All Photos posted on this blog unless otherwise noted were taken by me with my Canon Rebel XTI using a 300 mm zoom lens

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

July Bird of the Month Red-winged Blackbird

Probably one of the first birds everyone is able to identify, one of the most abundant birds across North America, and one of the most boldly colored, JULY'S BIRD OF THE MONTH the Red-winged Blackbird is a familiar sight atop cattails, along soggy roadsides, wetlands, and power lines.

 Year round residents of northern Utah, glossy-black males have scarlet-and-yellow shoulder patches they can puff up or hide depending on how confident they feel. Females are a subdued, streaky brown, almost like a large, female House Finch. When they start their familiar call in early March is a happy indication of the return of spring.

Male Red-winged Blackbirds fiercely defend their territories during the breeding season, spending more than a quarter of daylight hours in territory defense. He chases other males out of the territory and attacks nest predators, sometimes going after much larger animals, including horses and people.

Red-winged Blackbirds roost in flocks in all months of the year. In summer small numbers roost in the wetlands where they breed. Winter flocks can be congregations of several million birds, including Brewers Blackbirds and starlings. Each morning the roosts spread out, traveling as far as 50 miles to feed, then re-forming at night.

Red-winged Blackbirds spend the breeding season in wet places like fresh or saltwater marshes. You may also find them breeding in drier places like sedge meadows, alfalfa fields, and fallow fields. Occasionally, Red-winged Blackbirds nest in wooded areas along waterways. In fall and winter, they congregate in agricultural fields, feedlots, pastures, and grassland.

Red-winged Blackbirds eat mainly insects in the summer and seeds, including corn and wheat, in the winter. Sometimes they feed by probing at the bases of aquatic plants with their slender bills, prying them open to get at insects hidden inside. In fall and winter they eat weedy seeds such as ragweed and cocklebur as well as native sunflowers and waste grains

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Why Birds?

KSL our local television station ran a story about studying bird numbers along the Provo River and how they are restoring the river to it's natural habitat. According to the story song bird numbers are overall in decline but happy to report that along the Provo river they have increased. Reading some of the ignorant and uninformed comments on the comment board for this story has prompted me to write this post. I have also included a link to the story at the end of my post. Here are some of my thoughts and some facts and thoughts of some experts:

Who Needs Nature and Birds?
Wild birds are essential components of healthy, functioning natural systems. 
  • They provide us with "free ecological services." Birds are voracious eaters of weed plants and farm rodents, they help keep insect populations under control, and pollinate and disseminate seeds. 
  • Diverse bird populations reflect the underlying health of the ecosystem in which they - and we - live. 
  • As an indicator species, birds can help us learn about the natural biological processes that produce the food, fiber, water and minerals we humans need to survive - and how we can manage the earth's resources to provide a sustainable future for all.
Over 9,000 bird species exist worldwide, with 1,400 inhabiting our North American landscapes from southern Mexico to the Canadian Arctic. By country, species number about 1,000 in Mexico, 900 in the U.S., and 600 in Canada, with more than 250 species migrating across the three countries.

Did you know that the Great Salt Lake and surrounding wetlands support between 2 and 5 million shorebirds, as many as 1.7 million eared grebes, and hundreds of thousands of waterfowl during spring and fall migration. 

Because of its importance to migratory birds, the lake was designated a part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network in 1992. The lake and its marshes provide a resting and staging area for the birds, as well as an abundance of brine shrimp and brine flies that serve as food.

Wilson's Phalarope
Largest staging concentration in the world

Red-Necked Phalarope
Single-day estimate                        

American Avocet
Many times higher than any other wetland in the Pacific Flyway

Black-Necked Stilt
Many times higher than any other wetland in the Pacific Flyway

Marbled Godwit
Single-day count

Snowy Plover
The worlds largest assemblage, representing 55% of
the entire breeding population west of the Rocky Mts. (Sorry no picture yet)

Long-Billed Dowitcher
Single-day count

White Pelican
Breeding adults, one of the three largest colonies in Western North America

White-Faced Ibis
Breeding adults, world's largest breeding population

California Gull
Breeding adults, world's largest breeding population

Eared Grebe
Second largest staging population in North America

Bald Eagle
Wintering Eagles associated with Great Salt Lake, one of top 10 winter populations in the lower 48 states

Source: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Don Paul

Birds help our economy:

Birds are also becoming economically important as well. Bird watching is the fastest-growing form of outdoor recreation in the United States, up 155 percent in the last ten years, with more than 71 million Americans describing themselves as interested in birding. People travel to see birds, buy backyard bird feeders, plant gardens for birds and spend money to support bird research and protect bird habitat. Most birders are "baby-boomers," educated, with above average incomes, and they are willing to spend money to watch birds. - Restored songbird habitats proving fruitful along Provo River

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I want to send a great big THANK YOU to all of you that have viewed my "Birdn Blog" the last couple  of weeks in response to Nery's requests. I want to thank Nery for sending out an e-mail to everyone asking you to look at my blog. It worked, you all have put a smile on my face. Thank you to all those of you who have passed it along via e-mail or facebook. We have had hits in Germany, Canada, England, Australia, Greece, Japan, Philippines, India, Russia, Spain, Africa, Mexico, Belize and many places in the United States. Also a big thank you to those of you who have been following this blog for a while.
The purpose of this blog is to log my birding adventures and share the pictures I take but most of all to introduce people to birds and nature. 

Nery and Steve at Lytle Ranch Southern Utah
The thing that thrills me is when people who are not birders start noticing birds and calling, e-mailing or just telling me "I saw this bird" and then start describing it to me, and then how pleased they are when I am able to help them identify what kind of bird it is. I feel like my blog is a success.
It also thrills me when people tell me after seeing a bird, "I had no idea we had birds like that around here". Because I know they have learned something new and will be much more aware and appreciative of nature around them.
If you have gained a better appreciation for birds and nature, if you have learned something new, if you are more aware of and notice the diversity of birds. Then my blog is a success.
Thanks again for your support and please visit once in a while and if you feel like it, please post a comment. or just enjoy. 
Sincerely Steve

Sunday, June 13, 2010

California Gull

The California Gull is probably the first encounter I ever had with birds. When I was a kid we used to take bread out in our front yard on Sunday afternoons when we would hear the call of gulls flying over. We would break the bread in small pieces and throw them in the street. 1st one gull would come and then within minutes there were gulls coming in ten or twenty at a time squabbling over the pieces of bread. It was great fun to bring in the "Sea Gulls", I always thought they were pretty and a lot of fun to watch.

Though considered by many as garbage birds and obnoxious, you can't help but admire their ability to adapt and survive. Gulls can and will eat just about anything. Of course you will see them at city dumps scavenging for food through the garbage but you will also see them following fishing boats hoping and waiting for scraps. You will also see them following tractors on freshly plowed fields eating earthworms, they hang out at parks and ponds where people are recreating looking for a handout, stealing food from picnic tables or scavenging left behind scraps of food through litter. At the Great Salt Lake you can see them with head down and beak opened running through swarms of Brine Flies scooping up the little flies by the hundreds. It is this ability to adapt and eat anything that helped save the crops of Mormon Pioneers that settled the Great Salt Lake Valley resulting in the California Gull eventually being named the Utah State Bird.

The California gull, Larus californicus, was selected as the state bird of Utah by an act of the legislature in 1955 (Utah Code).
The gull is considered the state bird of Utah by common consent, probably in commemoration of the fact that these gulls saved the people of the State by eating up the Rocky mountain crickets which were destroying the crops in 1848.

Orson F. Whitney says that in the midst of the devastation of the crickets, "when it seemed that nothing could stay the devastation, great flocks of gulls appeared, filling the air with their white wings and plaintive cries, and settled down upon the half-ruined fields. All day long they gorged themselves, and when full, disgorged and feasted again, the white gulls upon the black crickets, list hosts of heaven and hell contending, until the pests were vanquished and the people were saved." After devouring the crickets, the gulls returned "to the lake islands whence they came."The gull is about two feet long. The color of this bird is pearly-blue. It is sometimes barred or streaked with blackish gray. Aeronautic wizards, gulls are gymnasts of the sky, making the seemingly impossible appear effortless. They can appear motionless in midair by catching wind currents with perfect timing and precision while positioning their bodies at just the right angle. They are quiet birds, considered quite beneficial by agriculturalists, and are usually gentle creatures, exhibiting neither antagonism to nor fondness for man.
The Sea Gull Monument in Salt Lake City honors the gull, Utah's state bird. Two sculptured gulls stand atop the monument which was unveiled in 1913. Temple Square information.
One of my favorite books is Jonathan Livingston Seagull
We lived in California for a few years and one of the many things Californians thought was weird about Utah and Utahans was that the California Gull is our State Bird.
Love them or hate them you have to admit they are resourceful and they are beautiful; perhaps some humans are jealous of a creature that is so adaptable and intelligent.
California Gulls love brine shrimp and brine flies and nest on the wide open mud flats around the Great Salt Lake. The largest concentrations of California Gulls in the world nest at the Great Salt lake and are one of the birds that have given the Great Salt Lake the distinction of being designated as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Preserve.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Birding with Belle


Last Evening I took a walk with Belle at the Fernwood Park on the bench east of Layton. The birding was spectacular, the spring flowers just blooming and the weather was perfect.

Birds seen, Lazuli buntings in numbers like I have never seen before, Spotted Towhees singing all over the place, Chipping Sparrows very busy courting, Black-chinned Humming birds, Turkey Vultures circling above us, Black-headed Grosbeaks singing as well, House Finches, Wilson's Warblers, Western Tanagers, and American Robins. We also saw squirrels and one very angry Gopher Snake hissing like crazy at Belle.

Here are some Pictures
Spotted Towhee
Lazuli Bunting
Bumble Bee
Black-headed Grosbeak

Spotted Towhee

Black-chinned Humingbird

Lazuli Bunting

Chipping Sparrow