06 May 2008

An Unbelievable Evening

Last night I did some birding around the valley to try to catch up on the recent migrants I had missed while I was in Arizona. In addition to finding a bunch of new migrants, like Common Grackle, Warbling Vireo, Plumbeous Vireo, and Western Tanager, I found a very rare bird, a Northern Waterthrush. This is a species of warbler that forages along the edge of stagnant water. It is also one I had never seen before. According to one experienced local birder this species is only seen in the county about once every three to five years. Of course, I didn't have my camera with me, so I went back home to get the camera and picked up Craig Fosdick along the way. When we got back to the park where I had found the waterthrush, we couldn't find the bird. But, we found something much better. A Mississippi Kite flew over us twice! This is a really big deal - although there are some breeding areas in Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, and a few sporadic records in Wyoming and Nevada, this species has never before been recorded in the state of Utah! I really wish I had gotten a photo of this bird, but Craig and I both saw it well enough to be sure of what we saw: a light gray bird about the size of a Peregrine Falcon and flying kind of like it, with strong wingbeats and fast direct flight; a long, black, square-tipped tail, and distinct white flashes in the dorsal side of the wings. To see a Northern Waterthrush in the county is hard enough to believe - they are only seen here once every 5 years or so. But to see a Northern Waterthrush in Cache County AND a new state record in a matter of hours is bordering on unbelievable. My next task will be to convince the Utah Bird Records Committee that we saw what we saw for the record to be accepted. A big help will be to get a photo of the bird; I plan to try to find this bird again tonight, and to get that photo, but it may have already migrated on.


Ryan O'Donnell said...

I found the waterthrush again today (6 May) and was able to take and add this photo, which I missed the first time around.

Ryan O'Donnell said...

The Mississippi Kite record finally completed the first round of voting by the Bird Records Committee. They voted 4 to accept vs. 3 to not accept. The record now goes to a second round, where at least five of the seven votes must be in agreement to end the process. Otherwise, it will go to a third round.