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.