Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Year, New Birds

Happy New Year to every bird, birder, and bird watcher; may this year be one filled with the joys of finding new species, nurturing backyard birds, and learning more than ever about these fascination creatures who share our skies, brush piles, barns, trees, bushes, and ultimately, our lives.

This morning, one of the coldest we've had this winter, was also a fine day for birding along the Provo River. I spotted two new species to add to my life list already in 2009: white crowned sparrows and common goldeneyes. The former are distinctive sparrows with bold white and dark streaks on their heads that seemed content to keep company with the dark eyed juncos. They flitted quickly from bushes to trees, staying maddeningly out of camera reach, but not out of close enough sight for proper identification.

The second official new bird is the common goldeneye, a water fowl found keeping company with the mallards and American coots that favor the section of the river I enjoy visiting. These winter guests have somewhat oblong heads, and the males have distinctive white bodies and a white oval in front of their yellow eyes. Easily identified, they're a welcome addition to my list.

A third contender, however, has given me grief -- it could be a spotted towhee, a relatively common resident in Utah, but its coloration is more suggestive of the eastern towhee, a much more rare guest. Unfortunately, my camera and the birds in question were not cooperative enough to result in a definitive photo, and I'll have to wait until I visit the river again to be sure of the birds' identities. But that is also just another excuse to enjoy a morning walk along the river among old friends. Also out in force today were the dark eyed juncos, downy woodpeckers, mallards, American coots, and black billed magpies. No wonder this is a magnificent birding spot; if there are any birders here in Utah -- or eager birders passing through on their own migrations -- I'd love to share it.

The Provo River is one of my favorite birding spots - what are yours? Share in the January poll!

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