Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mountains of Lifers

It's easy for birders to assume that the waning autumn is a poor time to find new and unusual birds, particularly if you are not located along a major migration flyway. To my delight, however, I've discovered just the opposite. Twice in the past weeks I've been hiking in the mountains and been fortunate enough to add new lifers to my ever growing life list.

The most recent additions come with their own startling observations. First, I've added the first bluebird to my life list - the mountain bluebird. While driving past a field that had recently been plowed under, I spotted several birds flitting about a small stand of trees, and we stopped to investigate. The birds were perching, then diving to the ground and rooting for worms in the soft soil, which they'd then take back to their perch to feed upon. Watching carefully, the faint field marks of a pale eye ring, dusky blue-gray back, buff wash on the chest, and brighter blue wing edges and tail feathers were obvious, and the mountain bluebird was confirmed, specifically a flock of female birds. The most fascinating part of the sighting is that they were completely unafraid of my presence as I crept closer and closer, and they simply went about their business.

The second lifer I stumbled upon quite literally as we were hiking along Mt. Nebo in search of Devil's Kitchen, a rare and stunningly beautiful formation. After viewing the fabulous red rocks, we came back down the short trail and not five feet away was a juvenile dusky grouse - the bird's camouflage was most complete, but the mottled flanks, plainer back of the neck, and wide gray strip at the tip of the tail identified the bird quite well.

Both of these new lifers came upon me when I wasn't seriously birding - while I did have my field bag and binoculars available (as a serious birder always will), we were more interested in seeing the brilliant fall colors and the unique geological formations of our neighboring mountains. It just goes to show, however, that you're best off never stopping your birding habits - even in the autumn weather or on a short walk, you never know what new lifers you may find - or that may find you!

1 comment:

Robert Mortensen said...

Great to find your blog on the Blogged website. As an avid birder and bird blogger I really enjoy following other well writen blogs. Keep up the good work!

- from your neighbor to the north

The Avimor Bird Blogger

PS - My mom grew up in Orem.