Christmas Bird Count December 2022

Christmas Bird Count December 2022: Cassin's Finch, Carpodacus cassinii Courtesy US FWS, Dave Menke, Photographer
Cassin’s Finch, Carpodacus cassinii
Courtesy US FWS, Dave Menke, Photographer

Male House Finch in Mating Plumage, Haemorhous mexicanus, Courtesy US FWS Gary Kramer, Photographer Male House Finch in Mating Plumage
Haemorhous mexicanus
Courtesy US FWS, Gary Kramer, Photographer

Audubon chapters everywhere invite volunteers to join the 123rd Christmas Bird Count, and that means it’s time to hone our bird watching skills for the longest-running community science project. Seasoned birders and beginners alike spend a few minutes or a full day on this annual census of birds. Those just starting to notice birds can be valuable spotters in the mobile sectors, and can quickly learn to observe the subtle differences between similar species seen from the comfort of home, where no bird feeder is required, and valuable contributions can be made with just a few minutes of counting birds.

The Bridgerland Audubon Society launched the Cache Christmas Bird Count watch circle in 1955, contributing to a tradition launched in1900 by ornithologist Frank M. Chapman who out of concern for dwindling bird populations managed to change the culture from annual Christmas bird shooting contests into bird counting contests. Bridgerland Audubon always schedules on the first Saturday on or following December 14th, and typically documents about 100 species of birds.

The Cache Valley watch circle is divided into eleven sectors, including a 4 a.m. owling sector, and includes all homes within a 7.5 mile radius from the center of the circle which is located at Main Street & Hyde Park Lane (Hwy 91 & 3600 N). The same 15-mile diameter watch circle is surveyed each December – that’s about 177 square miles, and we can use all the help we can get, especially from folks watching from home. Don’t worry if you can’t identify all of the birds you see – you will just report the ones you do recognize. You can also get help by posting photos to the Bridgerland Audubon Facebook group, where you’ll also see posts about the Dark-eyed Junco, a small dark bird with a white belly, and subspecies which include the Oregon Junco with a black hood and neck, the Pink-Sided, the Gray-headed, and the Slate Junco.

The Home Sector provides a lot of extra data on about 32 species, the most common of which are available on a one page photo-illustrated checklist on the Bridgerland Audubon website where you will also find links to the free Merlin App which identifies birds by their songs. The Visitors Bureau has a nice selection of Utah Bird field guides which are great for beginners.

Bird identification is all about learning to notice the little differences in size, coloration patterns, shape of the beak, the crown of the head, and the tip of the tail. For example a House Finch and a Cassin’s Finch may look the same at first glance, but the House Finch has streaks on the side of the body, a rounded tail tip, and the red over the eyes is more like a headband than a top hat. The Cassin’s Finch has a notched tail, red cap, and lacks those streaks on the breast and and sides. The Pine Siskin looks like a tiny House Finch but it has a hint of yellow on its wings and the beak is more delicate and pointed. Large flocks of birds can be counted by blocking off a group of individuals, counting them, and then extrapolating to the whole of the flock. Don’t forget that zero is a number to report!

Visit Audubon.org to find a Christmas Bird Count near you, and visit bridgerlandaudubon.org to join the local count sector leaders on Saturday, December 17th, 2022. Pre- registration is free but required.

I’m Hilary Shughart with Bridgerland Audubon and I am Wild About Utah!

Credits:
Images: Courtesy US FWS, Dave Menke and Gary Kramer, Photographers
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text: Hilary Shughart, President, Bridgerland Audubon Society
Additional Reading: Hilary Shughart and Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

WildAboutUtah pieces by Hilary Shughart, https://wildaboututah.org/author/hilary-shughart/

Liberatore, Andrea, Dark-eyed Juncos, Wild About Utah, January 12, 2012, https://wildaboututah.org/dark-eyed-juncos/

Greene, Jack, Juncos, Wild About Utah, December 21, 2020, https://wildaboututah.org/juncos/

Bridgerland Audubon CBC Toolkit https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/our-projects/cache-valley-christmas-bird-count/

National Audubon Data: Annual Summaries of the Christmas Bird Count, 1901-Present https://www.audubon.org/content/american-birds-annual-summary-christmas-bird-count

General Tips for Bird Identification:
Mayntz, Melissa, Bird Bill Parts, The Spruce, Updated on 08/01/22, https://www.thespruce.com/bird-bill-parts-387362

Tips from eBird on How to count large flocks of birds:
“Big numbers of Moving Birds. Their are two ways to count large flocks of moving birds: either by blocking off a group of individuals, counting them, and then extrapolating to the whole of the flock; or by counting birds per unit of time.”
Team eBird, Bird Counting 101, eBird is a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, https://ebird.org/news/counting-101/

Sibley Guides, The annual plumage cycle of a male American Goldfinch, https://www.sibleyguides.com/2012/05/the-annual-plumage-cycle-of-a-male-american-goldfinch/

Lesser Goldfinch-Similar Species Comparison, All About Birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Lesser_Goldfinch/species-compare/

Junco Coloring Page:
http://www.supercoloring.com/coloring-pages/dark-eyed-junco?version=print

Utah-Centric Books & Field Guides:
Tekiela, Stan, Birds of Utah Field Guide, Adventure Publications, Apr 21, 2003, https:// www.amazon.com/Birds-Utah-Field-Guide-Tekiela/dp/1591930197/

Fenimore, Bill, Backyard Birds of Utah: How to Identify and Attract the Top 25 Birds, Gibbs Smith, March 27, 2008, https://www.amazon.com/Backyard-Birds-Utah-Identify- Attract/dp/1423603532/

Kavanagh, James, Utah Birds: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species (Wildlife and Nature Identification) Pamphlet, Waterford Press, September 1, 2017, https:// www.amazon.com/Utah-Birds-Folding-Familiar-Naturalist/dp/1583551328/

Hispanics

American Robin, Courtesy US NPS Will Elder, Photographer
American Robin,
Courtesy US NPS
Will Elder, Photographer

World Migratory Bird Day logo courtesy & © Environment for the Americas, EFTA World Migratory Bird Day logo from
Environment for the Americas
Connecting People to Bird Conservation and Inspiring the
Next Generation of Conservationists
Courtesy & © Environment for the Americas, EFTA

This WAU is intended to honor a very special demographic in our state. We have labeled them Hispanic, or more recently Latinx. I was blessed in my early Michigan years with neighbors of this ethnicity who enriched my live in many ways, including in natural landscapes. They planted a large garden to support their substantial family, some of the produce coming our way, even though they had little to spare. The family patriarch led his flock as minister for the West Side Gospel Tabernacle and found great joy in watching me spit out flaming hot red peppers.

We spent many summers swimming, fishing, frog and turtle catching, bird nest and baby mammal discovering, and reveling in a gravel pit, which had dipped into an aquifer creating some life-filled ponds surrounded by willow and cottonwood trees. This family was a major influence on whom I’ve become, with a special fondness for their rich culture and our natural surroundings.
As an educator, my Latinx students have shared their knowledge and talents on many occasions. Their leadership role for our Utah Conservation Corps Bilingual crews building trails, fences, and invasive plant control in our parks and forests has been a joy to be a part of. On one of our outings, a student revealed how saliva can quickly subdue the pleasantries of a stinging nettle encounter. I’ve found the senior members frequently have vast native plant knowledge from their homelands, so we have a lively exchange while they compare our local plant virtues with theirs found south of the border.

As seasonal faculty for a Colorado State University program, we recruit underserved college students from numerous campuses both in and out of country, many of whom are Hispanic. We take them into the national parks, beginning with Teton and Yellowstone. The students are engaged in various citizen science activities including pica and bat surveys, native plant restoration, and pollinator transects. They meet with park administration, and are invited to share thoughts on how to manage their parks in a sustainable manner.

The parks have gained in many ways from their presence, and have adopted some of their ideas. Additionally, these students have added considerably to the parks databases from their inventories and pollinator transects. They especially appreciate our diverse collection of students, several of whom have become part of the park and forest staff following the experience.
For those Latinx students and others who have an interest in birds and education, I strongly recommend visiting the Environment for the Americas, an excellent program that connects birds and people from both sides of the border.

Last weekend I offered a Bridgerland Audubon bird outing for Latinx families and others behind the Logan River Estates trailer park. Although none joined us, there will be other opportunities in the future, for I’m fully aware they have interest from many past experiences.

This is Jack Greene for BAS, and I’m wild about Utah and how it has benefited from our Hispanic people.

Credits:
Pictures: Courtesy US NPS, Will Elder, Photographer
World Migratory Bird Day/Environment for the Americas logo: Courtesy & Copyright © Environment for the Americas
Audio: Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/author/jack/

Environment for the Americas, https://environmentamericas.org/
Other Environment for the Americas sites:

 
World Migratory Bird Day illuminates the dark side of light pollution, UN News, United Nations, May 13, 2022, https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/05/1118262#:~:text=World%20Migratory%20Bird%20Day%20is,the%20northern%20and%20southern%20hemispheres

The Christmas Bird Count: Connecting to our ever changing natural world

The Christmas Bird Count: Evening Grosbeak Courtesy US FWS George Gentry, Photographer
Evening Grosbeak
Courtesy US FWS
George Gentry, Photographer
My boots crunch loudly on the snow and we pause frequently to uncover a bundled-up ear from hats and hoods to listen. We are listening for birds like the high-pitched call of a cedar waxwing, clear trilling song of a ruby-crowned kinglet, or the incessant sounds of the red-breasted nut-hatch. The bright light from the rising winter sun sparkles brilliantly on the snow, which marks the start of a full day of birding ahead in the dead of winter. I, along with many others, make these winter birding treks annually to collect data for the Christmas Bird Count, which is the longest running community science project. This count began in 1900 as an effort by an Ornithologist, Frank M. Chapman, to start a new holiday tradition to encourage people to look at birds instead of hunt them. Fast forward to 121 years later and we are still collecting data instead of dinners. The first count in the State of Utah started not long after in Provo in 1903 with many other places following suit across the state as the years went on.

The rules are simple; count all of the birds both seen and heard within a designated 15-mile diameter area over the entire day of the count which must be sometime between 14 December and 5 January. The result of these local and national counts now equates to a treasure trove of data. Every year since 1956 when the count started in Cache Valley, we observe around 90 species, though weather permitting we can see upwards of 100 species.

Data from these counts are valuable in documenting species like the Evening Grosbeak, a large vibrantly yellow-colored finch which migrates in large flocks. In the early days of the Christmas Bird Count, Evening Grosbeaks would migrate south in large numbers every few years from the Boreal Forests of Canada and the Northern U.S., to the point that they were observed in over 50% of the Christmas Bird counts across the U.S. In the late 1980’s however, their population size and ranges suddenly decreased drastically. In our data from the Cache Valley Christmas Bird Count we see this trend echoed with just 3 Evening Grosbeak observed in 1980 jumping to 119 seen the following year. That record was broken again though 2 years later and then shattered in 1987 with 721 Evening Grosbeaks seen on the single count date. The very next year the numbers plummeted with only 5 individuals seen. Numbers have since remained low until 2017 when we saw 282 Evening Grosbeaks. One theory about these dramatic fluctuations in population size and ranges is thought that it mirrors the abundance of their prey, spruce budworms. It is also hypothesized that deforestation and climate change play a role in these fluctuations of their population as well as their prey.

Observing these species and increasing this treasure of data is important for painting a picture of species movement and in addition, how species are responding to a changing climate locally and globally like the Evening Grosbeak. This massive data collection cannot be achieved by only scientists however, the participation of community members, like you and me, is necessary for not only the collection of more accurate data, but also for opening our own eyes to the natural world around us and getting to know the space that we occupy. Birding is a great way to connect to the outdoors and the Christmas Bird Count is the perfect excuse to get outside, especially this winter. Participation can be as simple as watching out your own window, joining a caravan, in separate vehicles this year to maintain social distance, or trekking through the snowy mountains from sunup to sun down. Visit Audubon.org to find a Christmas Bird Count near you to join this historic count.

I am Makenna Johnson with the Bridgerland Audubon Society and I am Wild About Utah!

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy US FWS George Gentry, Photographer
Audio:
Text: Makenna Johnson, Bridgerland Audubon Society and Graduate Student, Quiney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University
Additional Links: Makenna Johnson and Lyle Bingham, Bridgerland Audubon Society

Additional Reading

Info on Evening Grosbeaks received from:
Evening Grosbeaks, Bird Watching Daily, https://www.birdwatchingdaily.com/news/species-profiles/species-profile-evening-grosbeak/
Evening Grosbeaks, All About Birds, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Evening_Grosbeak/id

Check to see if you live within the count circle, then sign up to count today: Bridgerland Audubon Society, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Greene, Jack, Christmas Bird Count 2019, Wild About Utah, December 9, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/christmas-bird-count-2019/

Greene, Jack, Cache Valley Christmas Bird Count (CBC) and Climate Change, Wild About Utah, December 11, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/cache-valley-christmas-bird-count-cbc-climate-change/

Liberatore, Andrea, Ruffed Grouse and the Christmas Bird Count, Wild About Utah, December 8, 2014, https://wildaboututah.org/ruffed-grouse-christmas-bird-count/

Cane, James, Kervin, Linda, The Christmas Bird Count, Wild About Utah, December 9, 2010, https://wildaboututah.org/christmas-bird-count/

Kervin, Linda, The Christmas Bird Count, Wild About Utah, December 16, 2008, https://wildaboututah.org/the-christmas-bird-count/

Greene, Jack, Climate Change and the Christmas Bird Count, Wild About Utah, December 12, 2008, https://wildaboututah.org/climate-change-and-the-christmast-bird-count/

Ron Hellstern

Ron Hellstern Contributor to Wild About Utah
Ron Hellstern
Contributor to Wild About Utah
A mighty tree has fallen- but its seed has been cast far and wide through his great works. I speak of a frequent Wild About Utah contributor, educator, and conservationist. On January 3rd, 2020, Ron Hellstern left us for the great beyond. He was the personification of Wild About Utah.

Ron’s legacy can be found in the thousands of youth who accompanied him in the classroom and field where they participated in many citizen science projects for birds, butterflies, countless tree plantings, restoring streamside environments, and competing in the Utah Envirothon, which Ron helped establish in Utah

He preferred the title “Redrock Ron” which Ron earned from his unflagging love for Utah’s red rock country, culminating with Zion N.P. His contributions there were many- writing curriculum for the park, Christmas bird counts, assisting with the state Envirothon competition which he convinced Zion to host, and much more. His greatest thrill were the many family hikes and campouts he reveled in, to have those near and dear with him to partake of its splendors.

Closer to home, Ron was synonymous with monarch butterflies, fireflies, and reforestation. He spent many years with students and others hatching, tagging, and releasing monarchs to help map their western migration patterns, adding new information to assist with their preservation. Ron was a relentless advocate for planting milkweed, the host plant for rearing the monarch’s chrysalis and caterpillars.

Once he discovered fireflies in a city marsh, Ron realized this rarity needed protection. As both a city council member and citizen, he convinced the city of their unique importance. The Nibley firefly park was the result. A few thousand folks showed up for its inauguration.

And “Trees are the answer” from Ron’s perspective. His plantings were notorious throughout our valley- from school grounds to open lots, his town recognized as a Tree City USA. Ron deeply appreciated all that trees provide for people, wildlife, protecting soil and our mountains watersheds. It seemed that whenever I visited Ron, he was planting yet another tree.

Ron was instrumental in establishing the first “Childrens Forest” with the USFS in Logan Canyon. He was the primary force behind his town of Nibley receiving Utah’s first, and yet only, designation as a Wildlife Friendly City through the National Wildlife Foundation.

As a member and major contributor to the Utah Society for Envioronmental Education and North American Association for EE, Ron’s influence as an extraordinary educator was recognized. He served on both boards where his influence was felt forming policy and programs on a state and international level. Ron was a relentless champion of classroom teachers in both of these acclaimed organizations.

Ron was a kindred spirit, the brother I never had. His presence will never leave me- every tree, monarch butterfly, firefly, trip to redrock country, Ron will be with me.

This is Jack Greene in behalf of our dear friend- Ron Hellstern

Ron Hellstern-Credits:

Images: Courtesy Morgan Pratt for Ron Hellstern
Audio: Contains Audio Courtesy and Copyright Kevin Colver
Text:     Jack Greene, USU and Bridgerland Audubon Society

Ron Hellstern-Additional Reading:

Ron Hellstern Obituary, HJ News, Legacy, https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/name/ronald-hellstern-obituary?pid=194911386

Ron Hellstern Author Page, Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/author/ron-hellstern/

Ron Hellstern’s Pieces on Wild About Utah:

2019

Christmas Trees, Wild About Utah, Nov 25, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/christmas-trees/

More From The Hidden Life of Trees, Wild About Utah, September 30, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/more-from-the-hidden-life-of-trees/

The Hidden Life of Trees, Wild About Utah, August 26, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/the-hidden-life-of-trees/

The Colorado Plateau, Wild About Utah, July 22, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/the-colorado-plateau/

Living in snake country – six things to consider, Wild About Utah, July 1, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/living-in-snake-country/

Hungry Hummingbirds, Wild About Utah, May 27, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/hungry-hummingbirds/

Lawn Reduction, Wild About Utah, April 22, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/lawn-reduction/

Silent Spring Revisited, Wild About Utah, March 25, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/silent-spring/

Seventh Generation, Wild About Utah, February 4, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/seventh-generation/

Ron Describes Exotic Invasive Species, Wild About Utah, January 21, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/ron-describes-exotic-invasive-species/

2018

Winter Bird Feeding, Wild About Utah, December 31, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/winter-bird-feeding/

Ron Imagines a World Without Trees, Wild About Utah, December 24, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/ron-imagines-a-world-without-trees/

Bird Feeding in Winter, Wild About Utah, November 26, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/bird-feeding-in-winter/

Composting, Wild About Utah, October 29, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/composting/

Wildfires, Wild About Utah, October 8, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/wildfires/

Invasive Species, Wild About Utah, September 24, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/invasive-species/

Migration, Wild About Utah, September 24, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/migration/

Exotic Invasive Species, Wild About Utah, September 17, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/exotic-invasive-species/

Incredible Hummingbirds, Wild About Utah, August 27, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/incredible-hummingbirds/

Leave it to Beaver, Wild About Utah, July 30, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/leave-it-to-beaver/

Keep Utah Clean, Wild About Utah, July 23, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/keep-utah-clean/

Knowing Trees, Wild About Utah, June 25, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/knowing-trees/

Attracting Birds and Butterflies to Your Yard, Wild About Utah, May 28, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/attracting-birds-and-butterflies-to-your-yard/

Poetry of the Forest, Wild About Utah, April 23, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/poetry-of-the-forest/

A World Without Trees, Wild About Utah, April 2, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/a-world-without-trees/

Journey North, Wild About Utah, March 19, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/journey-north/

Project FeederWatch, Wild About Utah, February 26, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/project-feederwatch/

Utah Envirothon, Wild About Utah, January 29, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/utah-envirothon/

2017

Winter Bird Feeding, Wild About Utah, December 17, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/winter-bird-feeding/

Farewell Autumn, Wild About Utah, November 13, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/the-farewell-of-autumn/

Autumn Migrations, Wild About Utah, October 16, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/autumn-migrations/

Majestic Yosemite, Wild About Utah, September 11, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/majestic-yosemite/

The Zion Narrows, Wild About Utah, August 21, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/the-zion-narrows/

Build a Certified Wildlife Habitat at Home, Wild About Utah, July 17, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/build-community-wildlife-habitats/

June Fireflies, Wild About Utah, June 19, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/june-fireflies/

Conserving Water, Wild About Utah, June 5, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/conserving-water/

Bird Benefits, Wild About Utah, May 1, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/bird-benefits/

The End of Royalty?, Wild About Utah, April 24, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/the-end-of-royalty/