30 June 2008

Mountain Birding

As my list of birds seen gets longer, it gets predictably harder to add new species to the list. However, there is one habitat type that I have not spent much time birding yet this year, and which potentially holds a dozen or so species that are probably present right now waiting for me to add them to my list. That habitat is the high mountians, and last weekend I spent a bit of time on both Saturday and Sunday birding in this habitat. On Saturday, Craig and I birded around Tony Grove. Although we missed some must-have species in the area like Three-toed Woodpecker and Purple Martin, I did pick up several new species for the year, including Clark's Nutcracker, Red-naped Sapsucker, and Williamson's Sapsucker (photo at right). On Sunday Stephanie and I returned to some hummingbird feeders in the area, trying to track down the Rufous Hummingbird that had been reported there. We didn't see the Rufous, but we did get great looks at Black-chinned Hummingbirds and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, both of which I'd seen earlier in the year.

20 June 2008

Owling and Nightjaring - and Another State Record!

Last night I went owling up Green Canyon with Stephanie Cobbold and Craig Fosdick. We were mostly hoping to hear Common Poorwills and Flammulated Owls. These species are the last two on the Cache County checklist that are listed as "Common" but that I had not yet seen or heard this year. They would also both be lifers. We started at around 9:30 P.M. near the mouth of the canyon and were quite excited to hear a Common Poorwill from the car. After a couple more stops, we realized that this species really is common here - we heard at least one or two at every stop on our way up the canyon.

We weren't having much luck with the owls, though, so thinking that they might be at higher elevations, we decided to drive up to the loop at the end of the road and then work our way back down. On the way up we passed a car going a little too fast on its way back down. As the car pulled even with us on the narrow dirt road I realized that Ron Ryel, a friend and one of the best birders in the county, was driving. We stopped to say hi and Ron was visibly excited. He had heard a Whip-poor-will at the loop at the end of the road! This species has been reported in the state of Utah about once every ten years for the last four decades, but no record has ever been accepted by the Bird Records Committee because no one has ever recorded one or had any other proof of what they heard or saw.

We followed Ron to the loop and immediately heard the Whip-poor-will calling off to the west, loud and clear and only about 60 m away. We were able to walk about 20 m closer, and the bird then moved even closer to us, within about 20 m. Fortunately, the MP3 player I use to play owl songs also has the ability to record, so I was able to get a couple of clear recordings of this bird. (You can hear one of these recordings by pressing the play button above.) We also heard a couple of Flammulated Owls here, so we heard our two target birds plus a state record! The Whip-poor-will record has already been submitted for review by the Utah Bird Records Committee, and I expect that it will be accepted because of the recording of the song - I'll post an update here when I know.

16 June 2008

A Relaxing Day of Birding

It seems like making a birding goal sometimes takes the relaxation out of the hobby - it is even a little stressful to think about the birds that I missed or might be missing each time I go birding. But, now that I've reached 200 and I'm still far from 236, today I was able to enjoy a very relaxing day of birding. First, I did the LBCA point count again, this time with Craig Fosdick (above left) and Keith Archibald (above right). We saw a total of 47 species, including my first Hairy Woodpecker of the year. We also saw a Golden Eagle nest with a chick, a Vesper Sparrow nest with eggs, and a Grasshopper Sparrow. Grasshopper sparrows are pretty rare in the county, but probably occur in some numbers every year. I think the highlight for me was actually a mammal, though: I saw my first live Badger!

After an afternoon barbecue with Stephanie and her housemates and housemate's family, we went canoeing on the Bear River. I only picked up one new species, a Common Nighthawk, and missed American Bittern yet again, a species that should be common but is proving to be hard to find. It didn't seem to matter much, though, because the canoeing itself was so enjoyable.