Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Birdy Goal

I can't imagine a better topic for my 200th blog post than lifers, lifers, lifers. First, my first lifer of 2012...

On one of the very few snowy days we've had this winter, I struck out to find the famed Lewis's woodpeckers not all that far from home. I'd been warned that they could be temperamental and might take awhile to show themselves in the isolated ridge they frequented, but I was eager for a lifer nonetheless and took my chances. While clear skies were evident when I left, but the time I reached the site large, fluffy snow was falling fast and my hopes were dim. Dim only for a few moments, however, because as we drove up to the ridge where the birds were noted, a suspicious lump on the side of a telephone pole resolved itself into the dark, upright shape of a woodpecker.

Only a quick glance would have been necessary to prove its identity, what with the beautiful pink plumage of the bird's underparts and the bold gray collar on the neck, but I was instantly entranced and stayed in the snow until my hair was wet and limp, my teeth chattering, and my binns protesting the poor weather. All the same, I was rewarded with spectacular views and even clear chitterings and chatterings to listen to as the bird called to its compadres, perhaps to let them know the foraging was fine, even if the snow was thick.

It is my hope that this will be only the first of many lifers I manage to add to my list this year, and I have a goal in mind - "mopping up" many of the Utah species I've not yet seen. There are quite a few to go, but if the Lewis's woodpecker is any indication, the chase will be well worthwhile.
If only all the birds could be so easily counted...

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I haven't posted in the past month not for want of bird action to share, but for too much to choose from. Amid new lifers, birding travel, and new species in the backyard, though, one constant has remained my companion - the backyard hawks.

Both sharp-shinned hawks and Cooper's hawks regularly visit this neighborhood, and both have found the bounty of my backyard feeders. The larger, more taciturn Cooper's hawk will stake out a spot in the yard and sit for long periods, hoping for prey to come inquisitively, incautiously, close. The sharp-shinned hawks, and I do have more than one, are less patient and will move from fence, to tree, to feeder looking for the best vantage point for dinner. I've even seen them dive into the bushes while hunting, but the bushes are thick enough to deny them dinner.

A lot of birders prefer to shoo away hawks to safeguard their more colorful, friendlier backyard birds, but I feel much the opposite. Raptors, even small urban hawks, will not visit a yard that is not a thriving environment for birds - otherwise, they'd have no prey to find. I'm always delighted to see them visit, and in the past week I've seen a pair of courting sharp-shinned hawks in my willow tree, so it's likely I'll be seeing much more of them in the weeks to come.

I hope so.