Monday, February 28, 2011

My new birding patch

A continuation of the previous post about how to pick a patch for birding...

Check out the photo captions and see how I employed my selection criteria even in the middle of winter and without help from local birders to identify this as a place with birding potential.  I'll also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of my new birding patch.

I found this new birding patch by using Google maps and looking for water and trees within a reasonable distance of my Salt Lake office.  The bends in the river and the public trail made it look promising for being a good birding location before I ever visited.
On my short drive to my new patch there is an old now unused pasture.  In the last months I've seen Red-tailed Hawks,  Canada Geese, Black-billed Magpies, and hundreds of Rock Pigeons and European Starlings here.  I lump this area into my patch as it adjacent to the trail, but only viewable from the drive in.
The trailhead starts at General Holm Park which is traditional community park with playset, picnic shelter, and perpetually closed restrooms.  I don't spend much time birding here, but I have seen several species including the geese in this photo, Northern Flickers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Dark-eyed Juncos.
Trailhead sign, complete with hoodlum spray-painted "tags". I'm sure General Holm could have whipped those boys into shape!
Magpie nest in the trees.  There are dozens of them here...a good sign that birds do inhabit this area.  Magpie nests are often used by other birds.  I have already found these trees occupied by Robins, Chickadees, Brown Creepers, Downy Woodpeckers, and Flickers.
Nice patch of dense scrub brush, trees, and pines.  I've already found these types of patches full of Juncos, White-crowned Sparrows, Spotted Towhees, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and more.
Every patch has something unique that gives it character like this section of leaning trees. I tried for some time to get a close-up of a Brown Creeper right in those trees and I never got a single photo.
A nice patch of sage brush along the trail which gives some nice variety to the habitat.
The Jordan River winds its way through my new birding patch.  There seems to be plenty of willows and cottonwoods along its banks.  I've seen Belted Kingfisher hunting its waters and few species of waterfowl floating its surface, while Bald Eagles fly over head.  I like that the trail provides me an elevated view
Some open areas above which perch American Kestrels hunting for voles and deer mice.
I knew the Jordan River was directly west of my office, and I was delighted to discover a park and trail head as I zoomed in on the online map. It was important for the location to be within a 5 minute drive so that I could spend an enjoyable amount of time birding rather than driving.  This location is 1.7 miles from my office.  If you can find a birding patch within walking distance, even better!

I could tell that this location was publicly accessible, and there was safe parking.  Sometimes you will find on the map places that you know are perfect birding locations, but when you arrive, you discover that they are private property with no public access or that the place is just to darn scary to park or walk.

This trail gets used by walkers, joggers, cyclists, and dog walkers.  I have found everyone to be courteous and friendly and they have not interfered with my birding.  I am concerned with the apartments which are right above the bank of trees and brush where the birds seem to congregate in poorer weather.  Really, I'm just afraid that people will look down from their windows and see this strange dude looking up in their general direction with binoculars or a camera.  It is important for birders to be sensitive to concerns about peeping and avoid false accusations.  A couple of annoyances I have about my new birding patch is the amount of litter and of feral or neighborhood cats.  Birding patches may also have other dangers, for example this location has a steep river bank that collapses regularly, so it is wise to stay on the trail.

I've added this location to the eBird Hotspots and I signed up to participate in eBird's My Patch program.  This page tells you what your life, year, and month list is for your patch, and it ranks your patch in comparison with other participants (if you care about such competitions..and sometimes I do).
My eBird bar chart for this location is well underway with 27 species.  Darn it!  I missed the first two weeks January and the first two week of February, so I won't be able to have a complete bar chart until next year.  I may miss another week or two during the year, but after a couple years I should have a great bar chart giving anyone a pretty good understanding of the comings and goings of birds in my patch.

I am excited about the birding possibilities at my new birding patch.  I'm sure my blog will include posts and photos of my lunch-hour birding adventures here.  I'll keep you updated on the species I see there.


  1. The new patch looks full of promise. Wish you lots of lunch-hour birding adventures :-)

  2. Wonderful post! Happy birding at your newly found birding patch :)

  3. @gwendolen @Julie G. - Thanks for your well wishes for my new promising patch!

  4. I'm envious - I would love to have a patch like this!

  5. @Charles - I still wish I had the opportunity to visit your patches in Northern Idaho.

  6. Yeah Robert! I have several patches myself. Some here in the east and of course, Sycamore Canyon out west. I still do not know how to use all the eBird features that you do. I don't think I have ever created or looked at a bar chart from my own sightings. Your new patch looks wonderful. Can't wait to see what you discover there! Don't fall into that river!