29 March 2008

Does it Count?

You might not know this, but not every bird I see in Cache County will count towards my list. If I manage to find the two Mandarin Ducks that have been seen around Logan, they won't count. In the last few months, I've seen a Red-crested Pochard; an Indian Peafowl, a Mute Swan; and several Swan Geese, Greylag Geese, and Domestic Chickens, but none of these are included in the list at right. Why not? Well, believe it or not, there are rules about these things. According to the American Birding Association, the standard for competitive listers in the US, a species cannot be listed in a competition unless the bird is "alive, wild, and unrestrained." The rules go into great detail to specify, basically, that the bird must either be a native species, a natural vagrant, or an established introduced species; and the rules for "establishment" are pretty strict. So, while all those birds may be interesting to find and to watch, they are not known to be established in the area. Even if they are free-living, they depend on human handouts for survival or have not been able to successfully breed long enough to be considered established, so they don't count.

The species above, California Quail, is a bit trickier. Their natural range comes close to here, but not quite to Utah. It is plausible that a lost bird could end up here, but unlikely. However, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has been planting them along the Wasatch Front to try to provide opportunities for hunters (don't get me started on the idea of introducing non-native species for sport . . . ). Populations along the Wasatch Front have been established and self-supporting for some time now, even if they are non-native. A sighting in that area would probably "count." But as far as I have heard, DWR has not been able to get the quail to establish in Cache County, despite repeated attempts. After no reports of California Quail from the county all winter, suddenly this week at least 40 showed up in Benson by the river. Where did they come from? Can they be counted? My guess is that they were shipped here by DWR, although I don't know that for sure. Either way, I'm not considering them countable for now. But they were still fun to see.

23 March 2008

Winter Birds in Spring

Today I celebrated Easter with a great day of birding around Cache Valley. I was joined by Keith Archibald, John Barnes, Bryan Dixon, Craig Faulhaber, Craig Fosdick, Jean Lown, and Ron Ryel each for part or all of the day. Highlights included a pair of Hooded Mergansers at the Logan Fish Hatchery, a continuing Greater White-fronted Goose off of Sam Fellow Road, a pair of Trumpeter Swans near the Amalga Barrens, and a Common Redpoll at a feeder at a private residence in Richmond. Hooded Merganser was number four on my most-wanted list, and is a great bird to find. I was starting to think I was too late in the year to find one, since they are listed as rare in winter and absent in other seasons. I had definitely given up on Common Redpoll, having missed what was then the only one of the year a few weeks ago. This is another winter bird that must be on its way north just as the summering birds move back in. The migration was clearly evident today: other firsts of the year included American Avocet, Franklin's Gull, Savannah Sparrow, Double-crested Cormorant, Clark's Grebe, Ruddy Duck, Yellow-headed Blackbird, and Black-necked Stilt.

The photo above is a great comparison of the two swan species, with a Tundra Swan on the left and a Trumpeter Swan on the right. The pair of Trumpeters was a nice treat after scanning through hundreds of Tundras in the area. The photo below shows the Common Redpoll at a feeder with two American Goldfinches.

21 March 2008

Did You Know?

Did you know that you can leave comments on here by logging in with your Gmail account? Blogger is owned by Google, and their accounts are interchangeable. I love to see comments on these posts because it tells me that someone is interested in what I'm writing about.

15 March 2008

Halfway to 200!

This has been a great weekend for yard birds for me. First, there was a Ring-necked Pheasant in the yard yesterday. This bird set a new personal best in yard lists for me, surpassing my old record from Olympia of 41 species with the pheasant being number 42. Then this morning, Stephanie and I saw a Brown Creeper in the yard, a bird that is generally considered to be common but hard to find. Finally, this afternoon I added yard bird number 44, and at the same time my 100th species of the year, a flock of at least four Lesser Goldfinches! That's a male reaching out to defend its spot on the feeder from a Pine Siskin in the photo above. The other two birds on the feeder are also Lesser Goldfinches. This species is considered "occassional" in Cache County, meaning that is seen periodically but not even once a year. What a great way to reach the halfway mark! (If this is listed as 98 in my species list, how can I be halfway to 200? Because I still have two spuhs that are not yet included in the list: see the post from January 29.)

08 March 2008

Fun with Geese

Today Stephanie and I were having lunch on our way out to do some birding when I got a phone call. The caller ID said "Craig Fosdick," and I knew that what it meant was "Good Birds Have Been Found." Sure enough, Craig and Keith Archibald were scanning a flock of about a thousand Canada Geese and had also found Snow Geese, Tundra Swans, and a Ross's Goose in the mix! By the time we got there, the geese had moved a bit further from the road, but in the next hour or so we were also able to find three Cackling Geese and a Greater White-fronted Goose in the flock. Cackling Geese are a smaller version of the familiar Canada Goose, and were recognized as a distinct species in 2004. You can see one with Canada Geese in the photo above - can you find it? Perhaps it is only because they are a recent species which didn't have much attention paid to it when it was just a subspecies, but the new species is considered rare in Utah and is being tracked by the Utah Rare Birds Committee, who will be interested in a report about this sighting. White-fronted Geese are not considered as rare state-wide, but are apparently more rare in Cache Valley - Bob Atwood told me that he hadn't seen one in Cache Valley since the mid-1990s. It seems that the spring migration is finally underway, and my list is again picking up momentum, with four new species today!

02 March 2008

In the News!

A few weeks ago, Stephanie and I saw a Mew Gull that was Cache County's second record, and its first record in 17 years. Last Thursday, our find was discussed in part of Bill Fenimore's "Bird Sightings" column in the Salt Lake Tribune! Here is a link to the article (6MB).

Since my last post, I've found two Wild Turkeys in Cove on my way to a conference in Montana, and four Sandhill Cranes with Stephanie after I got back. These may be the same four cranes that were seen in the area on the Christmas Bird Count. Since this species usually migrates to warmer climates during the winter, it is nice to know that they've made it through the worst of it!