10 December 2012

BAS Field Trip: Naked Birding

On Saturday I led a field trip for the Bridgerland Audubon Society, focused on "Naked Birding," that is, birding without the use of binoculars or other optics.  We learned how to identify birds using behavior, calls, and habitat, and how to make the most of what little visual information you can gather at a distance without binoculars.

We started with a walk around the Logan Cemetery, which can be a great place in winter to find birds that are usually more typical of higher elevations or more northern latitudes.  This visit was no exception, and we had a flyover flock of RED CROSSBILLS calling, plus a later lone crossbill that was probably a WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL (although the "Type 4" Red Crossbill of the Pacific Northwest has a very similar flight call, and can show up in this area in winter).  We also discussed the identification of Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees by voice after hearing some BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES, and found some RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES.

From there, we went to First Dam, where we were able to identify some BARROW'S GOLDENEYES and COMMON GOLDENEYES before getting blown away by the strong canyon winds.  We watched two BALD EAGLES flying over the reservoir, including one adult and one sub-adult.  We also discussed how to tell the difference between the wild, native MALLARDS and the introduced "park duck" Mallards, which can look very similar.  The wind was howling, though, so after a few minutes here we decided to move to a more sheltered location.  While we were driving away, one car saw a HOODED MERGANSER from the road.

Our next and final stop was Rendezvous Park and the Logan River Golf Course.  A flock of CANADA GEESE that flew overhead had one CACKLING GOOSE among them, a species that was on the state review list until just last year.  We saw several mixed songbird flocks here, always including BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES but with various other species in attendance, including a BROWN CREEPER, several DOWNY WOODPECKERS, and one flock of about seven RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS.  The highlight of the day, however, was a single BEWICK'S WREN that was heard calling several times in one of these flocks.  This is a very rare species for Cache County - there is a credible report of this species in the county only about once every three years, usually in winter.

We will publish the full 2013 field trip calendar in the next month or so, so keep an eye out for that, and in the meantime I'll see you at the Logan Christmas Bird Count next Saturday, December 15th.  Email Bryan Dixon at bdixon@xmission.com to sign up if you haven't already.

09 December 2012

Embedding maps in eBird checklists

The comments field for each species in an eBird checklist allow you to describe the details of your observation, including the points that led to the identification of rare species.   You can also embed photos you took of a bird to help support your identification.  For particularly rare sightings (that are not likely to be disturbed by visitors and in public areas), you might consider also adding detailed directions to a bird so that others can go find it again.

Zachary DeBruine, at birdventurebirding.com, has developed a simple tool that will allow you to add a very specific image from Google Maps detailing the exact location of a bird you have found.  This can be a big help to others that go to look for the bird.  For example, here is the location of the exact Himalayan Blackberry bush at Lytle Ranch where I found a Harris's Sparrow a couple of weeks ago.

Generated by eBirdGM

When this image is embedded in a checklist, it includes a link to the location on Google Maps.  So if you wanted to look for this bird, you could get directions from your house to this specific shrub with just a few clicks!

Here are a few sample checklists with embedded maps:
Harris's Sparrow, Lytle Ranch
Blue Jay, Smithfield
Dickcissel, Farmington
Greater White-fronted Geese, Logan Polishing Ponds

For thorough directions on how to use this tool, and for the tool itself, see eBirdGM.