Sunday, January 24, 2010

Taking a Tip

Birding may be a solitary hobby, but collaborating with other birders often leads to great rewards - tips on birding hotspots, new bird sightings, more accurate identifications, testing new equipment, and more. I'm always happy to share my tips with others, but I'm afraid I'm not quite so connected into receiving tips myself, though I don't hesitate to ask for help when I need it. I have recently, however, begun watching the Utah Birds Hotline List from Birdingonthe.Net, and the sightings are enough to inspire and excite any birder after long weeks of little to see but the backyard flock. Mind you, I do love my backyard birds (I wouldn't have spent more than an hour cleaning feeders and refilling them in a snowstorm if I didn't), but a birder's heart flies through many skies and yearns to share them with many birds.

This morning, my husband and I headed out toward Utah Lake, turning along the west side of the Provo Airport dike toward the control tower. On a tip from the list, we knew a long-eared owl has been seen regularly in the area for the past couple of weeks, and I've been itching to add a new lifer to my list. We parked somewhat north of the tower, walking along the dirt road (none too easily in the mud and slush from the recent snowfall) until we came near to the tower. Just south of it we met up with a trio of birders and exchanged greetings, learning that the owl was still nearby. Indeed it was, and beautifully so! Finding owls can be a challenge as they're superbly camouflaged and not prone to either noise or movement that might make them more visible to birders, but if you know what to look for and watch for disturbed patterns in winter-bare branches, you just might add another to your life list, as I did today.

While the birding along the dike was not as prolific as one might hope, we did spot several species...
  • Canada Goose - Several flocks flying overhead.
  • American Coot - Happily swimming in small areas of open water.
  • Great Blue Heron - Looking cold and forlorn in the field.
  • Northern Harrier - Hunting beautifully over the field.
  • Red Tailed Hawk - Both perched and hunting, as well as harassing the harriers.
  • White Crowned Sparrows - Feeding along the road and flitting among the brush.
Even on a cold winter's morning when the lake is mostly frozen and the weeds are snow covered, there are birds to be had. I encourage everyone to take advantage of whatever birding resources you may have to learn where the birds are in your area, and head out to new locations to discover what you may. Whether you get a new lifer or not, the walk and the fresh air brings new life to the joys of birding.

Check out these winter birding tips for finding the best birds in the bitter cold!


forestal said...

Melissa,looks like a great place to bird and some nice birds. Great looking owl.
I am a beginner too, and often will be looking and not seeing all the birds until another birder comes by and points them out. Across the board, those met have been kind/helpful often letting me look through their scopes. Happy birding


Robert Mortensen said...

I am so jealous of the Long-eared Owl. I have been wanting to see one for some time. I need to start following the Utah Bird list so that when I make trips there I can find the rarities you guys are seeing.