bearriver Blog

Christmas Bird Count fun!

Friday, December 21, 2012

While many people are celebrating the Winter Solistice...and others are "celebrating" the end of the world (if you believe the Mayans)...I'm thinking back to the excellent time I had on Wednesday taking part in the Christmas Bird Count on the Refuge!   

The 113th year of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count is in full swing all around the country, and this past wednesday our friends from Wasatch Audubon  ( www.wasatchaudubon.org ) were here to help us count the birds on several portions of the Refuge.  This fun and easy..and now free ... citizen science project is a great way to get outdoors during the holiday season and enjoy the birds and the beauties of nature.

Wednesday was a brisk and chilly morning, leaving the majority of Refuge wetlands frozen over and waterfowl numbers a little lower than in past years...but there were still small pockets of ducks, geese and swans.  Rough-legged hawks and Northern harriers were numerous and enjoying the weather. And along with many of the species that we expected to find on the Refuge during the count...were a few that were unexpected.  First thing in the morning, at our feeder station near the Wildlife Education Center, we had a lovely little Common Redpoll.  It is believed this is a first record for the Refuge.  These little irruptive finches (as well as Evening grosbeaks and Red crossbills) are being seen all across Utah this year.

A few other highlights from the count this year:  a Prairie falcon,  a Thayer's gull, and THREE owl species...including a Great horned owl, a Barn owl and several Short-eared owls!

Christmas Bird Counts continue across the country through the first week in January - so if you're looking for something fun to do after all the food is eaten and gifts have been opened - contact your local Audubon chapter and join in the count!

Happy Birding and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

 - Jason

Christmas Bird Count Fun

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Today was the Christmas Bird Count on the Refuge.  Several Staff and volunteers from the local Wasatch Audubon Society joined up to survey the Refuge as part of the 113th annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC).  CBCs have been held around the nation, coordianated by the audubon society, for a long time, and they are a great citizen science project to get people outside and to get a great handle on local bird populations. And not to mention...but they are fun!

Today i had the pleasure of counting thousands of birds on the Refuge, and even though I bird (for both work and fun) a LOT - I can always find or see something new.  Today we got to see two female harriers fighting over a recently killed (presumably by one of them) coot.  We saw a couple of coyotes eyeing some of the cold birds we were counting. And we even found a few birds that are more rare and exciting for this area at this time of year.

Lots of Bald eagles were seen, as well as several species of owls:  Great horned, Short-eared and Barn. There was also a Prairie falcon, lots of horned larks and pipits..and a Thayer's gull.  One of the more exciting and uncommon birds seen was a Common Redpoll - first thing on the frigid morning - at our feeder station.  These little irruptive finches are being seen all around Utah this year, but some winters you will see none at all. 

Along with these highlights - many of the more common birds still gave us a special treat.  We got to view two female harriers squabbling over a recently killed (presumably by one of them) coot.  We saw some very chilly Tundra swans "skating" on thin ice. And we agonized for several minutes scanning a flock of gulls looking for something different until we all realized they were just all the common ring-billed gulls. We promptly jumped back into our WARM pick-up truck!

There are still many CBCs coming up - running for the first full week of 2013.  It is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, see some amazing birds and make some new friends. If you are interested in participating - contact your local Audubon chapter and get out there and count!

Happy Birding and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

- Jason

NOT Seeing the Bird Can Still Be a Success Story

Friday, December 7

I'd like to chat for just a quick second about us crazy birders . . . come on, you know who you are! I freely admit that I am a total birdnerd and sometimes (ok, most times) am a bit more obssessive with my birding and listing than I perhaps would like to be.  But, that said, I have learned something lately that I find important and interesting that I'd like to impart.

First - it is certainly not a new concept. I've read about the same feelings in Ken Kaufmann's KINGBIRD HIGHWAY as well as in Mark Obamscik's THE BIG YEAR. And I thank both of those gentleman and all the other birders and birding experiences they introduced me to which has sparked my interest and my upcoming comments.

Second - for those of you who don't know - I have been doing what I'm calling a "Big Year (on a budget)."  Several years ago, without trying too hard, I racked up a year list of birds numbering 340. I was surprised and thrilled.  But, of course, it made me wonder..."Hmmm, what could I do if I really tried."  I knew I wouldn't be able to do a really, truly serious Big Year. They are EXPENSIVE and EXHAUSTIVE...and i'm poor and feeling old. LOL  But, why not do what I could. I knew I would be traveling for work and family reunions.  I knew I worked on one of the best birding Refuge's around. And with a mild January 2012...I was quickly nearing 200 birds!  

Well, it's 11 months later and my number has jumped to 387! I'm thrilled but also - so close to 400 - I'm scrambling to try to reach that benchmark. It's still possible with a holiday visit to my see my Parents in the Rio Grande Valley. But...now to the point.

The point, I have realized, isn't neccesarily the number or the amazing additions (like Sulpher-bellied flycatcher or Ancient Murrelet) to my Life List. The real reward has been that challenging myself - I have seen and done things I hadn't before. I have traveled to amazing places - both local and far afield in this amazing nation and seen sights, even when the birds did not appear, that were stunning and awe-inspiring. I've met fellow birders and nature-lovers, and enjoyed food and culture all along my travels. It is the searching for the bird that can be just or more exciting than actually seeing that elusive bird.

So I challenge all of you to try this. If not a Big Year....a Big month, day, or just try to find as many birds as you can in your backyard, local park or county. It will become much less about the actual list and number you achieve...and much more about enjoying time outside and experiencing something new and wonderful.

Happy Birding, Happy Holidays,  and a Happy Birdy Holidays!

 - Jason