Sunday, January 20, 2013

Terms of Endearment

There are many places, people and things that I love. But not too many to which I can truly attach the phrase "In love with".

The other day as I was driving around work (i.e. Antelope Island State Park), that phrase struck me as the feeling I was having toward that place.

Yep, I am in love with Antelope Island.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Banding Burrowing Owls

Most people are pretty familiar with at least a few types of owls. Big, nocturnal birds, nesting high in trees or maybe barns. But did you know not all owls nest above ground, nor are all owls nocturnal?

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to help band several burrowing owls. As the name suggests, these owls nest in underground burrows. They are also one of the few owls that can often be seen during the day.

And they aren't very big. One birder compared them to the size of a pop can, which is pretty accurate.

Most of the owls we were able to capture and band were juveniles, just hatched this year, but the adults aren't really much bigger.

Burrowing owls don't dig their own burrows. They use existing burrows, either naturally formed, or excavated previously by another ground dwelling animal, such as a badger. They will also readily use man-made structures, such as underground nest boxes.

To trap the young, we placed a "live trap" in the entrance of the burrow with entrance flaps that only open inward. So as the owls emerge from the burrow, they walk right into the cage but can't get back out.

Once trapped, we carefully remove them one at a time.

Each owl is carefully given a leg band, and then weighed.

Receiving a leg band

Recording banding information



The purpose for banding the owls is to monitor their migration, lifespan, nesting success rate, etc.

They also make good candidates for photographing.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Please Consider

I don't generally put up requests on my blog. But I think this is a great and very important message that needs to be heard. Please watch and consider donating.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

My "Lazy List" of Birds

I've become a lazy list keeper. So for this past year, here is what I've jotted down as having seen. I know I'm missing a lot.

American Avocet
American White Pelican
American Kestrel
Bank Swallow
Barn Owl
Barn Swallow
Black-bellied Plover
Black-billed Magpie
Black-necked Stilt
Bonaparte's Gull
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Bullock's Oriole
Burrowing Owl
California Gull
California Quail
Canada Goose
Cliff Swallow
Common Grackle
Common Raven
Double-crested Cormorant
Eared Grebe
European Starling
Franklin's Gull
Great Blue Heron
Great Horned Owl
Horned Lark
Lark Sparrow
Lesser Scaup
Loggerhead Shrike
Long-billed Curlew
MacGillivray's Warbler
Marsh Wren
Mourning Dove
Northern Harrier
Northern Shoveler
Red-winged Blackbird
Ring-necked Pheasant
Sandhill Crane
Say's Phoebe
Short-eared Owl
Western Kingbird
Western Meadowlark
White-crowned Sparrow
White-faced Ibis
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
Yellow-headed Blackbird

Thursday, June 14, 2012


It's so nice to see plants blooming. Especially in the desert.

Backyard Yucca

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Great Salt Lake Bird Festival

In case you aren't also following the wonderful Summer of Salt - I'd like to invite you over for a look-see. The most recent post is by yours truly and discusses my experience helping out and leading several tours during the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival.

And while you're over there, check out some of the other posts that are up. This summer has just begun. There is so much more to discover and explore. So come back often.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Munchy Visitor

I didn't have to be to work until 10 am, so I fully intended on sleeping in. Then my boss sent me a text at 6:15 am with a question that required me to get out of bed and consult my schedule. I planned on going back to bed, but then I heard a quiet "woof"-like sound out the window. I thought maybe it was a young coyote, so I peaked out the window. But rather than a coyote, what I saw surprised me.

Up in the top of a Russian Olive tree was a large porcupine. Then as if to confirm to me it was the one who had made that sound, it did it again while I was looking at it. Very strange little sound. Very strange little animal.

Needless to say I didn't go back to bed. I sat there with my bins watching this little critter munching on the leaves, wondering how it avoided the sharp spines on this particular variety.

The only camera I have at home is my phone with no zoom, and I new I couldn't get a picture of it from where I was. So I just watched. When I wasn't watching the porcupine, my gaze fell upon three young fledgling magpies, and a couple of brightly colored warblers.

After a while, the porcupine slowly made its way down out of the tree, using its tail as an extra limb for support and balance.

When it reached the ground, it disappeared around the back of a large rock. I didn't see it emerge from the other side, so I figured it had hunkered down back there to take a little rest. That's when I decided to finally venture out and take a closer look.

Do you see it on top of the rock wall, near the tree?
I could see it from a distance away, and never having been all that close to a porcupine, I didn't know how close I could get before spooking it. So I cautiously approached, very slowly, not wanting to frighten it, or tick it off.

Still just laying on the rock, as if sunning itself.
Porcupines are mostly nocturnal. So they spend all night munching on leaves and grass, and then look for a quiet, protected place, sometimes in a log, or a tree, or apparently on a rock wall, to rest during the day.

It is totally just lounging around.

Finally caught a whiff of me and is searching the air trying to figure me out.
Porcupines have very poor eyesight. I was only a few feet away from it and the most it got was a slight smell of something curious. It didn't seem to notice me at all visually. So I decided to get a little closer.

Still totally relaxed.

Now its hackles go up slightly.
Once its hackles went up ever so slightly, I decided I was close enough and would leave it alone. So I backed up and decided rather than going all the way back around the wall like I had come, I would go over the wall. When I moved to the wall I apparently crossed directly into the breeze blowing past me and toward the porcupine. It suddenly had a clear smell of me, and immediately jumped up and fully extended every single (up to 30,000) quills on its body. It was a quick, and rather alarming sound to hear that movement and that quill extension. I jumped back from the wall very quickly, afraid the porcupine was going to run at me. But it didn't. It just sat there, quills fully and threateningly extended.

I got the message. I went back around the wall the long way.

Later that morning it had found a new resting place. Up in another nearby tree. The tree with the fledgling magpies. I don't think they appreciated having that prickly house companion. But there is stayed for the rest of the morning. By the time I returned from work, it was gone again. Off looking for another evening meal.

Monday, May 14, 2012


I spend my days off from work in my city home, off the island. Since the weather has been so nice, we sleep with the windows open. And so early in the morning the sounds of the birds (and the neighbor's fighting dogs) greet me. European starlings are always among those voices, sometimes American robins, and much more often lately has been the call of the dove - unfortunately it has been the call of the Eurasian Collared-Dove.

Not too many years ago, the only dove I'd hear in this neighborhood was the Mourning Dove.

Mourning Dove by Jim Huddle
 I love that sound. And I miss it. I haven't heard it in far too long.

Rather, the sound I hear now is the collared-dove.

Eurasian Collared-dove by Milt Moody
 While in and of itself, it isn't a bad sound, nor is it a bad looking bird, the fact that these birds have all but displaced the mourning doves virtually everywhere makes me annoyed when I hear their call.

The first sighting of a collared-dove in Utah was in May of 2000 and by March 2007 it was reported in every county. I remember a couple of years ago I was on a birding field trip and the leaders told us to watch for the collared-dove, as it was still quite rare and a treat to find. We didn't see any that day. However several months later I heard a new and unfamiliar coo-ing sound. At first I thought it was a mourning dove, but the pattern of the coo-ing was all wrong. So I looked it up. And sure enough it was the collared-dove. I was quite excited to have found one, as it was still not too common.

However, it wasn't long before that was the only dove I was hearing and seeing. The mourning doves had been displaced.

The story of the Eurasian Collared-Dove is captivating. A century ago, this species was found primarily on the Indian subcontinent, although its range extended slightly in Europe, in Turkey. In the early 1900s, however, the species began expanding its range significantly and by 1950 had reached the British Isles. Today, collared-doves are living above the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia.
Eurasian Collared-Doves were introduced into the Bahamas in the 1970s, and their populations soon expanded around these islands. What happened next was unclear. At some point in the 1980s, Eurasian Collared-Doves migrated, without assistance, from the Bahamas to Florida. And because they look much like the Ringed Turtle-Dove, the collared-doves started to spread unnoticed. It wasn't until the mid-1980s that ornithologists realized the suddenly prolific and quickly spreading "turtle-doves" they were watching were actually Eurasian Collared-Doves.
 So if you have doves in your neck of the woods, give them a good listen to see who's out there. If you still have the mourning dove, treasure that sound. It may soon disappear.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

What I Know

I got on my bike this evening after work. It was the first time in several weeks due to my little lungs suffering through a bit of pneumonia.

As I drove home part of me wanted to bike, but most of me just wanted to crash in the living room and watch a movie. But something moved me along once I got home, and the next thing I knew I was slowly making my way along the dirt road from my house to the asphalt. This post was initially going to be me lamenting over the slow pace at which I had to ride over said dirt road, and the advantage the no-seeums took of that. And while I will be incorporating a head net into my bike accessories, the focus of this post changed while I was biking.

I realized I was no longer tired, but rather quite full of life and energy...and peace.

There are so many things in life over which we have zero or little control. The future and what that holds is one of those things. The future has been on my mind quite a bit lately. The future, and trying to figure out what it will look like, and what I need to do to get there, and how it will all work out. I have no doubt we all do that from time to time. But despite all our efforts and planning and scheming, the future is never quite what we expect.

I thought about this as I biked along the road, watching the incredible sunset that is so much a part of Great Salt Lake. And it occurred to me - I really have no idea what the future holds for me. None. There are too many unknowns. Too many variables. But what I do know is that it will include this...

Great Salt Lake Sunset

And this...


And this...

Antelope Island

My next thought goes right along with that - I have no idea who will be a part of my future. I have hopes, and wishes, and desires, but I really don't know. What I do know, and what was made very clear to me is that it will include them...

Thousands of birds
and Him...

The Lord

and yours truly.

Me enjoying birds, the sunset and biking
 That is what I know. This is what I felt quite clearly as I let the peace of the evening wash over me and settle into my heart and soul.

And so of course my future will also include moments like this...

Bison in a cabana