Andy watches for new species flying over the Benson Marina to roost in Cutler Marsh at dusk.
Andy Kleinhesselink and I did a Big Day in Cache County yesterday to raise money for Point Reyes Bird Observatory. We birded from 5AM to about 11PM, driving about 150 miles and hiking about 12. We also raised
$154 $206 for bird conservation work at PRBO (so far - you can still donate here). Our goal was to top 100 species. We ended up shattering our goal, with 122 species! Here are some of the highlights (and lowlights), with comparison to eBird records. (There are 243 complete checklists from Cache County in eBird for September, all years, to give a sense of the sample size for an early or late record).
We did very well on waterfowl, with every expected species other than Canada Goose and Wood Duck. Best birds were a CANVASBACK at Sue's Ponds, the 2nd earliest record for the county, and a COMMON GOLDENEYE at the Polishing Ponds, a full month ahead of the earliest fall record for the county. We had at least three and possibly more HORNED GREBES at the same place, a high count for fall migration and the earliest fall record in eBird.
An early Canvasback, at right, with several Redheads at Sue's Ponds.
We didn't get many gallinaceous species, but a vocalizing flock of CHUKAR at Logan Dry Canyon was a nice find. Chukar have not been documented in eBird between July and November, but are certainly present in small numbers all year.
We did very well on raptors, including a FERRUGINOUS HAWK over Mendon and a MERLIN over Sue's Ponds. Excellent migration conditions also made it easy to pick up the common species as they drifted past the mountain ridges.
A Ferruginous Hawk flew over us as we were driving near Mendon. This species can be found all year in Cache County but it is rare here, seen on average a few times a year.
A Merlin defended its airspace over the Logan Landfill from a migrating Swainson's Hawk. This was the first Merlin I've heard of being reported in Utah this fall.
Shorebirds were tough to come by due to a shortage of habitat in the valley right now. We completely missed American Avocets, which have historically been on 10% of checklists. We did find three SOLITARY SANDPIPERS in flooded fields near the Logan Airport, a pretty high count and the latest fall record, and 25 BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS at the Polishing Ponds, the highest count on record.
We did about as expected with gulls and terns, finding the common species but no rarities except a CASPIAN TERN flying over Benson Marina at dusk.
We did very well on owls, with two GREAT HORNED OWLS, a NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL, and a NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL calling along the road to Tony Grove before dawn. We got both the expected nightjars, COMMON NIGHTHAWK and COMMON POORWILL, with our 3-4 Poorwills in Green Canyon making the latest record in eBird.
Many flycatchers were still around. We had both EASTERN and WESTERN KINGBIRDS (with a new latest fall record for Eastern), plus OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER (2nd latest fall record), WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE (latest fall record), and three empid species, DUSKY (latest fall record), HAMMOND'S, and GRAY FLYCATCHERS.
Clark's Nutcrackers were a must-have in the mountains. We saw several of this common and vocal species.
We had several WARBLING VIREOS (latest fall record). A BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER at Newton Reservoir was the 2nd latest fall record. We did well on warblers, including ORANGE-CROWNED, MACGILLIVRAY'S, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, YELLOW, YELLOW-RUMPED, BLACK-THROATED GRAY (latest fall record), TOWNSEND'S, and WILSON'S. Sparrows included the second-latest fall record of FOX SPARROW, at Tony Grove.
This Fox Sparrow near Tony Grove was a bit late in starting his southbound migration.
In all, we got the vast majority of the species we expected to find plus some relatively rare species for this time of year. Across species, there were a few early records but many late records, another sign of the late fall migration this year. A heartfelt "Thank you" goes out to all of you who donated to help support our cause! Here is a complete list of the species we observed, in taxonomic order:
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Great Horned Owl
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Gunsight Peak from Benson Marina in the evening. We watched for birds to come into roost here as the daylight faded.