The Audubon Society for the Protection of Birds is Counting Birds for Conservation

The Audubon Society for the Protection of Birds is Counting Birds for Conservation: Cassiar Junco, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart
Cassiar Junco
Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart

The Audubon Society for the Protection of Birds is Counting Birds for Conservation: Cedar Waxwing eating Juniper Berry, Courtesy & Copyright Jimmie Grutzmacher, Photographer Cedar Waxwing eating Juniper Berry
Courtesy & Copyright Jimmie Grutzmacher, Photographer

Red-breasted Nuthatch, The Birds of America paintings by John James Audubon, Courtesy the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, Montgomery County Audubon Collection, and Zebra Publishing Red-breasted Nuthatch
The Birds of America paintings by John James Audubon
Courtesy the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, Montgomery County Audubon Collection, and Zebra Publishing

The Bridgerland Audubon Society has enjoyed another productive Cache Valley Christmas Bird Count, and the participation of volunteers watching from home has proven as valuable as ever because despite the roving teams of volunteers covering the farms, wetlands, canyons, and mountains in the established 177 square mile count circle, the home sector sometimes contributes species missed by the driving and hiking teams. Either way, birds connect us because everyone who spent at least a few minutes counting birds was an important part of assisting the Audubon Society in generating community science data for the conservation of birds and the habitat they need.

The Audubon Society for the Protection of Birds was established in 1886 by George Bird Grinnell, who was inspired by the conservation ethic of his tutor and mentor, Lucy Bakewell Audubon, the widow of naturalist and artist John James Audubon. Grinnell published The Audubon Magazine, which “constituted one of the first efforts to preserve bird species decimated by the women’s hat trade, hunting, and loss of habitat.” (1) Many of the early members were women who, ironically, would attend society meetings wearing plumed hats.” (2) Grinnell is credited as the architect of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, an effort which took over a decade of advocacy and the many voices of Audubon chapter members.

“The legacy of the Migratory Bird Treaty is the recognition that these magnificent birds are held in public trust and shared by all citizens. Our responsibility is to make sure that this legacy endures by conserving and managing migratory birds and their habitats for future generations to enjoy.” (3), and while the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is the cornerstone of migratory bird management across North America, anyone can help by participating in community science bird counts.

Highlights from this year’s Christmas Bird Count Home Sector reports include a few species not seen last year, such as Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum), which can be attracted to gardens with a songbird border of Juniper berries, Hawthorn, Serviceberry, and Red Osier Dogwood.

Also seen, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Corthylio calendula), one of North America’s smallest birds, which “can linger because in addition to insects, it will also eat berries and suet at feeders.”(4) The Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) “feeds mainly on insects and spiders in summer; in winter, eats many seeds, especially those of conifers. Young are fed mostly or entirely on insects and spiders.” (5)

“Seed-eating boreal visitors, including several sparrow species and the Darkeyed Junco, will benefit from your letting things go literally to seed.” (6) The American and Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus tristis & Spinus psaltria) and the Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus) can be seen feasting on the tiny seeds in dried wild Sunflowers, Coneflowers, and Black-eyed Susans.

This year we added the elusive Cassiar (Junco hyemalis cismontanus), a Darkeyed Junco race also known as the Rocky Mountain Junco, which is rare to spot anywhere.(7) The Cassiar resembles a Slate Junco, but with a hood darker than it’s back. It is set apart from the more common Oregon, Slate, Pink-sided, and Gray-headed Juncos. This is an exciting addition to our local Christmas Bird Count checklist, and was made possible by someone watching the birds outside their window. To paraphrase Louis Pasteur who observed that in science chance favors the prepared mind, the more you know, the more you notice.

I’m Hilary Shughart with the Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I am wild about Utah!


Images: Cassiar Junco, Courtesy & Copyright Hilary Shughart
      Cedar Waxwing eating Juniper Berry Courtesy and Copyright Jimmie Grutzmacher, Photographer
      Red-breasted Nuthatch: Courtesy of the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, Montgomery County Audubon Collection, and Zebra Publishing
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver,
Text & Voice: Hilary Shughart, President,
Additional Reading: Hilary Shughart and Lyle Bingham,

Additional Reading

  1.  Spare the Birds! George Bird Grinnell and the First Audubon Society, by Carolyn Merchant, Yale University Press, 2016.
  2.  B&C Member Spotlight – George Bird Grinnell, Boone and Crockett Club,
  3.  The Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial, For 100 years, this landmark agreement has been the cornerstone of migratory bird management across North America. by Paul Schmidt. Ducks Unlimited, June 23, 2016,
  4.  Ruby-crowned Kinglet, American Bird Conservancy,
  5.  Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis), National Audubon,
  6.  “ Even though records are widespread across much of the lower 48, only two of the grids show higher than the 0-2% frequency, the rarest category. They appear to not be common anywhere.”
    Dark-eyed Junco races: Oregon, Slate-colored and Cassiar By eBird Northwest Team December 12, 2014
  7.  How to Welcome Winter Birds: Fall may mean migration, but one bird’s north is just another bird’s south. By Ashley P. Taylor, National Audubon, October 06, 2015,
    Disponible en español
  8.  Dark-eyed Junco races: Oregon, Slate-colored and Cassiar By eBird Northwest Team December 12, 2014

Ordinary Extraordinary Junco, by Jonathan Atwell, Steve Burns, and Ellen Ketterson, 2013 Documentary Video

Wright, Rick, “The Junco Called Cassiar” (2013). Nebraska Bird Review. 1324.


Shorebirds: Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri), Shorebirds at Utah Lake, June 2, 2023, Courtesy & Copyright Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah
Western Sandpiper Calidris mauri
Shorebirds at Utah Lake, June 2, 2023
Courtesy & Copyright Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Department of Natural Resources, State of Utah
Shorebirds in August? I’d been told there was a robust migration during that time, but hadn’t tested the validity of such until a week ago. Three other young ladies joined me to do a count at the Salt Creek Wildlife Management Area near Tremonton Utah. And boy did I need their younger eyes and energy as we were inundated with shorebirds- avocets, stilts, curlews, greater and lesser yellowlegs, dowitchers, marbled godwit, western sandpipers, killdeer, and a flock of small peepes (short for small sandpipers).

Myriad other magnificent migrants joined the mixed flock- numerous duck species, juvenile black crown night herons by the dozens, herons, egrets, ibis, terns, etc., but they don’t qualify as shorebirds, so we enjoyed their presence, but they didn’t make the list.

A few other non-migrants were noteworthy- a burrowing owl that posed beautifully on a fence post emitting constant chatters, and a very fat, mature western rattler with many buttons on its tail./ The Salt Creek WMA is a jewel that gets few visitors given its “out there” location competing with the 80 thousand acre Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge next door, which boasts an outstanding visitor center, offering many resources and educational programs.

This was the first official fall shorebird survey conducted in 30 years at roughly 200 sites across 11 western states. These surveys fill a critical three-decade data gap in our understanding of migratory shorebird populations and their distribution. The results will inform management and policy efforts to ensure there are resources to support birds and the places they need during their migratory journeys.

The survey was organized by the Sageland [Collaborative] organization, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and several others, conducted by volunteers and biologists via airplane, vehicles, ATVs, boats and on our feet. This survey will occur for the next three years, during the same week each spring and fall, to coincide with the peak shorebird migration across the region.

We’re part of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem, whose wetlands support nearly one-third of the global population of Wilson's phalaropes, more than half of American avocets, 37 percent of black-necked stilts, and 21 percent of the North American population of snowy plovers.

Shorebirds are a diverse group of birds including sandpipers, plovers, avocets, oystercatchers, and phalaropes. There are approximately 217 recognized species globally, 81 of which occur in the Americas for all or part of their lifecycle with 52 species breeding in North America, many of whom visit Utah.

Shorebird are the endurance marathoner winners, some migrating 20,000 miles a year. Their remarkable hemispheric travels coincide with peak abundant food. In their global pursuit of food and breeding grounds, home is nowhere, yet everywhere. As a result, shorebirds are difficult to track, monitor, and protect. /Shorebirds are among a few groups of birds showing the most dramatic declines. Their decline began in the 1800s, in part due to market hunting. As humans have continued to alter the landscape, shorebird populations have further decreased, with declines increasing rapidly in recent decades.

Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon Society, and I’m Wild About Utah’s wild Shorebirds!

Image: Courtesy & Copyright Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Used by permission,
Audio: Courtesy & © Patrick Kelly,
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon,
Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, Bridgerland Audubon,

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah,

Van Tatenhove, Aimee, The Quiet Importance of Brine Flies, Wild About Utah, Nov 15, 2021,

The Sageland Collaborative,

Migratory Shorebird Survey, The Sageland Collaborative,

Statewide shorebird surveys restarted after 30-year hiatus; over 84,000 shorebirds counted during spring survey, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, June 2, 2023,

Salt Creek Wildlife Management Area:
Salt Creek Waterfowl Management Area, Utah Outdoor Activities,
Salt Creek WMA, UtahBirds, Utah County Birders,
1999-2001 Great Salt Lake Waterbird Survey: (Salt Creek is #33 under Survey Areas)
Salt Creek Habitat, GeoData Archive, Utah Geological Survey, Utah Division of Natural Resources, State of Utah,

A Tribute to Birders

Outdoor enthusiasts on a
birding adventure in Logan Canyon
Courtesy Stephen Peterson

Hi, I’m Holly Strand from Stokes Nature Center in beautiful Logan Canyon.

According to Chris Leahy, in his encyclopedic book, Birdwatcher’s Companion, birdwatching refers to “the regular, somewhat methodical seeking out and observation of birds, whether for pure aesthetic pleasure or recreation, or for a more serious, quasi-scientific motive.“

If you are in America, the term birdwatcher is most often applied to people with a passing interest in birds, perhaps as backyard bird aficionados. In contrast, birders are people who seek out birds “in a more serious and energetic manner, either to hone field-identification skills, or to amass an impressive life list.” A life list is simply a record of all the species of birds that one has seen during his or her life. An impressive list in North America may consist of 6 00-700 birds. A person who travels to see birds may have a list of 4000+ .

The demographics of birders are interesting. A 2001 study estimates that there are 46 million birders or birdwatchers 16 years of age or older in the US. Within this collective group, the average person is 49 years old , has a better than average income and education, and is more likely to be female, white and married. Among Utah residents , 27 % of the population qualify as birdwatchers. Utah ranks 18 among states according to % of residents who watch birds. Montana is first at 44%, followed by Vermont at 43%.

However, 88% of the birders considered by this study were categorized as casual or backyard birdwatchers. If you consider only avid birders with carefully-honed identification skills and people who keep life lists, the gender balance shifts dramatically. That’s why most sources consider birding a strongly male –dominated activity. In fact, birdwatching has been described to be an expression of the male hunting instinct as well as linked with the male tendency for “systemizing” which has to do with organizing, categorizing, listing and counting.

A subset of the avid birder group is formed by twitchers. A twitcher is devoted to ticking off as many birds as possible for his or her lifelist. I am told that in the UK twitchers will appear suddenly as a ‘flock’ in some remote corner of the country (or someone’s backyard) whenever a very rare bird has been spotted—usually a migrant blowing in from Europe or North America. Twitchers use the latest in communication media –hotlines, mailing lists, eforums, bulletin-boards, and web-based databases to find out when a rare bird is in the vicinity. Then they will use whatever means available –perhaps a helicopter!—to get there as fast possible. Here in Utah, a twitcher might use the hotline on as one source of information.

Those of you who associate with birders will probably agree that they are as fascinating as the birds themselves. Here’s to you, my avian-loving friends.

Thanks to the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation for supporting research and development of Wild About Utah topics.

For Wild About Utah and Stokes Nature Center, I’m Holly Strand.


Photo: Courtesy Stephen Peterson, Bridgerland Audubon Society

Text: Stokes Nature Center: Holly Strand

Sources & Additional Reading:

Leahy, Christopher. 1982. The Birdwatcher’s Companion. An Encyclopedic Handbook of North American Birdlife. NY: Grammercy Books.

Maddox, Bruno. 2006. Blinded By Science Birding Brains: How birding in Central Park in an age of terror makes the man. Discover. Science, Technology and the Future. published online November 30, 2006 ( accessed February 14, 2009)

Pullis, La Rouche, G. 2003. Birding in the United States: a demographic and economic analysis. Addendum to the 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. Report 2001-1. US Fish and Wildlife Service. Arlington, VA.

The Logan Christmas Bird Count

The Logan Christmas Bird Count: A Mountain Chickadee One of 103 bird species found in the 2007 Bridgerland Audubon Christmas Bird Count Photo Courtesy
A Mountain Chickadee
One of 103 bird species found in the 2007
Bridgerland Audubon Christmas Bird Count
Photo Courtesy
The Christmas holidays bring us a bevy of welcome annual traditions. Even now I can smell the cookies, hear familiar caroles and see the decorated tree. I hear the western screech owl too, for I also join in the Logan Christmas Bird Count. These are exhaustive one day surveys of all the individuals of every species of bird that can be found in a locality. Christmas Bird Counts began 109 years ago in New York City as a holiday alternative to the excesses of the so-called “side hunt”. From that first inspiration, the Christmas Bird Count has spread to all 50 states, Canada, Mexico and beyond. Last year, most of the 2100 counts were in the US, totting up 57 million individual birds representing nearly 2000 species. Here in Utah, we reported 180 bird species. Provo holds honors as Utah’s first Christmas bird count, held in 1903. Today, hundreds of Utahns participate in 20 local counts, from Saint George north to Bear Lake.

I always join Bridgerland Audubon’s count in Logan, which has been running for 52 years. Last year, we finally topped 100 bird species in our allotted count circle of 150 square miles, the effort of 61 birders. That’s remarkable for a chilly winter’s day, considering that many of our feathered friends, such as hummingbirds, flycatchers and more have hightailed it south for the winter, but note that some northerly species, such as roughlegged hawks, view Utah as the balmy endpoint of their fall migration.

Christmas Bird Counts offer something for everyone, from novices to seasoned birders, and from simple feeder counts to backcountry walkabouts. I’ll be up in the predawn, listening for owls. Every count’s data contributes to long-term research about winter dispersal patterns of birds, their population trends, and impacts of troubles like West Nile virus, which is especially hard on crows, magpies and jays. If you like birds, join in the fun and make the Christmas Bird Count one of your holiday traditions.

All counts are scheduled between December 14 and January 5. Utah’s Christmas Bird counts are listed on our website: just search for Wild About Utah. Our Logan count is on Saturday, December 20. That evening, we’ll flock together for a big potluck and count compilation party.


Photo: Courtesy

Text: Bridgerland Audubon Society – Jim Cane

Additional Reading:

Christmas Bird Counts in Utah,, Milt Moody, Webmaster,

The 109th Christmas Bird Count: Citizen Science in Action, National Audubon Society, Inc.

Idaho Circles:

Utah Circles: