31 August 2008

The Lifer Before the Storm

I birded around Cache County with Craig Faulhaber today. We started up Deep Canyon in the Wellsville range. Craig Fosdick had seen several Nashville Warblers here last week, and that is a species I had not seen yet in the county. In fact, I'd never seen one before anywhere. Birding was very slow here with a total of eight species in about an hour and a half of hiking, but we did see one Nashville Warbler, a first for both of us.

We next went to the Logan Wetlands, where there were hundreds or maybe even thousands of Franklin's Gulls but nothing unexpected or new for the year. Shorebirds were sparse, with a few Killdeer, a Black-necked Stilt, and a dowitcher that I assume was a Long-billed. On the road to the south of the Logan Landfill, we saw and heard three Blue Grosbeaks, one adult male and two females/immatures. Blue Grosbeaks have been seen several times along this road this year, and the presence of multiple females/immatures may indicate that they successfully bred here. Cache County is further north than their typical breeding range.

We finished for the day at Rendezvous Park and the Logan River Golf Course trail, which was almost eerily quiet. There was a storm approaching and the birds seemed to be hunkered down in preparation. After about a half hour of birding here, and only four bird species, the storm hit and the high winds started knocking branches off the trees. Fearing for our lives (photo at left), we hurried back to the car and ended the day's birding just as the rain starting coming down.

15 August 2008

Field Work - the Bane of My Quest

You're right, those aren't birds. They're Northern Leopard Frogs, and if I don't end up making it to 236 species in Cache County, they will have been the reason. I think most of my blog readers already know, but in case one or both of you don't, in my "real" life I'm a herpetologist. For my dissertation work, I'm studying the genetics of this frog species. And to do that, I have to travel around the West collecting genetic tissue from frogs. I love the work, I love the species, and I love the travelling, but it has been painful to see some of the birds that have been seen in Cache County while I've been gone. Earlier this spring, I missed shots at Lewis's Woodpecker, Dunlin, and Clay-colored Sparrow (among others) while I was collecting frogs. Of course, I've also gotten to see some other great birds that haven't been reported in Cache County, like my lifer Orchard Orioles and Dickcissel in Colorado last month, and the Sage Grouse I saw two days ago in southern Wyoming (shown below), but they won't help me reach 236. And now that I'm waiting out a storm in a hotel room in Wyoming, it's hard not to think about all the fall migrants I might be missing while I'm trying to chase frogs.

09 August 2008

Hummers on the Move

This week is approaching the peak of migration for Rufous Hummingbirds, so yesterday I did a feeder stakeout at the hummingbird feeders at Spring Hollow Campground in search of this species. The campground host has put out about ten hummingbird feeders, and they draw quite an array of hummers. I saw about 25 Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, ten Black-chinned Hummingbirds, two Calliope Hummingbirds, and one female Rufous Hummingbird. The female Rufous Hummingbird was a first of the year for me. This species breeds in the Pacific Northwest US and western Canada, all the way up to Alaska. It has an interesting migration pattern, moving north along the coast but returning south across a broader swath of the continent, including through Utah, so we usually only get them in the fall. I also saw the first ever Rufous Hummingbird from my yard today, the 55th species seen or heard from my yard. The bird above is a female or juvenile Broad-tailed Hummingbird, and was photographed at the feeders at Spring Hollow where I saw the Rufous Hummingbird. I also got a photo of the Rufous, but this one's better.

04 August 2008

Black Tern

I just got back from a little over a week in Seattle visiting friends and family. The visit was great and I wish I could've stayed much longer, but as soon as I got home I knew I needed to get my bird fix. I had missed four potential new species while I was gone, and it was time to play catch-up again. My housemate Jake and I headed to the Mitigation Ponds to look for the Semipalmated Plovers and Sage Thrasher that were reported there about a week ago, just after I had left the area. Not surprisingly, the birds had left the area, too - they're probably well south of here by now. Coincidentally, Craig arrived there just when Jake had to leave, so Craig and I went to the Polishing Ponds to look for the Solitary Sandpiper he had seen there last week. We also couldn't find the Solitary Sandpiper, but we lucked out in finding another bird I had given up on, a Black Tern (photo above). One of these was spotted in the spring migration but I missed it and I thought I wouldn't get another chance, so this was a pleasant surprise.