Sunday, May 31, 2009
This leads, however, to the June poll on water. Summer is a thirsty season for birds, especially with Utah County temperatures regularly reaching 90 degrees, and my concrete birdbath can dry out in the course of a day if I don't refill it regularly. I'm happy to do so, of course (and a neighbor will be keeping an eye on it while I'm away), but I can't wait to add more water features to the yard as part of my bird sanctuary landscaping. Birds love water, and as wiser birders than I have mentioned, not all birds will eat seed or nest in birdhouses, but they all need water. In a recent poll on improving your backyard, water features were the top response for landscaping wish lists, so now I'm curious: what types of water features would you like to add to your backyard?
Personally, my plans are for a small waterfall with appropriate basins for birds to bathe and drink. I don't want the upkeep of a large pond, but I wouldn't mind adding a few more birdbaths as well, though they can be a hassle to keep clean and filled. What water would you like to see in your backyard? Vote in the poll today!
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Ironically, the last two birds we spotted were also the most amazingly photogenic. Pulling out of the parking area, I saw dozens of swallows diving beneath the road bridge and begged my husband to stop so I could get a closer look, owing that swallows are notoriously difficult to identify unless you have a chance to see them up close and still. I slid down the embankment to find that we'd discovered a colony of cliff swallow nests, and it was awe-inspiring to see not only the exquisite architecture of their many nests, but to also see their amazing aerobatics as they flew to and from each cavity.
Further down the road, we stopped at what we'd noticed should be another canyon trail access point in a less popular area, giving it all the best properties of a birding location. No sooner had I walked to the guardrail than I saw another flock of swallows darting and diving near the river, but of course with their quick motion they're often no more than blurs. To my delight, however, one bird fluttered nearby and perched on a dead branch not ten feet away. It posed, preened, and turned about offering a most excellent view and positively identifying itself as a violet green swallow, arguably the most beautiful of the swallows with its iridescent green and purple plumage, white underparts, and sleekly tapered wings. Even better, it is yet another new bird for my life list, bringing my total to 135 unique birds.
How I wish I'd had my camera! Never would I dream of seeing such a beautiful swallow so close and in the perfect light. But even though I didn't have my camera and don't have a digital souvenir of the encounter, this beautiful bird is one that will be forever captured in my memory.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
- Western Kingbird
- Marsh Wren
- Snowy Egret
- Forster's Tern
- Western Grebe (pictured, top)
- Cliff Swallow
- Tree Swallow
- Long Billed Curlew
- Common Yellowthroat
- Snowy Plover (the festival's target bird)
- White Faced Ibis
- Blue Winged Teal
- Osprey (nesting)
- Spotted Sandpiper
- Wilson's Phalarope
- Red Breasted Merganser
- Ash Throated Flycatcher
- Eastern Kingbird
- Juniper Titmouse
- Black Throated Gray Warbler
- Yellow Breasted Chat
- Green Tailed Towhee
- Brewer's Sparrow
It is amazing to see the tremendous variety of bird species that can be found locally, as well as the diversity of habitats. During the thirteen hours of birding spread across three consecutive days, I visited riparian habitats, deserts, juniper and pinyon pine forests, elevated forests, wetlands, salt marshes, ponds, and grasslands. In each place the birds thrive, all cleverly adapted to their unique niches.
It is also amazing to see the diversity in different species' behavior and personalities. The yellow breasted chat, for example, is secretive and shy, while the juniper titmouse is an inquisitive and perky bird, boldly flitting around even a large group of birders. Some water fowl and shorebirds, such as the snowy egret, are comfortable in communities, while others, like the western grebe, are more solitary, even while they both share the same pond.
Of course, these are not the only birds I saw during the festival. I was also thrilled to spot other beautiful birds such as the yellow headed blackbird, lazuli bunting, cinnamon teal, American avocet, and golden eagle, along with dozens of other species. Yet despite all of this birding success, I know I missed out by not participating in more field trips and taking better advantage of the available events. Perhaps next year I will enjoy the urban birding field trips to see Salt Lake City's peregrine falcons, or maybe a trip to more northern Utah birding destinations.
In the meantime, happy birding to all! Summer is nearly here, eggs are hatching, and feeders are getting emptied more quickly. Time to make your own birding festival right in your backyard!
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Friday, May 1, 2009
- Organized field trips with expert guides
- Lectures and informational sessions on all things birding
- Vendor booths with unique gifts, field guides, and other items
- Craft opportunities for making birdhouses or feeders
- Rehabilitated bird releases, falconry demonstrations, and other live bird events
Naturally, the exact composition of each festival may vary, but there are always birds to see, and that is why we all flock to them. Happy May, and happy birding!