common birds here caught my eye  and that is reflected on my top 10. All of the birds are specifically found in the western part of the country except the bald eagle which I added because of the great numbers it gathers in here, especially at Farmington Bay. I think that the eagle is a great representative for Utah because although Utah doesn't have any bird specific to the state, Utah has many unique habitats and populations of birds, the Bald Eagles at Farmington being a great example"

• • •

#4 - Red-tailed Hawk

• • •

#3 - Flammulated Owl
by Tim Avery

• • •

#2 - American Avocet

"I have seen some rare ones in Utah, but to me this list represents what Utah birding is about and what people who come from other areas want to see.  The avocet is just so Iconic to me, that is why I put it #1.  None of these are rare by any means but to me what makes Utah birding so great."

• • •

And the #1 bird...........

#1 - Western Tanager

"I still remember the first Western Tanager I saw in real life.  I remember months before flipping through the field guide as I had just gotten into birding and thinking, wow, this is an incredible bird--it was instantaneously my favorite.  There is not a summer hike in the mountains of Utah where the two-note call of the Western Tanager or i's melodious song isn't heard.  When you see one it's an unforgettable experience for the birder and non-birder alike.  The flaming face and bright yellow body make it undeniably the quintessential Utah Bird."

• • •

I am not a statistics major so I apologize for any flaws in my logic but I thought it would be nice to give some additional stats.

Given the previously described point system here is how the top ten fared:

# Species Points %
1.Western Tanager 166 26.3%
2.American Avocet 130 20.6%
3.Flammulated Owl 107 16.9%
4.Red-tailed Hawk 86 13.7%
5.Bald Eagle 82 13.0%
6.Black Rosy-Finch 80 12.7%
7.American White Pelican 71 11.3%
8.Greater Sage Grouse 63 10.0%
9.American Kestrel 62 9.8%
10.Peregrine Falcon 59 9.4%

Percentages are based against a highest possible score not against the total points. Thus percentages will not add up to 100% but instead reflect percentage of a perfect score. For example if all 63 lists had Western Tanager as there first place bird then it could score 630 out of a possible 630.

Top ten Utah birds based on number of votes:

# Species Points %
1.Western Tanager 24 38.1%
2.American Avocet 21 33.3%
3.Flammulated Owl 15 23.8%
4.Bald Eagle 13 20.6%
5.Red-tailed Hawk 12 19.0%
6. American White Pelican 12 19.0%
7. Greater Sage Grouse 12 19.0%
8. Black Rosy-Finch 10 15.9%
9.American Kestrel 9 14.3%
10.Lazuli Bunting 9 14.3%

Percentage based on the number of lists that had the species in there top ten.

Top ten Utah birds based on the number of 1st place votes:

# Species 1st place Votes
1.American Avocet 6
2.Western Tanager 4
3.Black Rosy-Finch 4
4.Red-tailed Hawk 3
5.Greater Sage Grouse 3
6.Peregrine Falcon 3
7.Bald Eagle 2
8.American White Pelican 2
9.American Kestrel                      2
10.Golden Eagle                     2

Birds of prey made a huge showing on almost every ones list, in fact 23% of the total votes:

Family Votes Points
Owls44 271
Hawks 44 222
Falcons 22 166
Eagles 20 138
TOTAL 130 Votes 797 Points

The Corvids also made a solid showing at 4% of the total vote:

Corvids Votes Points
TOTAL 25 Votes 138 Points

Thanks again for every ones participation!

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Juvenile Harrier Eyes

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 

In regards to Harrier eye color and plumages, I was asked about juveniles, so I thought I'd put up some pics to show the differences. First of all, it has been proposed or talked about for years that juvenile males and females have a slight difference in plumage, but for the most part this is not true. The plumages overlap greatly; there might be a slight difference on average, but it is unreliable to sex juveniles based on body plumage alone. I won't even say what those differences could be, because it would be misleading more than helpful to the birding community, and too often I hear field marks perpetuated that are absolutely false (another post I should write). Here is a link to the post I am referring:


Anyway, juvenile males have yellowish eyes, and juvenile females have brown eyes. Sometimes, juvenile males show a bluish-yellow eye, or even brownish-yellow. Hawk banders know this stuff. Here are some examples below that will help you identify photos of juveniles, of course, noting eye color in the field can be extremely difficult. And remember, fairly streaked juvenile males with yellow eyes can be confused for adult females, so check your photos!

  Juvenile Female

Juvenile Female

  Juvenile Male

  Juvenile Male

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Top Ten Utah Birds pt. 1 - The Runners Up

posted by Unknown at

The top ten are in, thank you for everyone who participated. We had 63 entries which made a good enough sample size for us to be really excited about how it turned out. 174 different bird species were represented across the many lists. The variety was fun to see.

Scoring was done by giving a first place vote ten points. The second place vote received 9 points and a third place vote 8 points. All the way down to a tenth place vote receiving 1 point. If there was a tie then the bird with more total votes was bumped up.

There were so many good birds that did not make the top ten but deserve a mention that I decided to give 20-11 first.  Here are the good birds that didn't quiet make the final ten, along with some of the things everyone said about the birds they chose and why.

#20 - Steller's Jay

"Our neighborhood scrub jays rule the feeders, scare away the cats and scream at me to hurry up loading the feeders.  It's a tossup whether the raccoon that vandalize the yard by night or the jays by day are the more arrogant.  I miss the Steller's Jay--I haven't seen them down in the valleys in years."

• • •

#19 - Western Scrub-Jay
by Shyloh Robinson

"Having spent my first 37 years in The Great Northwest, and not actively birding, I figured the list of Utah birds and my favorite birds wouldn't be hard to separate.  I have seen the vast majority of my favorites here.  But as I started paring down I realized that although they aren't my all-time favorites the finished product are birds that ""feel"" Utah to me.  Birds like the Red-Winged Blackbird and the Western Meadowlark who in a few notes ground me solidly in my new home. I can't imagine a spring without their soul stirring songs.  The Common Raven, a bird more common in forested mountains back in Seattle is suddenly seen everywhere here.  A clear indication that I truly am in a new place - the Ravens outnumber Crows.  There are birds that I had no idea existed and would never have known, except that I was trying to learn about this new environment.  The Northern Harrier, and Common Nighthawk will always be Utah to me because it was here I discovered them first.  After a few accidental discoveries I started to seek specific birds out.  The American Kestrel was my first true goal.  A few amazing experiences with this bird locked it into my heart forever.  Then the Mountain Bluebird!  Dreams of childhood were fulfilled when I saw my first ""true"" bluebird!  As a small child in Seattle I called Stellars Jay's ""bluebirds"". After being informed of my mistake I spent the next 30 years hoping to see a ""real"" one.  Altamont Utah poured flocks of bluebirds into my world.  The Tundra Swan.  Magnificence personified.  One of the few beings that make hard winters not just tolerable - but anticipated eagerly.  I believe this may be the most uplifting bird I have ever experienced.  The feeling of gratefulness upon seeing flocks of swans, and the spiritual lift they give with their hardiness and beauty is unmatched in this world."

• • •

#18 - Black-capped Chickadee

"I'm a CA transplant (6+ years) and these are the birds that, to me, epitomize my birding experience in UT. These are the "reliable" birds I'm always happy to see (well, maybe not always the Magpies!). My favorite would, of course, be last year's SNOW in Cache Co, but not really a Utah bird."

• • •

#17 - Black-billed Magpie

"What a hard list to create, a list that could alter tomorrow, but that is finally an amalgam of birds loved because of familiarity or accumulated memories or their particular subtle beauty, loved because they tug at my heartstrings in some known and yet unfathomable way. Robins lead my list in part because their quality of "commonness" has made them only more precious to me. I listen for robin calls throughout the winter, when so many other birds are absent or silent. I follow their voices to the big blue spruce up the street where I watch them join chickadees and juncos, waxwings and finches, deep inside the branches of their nightly roost--a chatter of sounds as birds arrive, a talking tree that falls silent as the birds settle into the cold and darkness. I listen for their early morning singing in the spring, when I think of them as my matins singers. I love their evensong, as they sing into the twilight, an avian vespers to end the day. They add delight to my days, connecting me to wonder, and they speak to the sky of the holiness of wild things--all because they are robins and they do robin things."

• • •

#16 - Eared Grebe
by Shyloh Robinson

"When I think of Utah birds on a broad scale, two major habitats come to mind: Great Basin and Colorado Plateau. Birds...Black-necked Stilt is a common Utah bird, especially on the GSL. And the Black Rosy-Finch is about as close as Utah has to an endemic species. Of course I could have added another 2-3 dozen species that are common/characteristic to Utah. Fun to think about."

• • •

#15 - Canyon Wren
by Tim Avery

"Although these birds occur across the western US and are common, when I think of birds in UT, I think of these birds, because they are either frequent visitors to my yard or because I associate them with AI and the AIC, which is one of my very favorite places.  I love going to AI in February to listen to the Meadowlarks sing.  It is such a lovely break from the dregs of winter.  There are many others that belong on this list too... Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Northern and Loggerhead Shrikes, Snowy Plovers, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Marsh Wrens, Sage Thrush, California Quail...... the list could just go on and on and on.  We are so very fotunate to have the diversity of species we have in UT."

• • •

#14 - Mountain Bluebird

"Ranking is difficult because the best birds change for me depending on where I'm birding and who I'm introducing to birding in Utah. I tried to simplify this by ranking birds based on what someone from the eastern half of the US might see as a "western" or "Utah" bird. My list will likely be different every time I'm asked. I'm very interested in seeing the results."

• • •

#13 - Ferruginous Hawk
"The State is dominated by the Great Salt Lake and it's surrounding habitat. This is why my list is heavy with waterfowl and shorebirds. 75% of the world's population of Cinnamon Teal nest in the Great Basin and over 45% of North America's Pintails migrate through. The reason Chukar in #1 is that most birders you run into while out of state always ask about the Chukar. It is the Utah bird that is tops in their mind, it's the one they feel Utah is the best chance of adding it to a life-list. The southern Utah specialties are from too small of an area."

• • •

#12 - Golden Eagle

"We found a Golden Eagle nest and watched it for a couple of months until the two eggs hatched, and then as the two eaglets grew up. The greatest sight was watching the four Golden Eagles flying free across the desert and safe at the end of the nesting season. We spotted a Prairie Falcon swoop and dive to get a meal once out in the desert. It was the year of the Western Tanager invasion. The falcon got one in an explosion of yellow and orange feathers. We scoped it as it ate its meal. It was raw nature at its finest.

• • •

#11 - Lazuli Bunting

When I asked my birding instructor to name his favorite bird, he replied "I can't do that, but I can tell you that that bird is in my top 500."  It has become my favorite response when asked the same question.  On that note and as a part-time Utah resident, my list includes birds that my visitors would want to see--for the most part, birds that can't be easily found in the eastern part of the country.  An exception is the Wilson's Snipe.  Normally elusive, I love to see them perched on fence posts in Heber and Kamas in the summer.
Whew, that was hard. I finally ended up listing the ones who come before my eyeballs the most, with a million other ones left off of the list, and no nods to the everyday birds like Magpie, Crow, Robin, Starling, etc. When I think of Utah, I think first of the birds of prey.

Top Ten soon to come! Sorry you will have to be patient.

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Birding Africa Conclusion - Aftermathrica

posted by Tim Avery at
on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 

a.k.a. The Aftermath of Africa...

The last morning in Africa, was going to be the start of a very very long day.  I woke to my alarm at 5:00am to get dressed and meet up with Alan to hike onto the island just off the property on the Zambezi River.  We were going to try for Pel’s Fishing Owl one last time.  It was just getting light enough to see when we headed to the river, crossing the mostly dry north channel to the island.  It was a rather quiet morning--not a lot of birds singing, and not much wildlife around, besides the WHITE-CROWNED LAPWINGS making a racket along the shore...

White-crowned Lapwing on the rocks on the Zambezi

On the island we hadn’t gone too far when we came over a small rise and we caught some movement going into the bushes ahead.  Alan wasn’t sure, but thought they might have been AFRICAN CLAWLESS OTTERS.  We cut around the hill where the bushes were hoping to cut whatever it was off on the other side--but once there nothing came out.  We headed back around to where we first were and as we got there, we saw, them, an adult and young otter heading back through the puddle they’d been at, towards the river.

African Clawless Otters running towards the water

I hadn’t expected to be taking photos so my camera was not in the best mode for low light shooting--I snapped about 20 pictures as the two animals leapt and bound up and over another small hill and out of sight.  The pictures I got weren’t great, but were still cool--seeing these otters out of water is a bit of a treat I guess.

African Clawless Otters making their getaway

I won’t spend any more time on what we saw on the island--because it wasn’t much.  The loop we made was much like the one several days earlier--and we didn’t find the owl.  There were a couple VERREAUX’S EAGLE-OWLS around, but no Pel’s.  My 3rd international trip where I missed my #1 target bird--damn!  But such is birding--and as I always say, it just means I have to go back!

Not a Pel's--but a Verreaux's Eagle-Owl at Bushbuck

As we headed back towards the mainland, I spotted a hawk perched in a tree on the far west end of the island--I wasn’t sure what it was, but Alan thought it might be a LIZARD BUZZARD.  It was a beautiful little hawk and I enjoyed watching it for a few minutes before we finally left.  We later checked the guides and confirmed that it was a Lizard Buzzard.

The last lifer of the trip, a Lizard Buzzard at Bushbuck

Back at the house Sam was already awake and packing--my queue to do the same.  We had a couple hours to just relax before heading to the airport, and just spent it on the porch enjoying our last bit of the bush.  A little before noon we were ushered back to Livingstone and parted ways with Alan. 3 flights and 36 hours later we were on the ground in Salt Lake.  The adventure was over… or so we thought.

The runway at the Livingtone Airport as we left...

About a week after getting home, the tickle in my throat turned into a full fledged sore throat, and I was out of work sick for 3 days plus a weekend.  When I finally started feeling a little better I went back to work, only to have a rash develop on my feet and legs.  I had been home 13 days which is right about the average incubation time for a number of diseases you can pick up in Africa--I immediately headed to the doctor.  The rash wasn’t some crazy African disease, but he didn’t know what it was--I was diagnosed with Pneumonia, and the doctor figured the rash was related in some capacity.  I had gotten sick on my Pelagic trip , and the shark diving the following day only exacerbated things.  Once back in Utah things just went south real quick.  I visited a specialist who misdiagnosed my rash which only got worse over the following week.  I went through a round of tests, and they took a biopsy.  This revealed that I actually had a very bad strain of strep--which a rapid strep test missed before--the strep caused the rash and all the dots were connected.

Since then I spent the better part of a month house ridden--and now over two months after returning home am still dealing with the remnants of the illness-which the doctor said could last up to 6 months.

The Boabab, an icon of the horizon in Africa

After all was said and done its apparent that I could have gotten sick and had the same thing happen at home--but the root cause was the two ocean activities in the south Atlantic.  Needless to say the aftermath of the trip hasn’t been too fun--but the trip was one for the ages--a trip of a lifetime that I would do over and over and over if I could.  Africa is one of those places I suggest every birder go at some point in their life--save for it, plan it out and just go--you won’t regret it--I don’t!

Leopard outside Olifants on a night Safari drive

Every trip has highs and lows, and if you’ve read my series on Africa you have heard both sides--the highs obviously made up about 99% of the commentary.  Africa is an amazing continent--in less than 3 weeks I saw over 350 new species of birds, around 50 species of mammals, Great White Sharks, a number of reptiles, and some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world.  The sunrises and sunsets on a daily basis in Africa were spectacular to say the least.

Sunset at Skukuza Camp on our first night of Safari

I’d always wanted to go to Africa, but never imagined it would happen so early in life.  One thing that I have learned traveling the last few years is that if you really want to go somewhere, you can work to make it happen.  I won’t drone on about the trip anymore, I think the posts cover that enough.  Hopefully, if you are planning to go, or wanting to go to Africa, these posts were helpful in one way or another.  Below are all my posts in order for easy access:

Birding Africa pt. 1 - Via France
Birding Africa pt. 2 - JoBurg, Airport Game Lodge
Birding Africa pt. 3 - Welcome to Kruger National Park
Birding Africa pt. 4 - Skukuza Camp & Lake Panic
Birding Africa pt. 5 - The Heart of Kruger Park
Birding Africa pt. 6 - Olifants & Letaba
Birding Africa pt. 7 - Exit From Kruger
Birding Africa pt. 8 - Kurisa Moya Nature Lodge
Birding Africa pt. 9 - Ga-Mailula to Sterkfontein
Birding Africa pt. 10 - Cape Town & Robben Island
Birding Africa pt. 11 - Cape Town Pelagic
Birding Africa pt. 12 - Great Whites & Jackass Penguins
Birding Africa pt. 13 - Cape Point, Kirstenbosch, & Rondevlei
Birding Africa pt. 14 - The Bushbuck River House, Zambia
Birding Africa pt. 15 - Victoris Falls & The Zambezi River
Birding Africa pt. 16 - Chobe River & National Park, Botswana

And the posts I wrote before the trip:

My Next Great Birding Adventure...
South Africa: My Top 25 List - part 1 of 2
South Africa: My Top 10 List - part 2 of 2

After we were back home, we both longed to be back in Africa--there is just something about a place that wild that tugs at your soul.  We actually thought about going back next year, and just going to Botswana, cutting out layovers in France, and anything no wildlife related.  But it looks like that’s on hold as I have to go to Belize and India for work in the spring--a tough life I know.  So instead of Africa, it looks like we will spend a couple weeks at the end of my business trip exploring India--don’t worry though, the blog posts from that trip will be much shorter!

Absolutely stunning Lilac-breasted Roller in Kruger Park

Oh an last thing--that whole top 25 list thing I do--well out of the top 25 I snagged 17 species--68% of the total list--my best total yet--still now quite to that 80% mark that I had hoped, but pretty close!

Common Ostrich, #2 on my top 25 list!

1 life bird the final morning / 358 total trip life birds / 382 total trip species

photos from the the last morning:

entire photo gallery from Africa:

eBird Checklists from this morning:
Bushbuck River House, Zambia

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