11 January 2013

Common Redpoll Irruption 2012-2013

This Common Redpoll, which I photographed on Nov 8, 2012 in Steel Canyon, Cache Co., was among the first of the irruption, a sign of things to come.
This year has been absolutely unprecedented for Common Redpolls in Utah, at least as far back as records have been kept.  For a sense of the scale of this irruption, here are all the eBird records from 1900 to 2011:

And here are the eBird records from just the last three months:

Large flocks have been documented in Utah before: for example, 120 were seen in the 1988 Christmas Bird Count in Kanab, and a flock of 40 was reported in Duchesne County in 1958.  But this is certainly the best-documented irruption of them in the state, and perhaps the largest.  Birds like these irrupt from the north when their seed crops fail and they must wander further south than usual to find sufficient food.  You can help document this irruption into Utah by submitting your records to eBird (a photo or a thorough description in the comments field always helps), and by submitting records to the Utah Bird Records Committee.  But most importantly, get out and enjoy this experience, which might be a once-in-a-lifetime event!  A thistle feeder is a good way to bring this species to your yard, but they will also come to other kinds of seed.  They are also particularly fond of birches and wild thistle, so watch for these plants near your favorite birding spots.

03 January 2013

County eBirding Competition: Final Winners

Now that a few days have passed since the end of the year and most or all of the pending reports have been reviewed, it is time to calculate and announce the final winner of the county eBirding contest!  For those of you following the updates at the Utah BirdTalk list, it will come as no surprise that the winner is the same county that has held an impressive lead for the last several months: congratulations to the winners, Kimberly Roush, Nancy Matro, and Dave Hanscom of SUMMIT COUNTY!  Summit County really cleaned up this year, and ended up with 100.9% of their pre-2012 list reported in 2012!  As the winners of the competition, these three birders will be hosted on a day of birding in each of the losing counties, by registered participants from each of those counties, any time between now and the end of March.  The dates will be offered at the discretion of the birders from the hosting counties.  Great work, Summit County; you set an example for all of us!

Here are the other competing counties and their rankings.  (Note that there may be slight changes in these percentages if late reports are submitted or if pending records are accepted, but the winner will not change and you can consider these the final rankings for the purpose of this competition.)

2. Davis County, 89.4%
3. Salt Lake County, 88.2%
4. Cache County, 87.6%
5. Uintah County, 85.1%
6. Utah County, 83.9%
7. Duchesne County, 83.3%
8. Box Elder County, 82.8%
9. Washington County, 78.4%
10. Iron County, 68.8%