Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Finding a New Birding Patch

Sandy Urban Fishery's resident Great Blue Heron
Recent changes at work have me spending more time at our office in Sandy, I had to find myself a new lunch-hour birding patch. Now finding a new birding patch isn't all that hard, but you want to find one that is productive, right?! Here is a link to a previous post about How to Pick a Patch. A nice mixture of habitat is always nice and helps increase the diversity of bird species.  So, straight to Google Maps I went to look for water and green space on the satellite image near my new location. Easy enough!

Turns out that the Sandy Urban Fishery is just down the hill, west of my new office. This is also along the Jordan River Parkway Trail, just 60 blocks south of my old lunch-hour birding patch. Similar habitat to my old patch, but with the nice addition of the fishing pond providing a whole new ecosystem and a whole new set of birds that I didn't have at my old patch. So far I've been delighted with it as I've seen 38 species already...which is great considering the time of year. I even saw a Palm Warbler there on my very first visit...a nice rarity in Utah (though we had three Palm Warblers earlier in the year).

Other birders had previously discovered this nice little birding location as it was already an eBird hotspot entered as "Sandy Fishing Pond". Visiting birders have not been consistent throughout the year and only 64 total species have been reported to date. As always, my goal is to eliminate all those grayed-out columns of unreported weeks on the eBird bar chart for my birding patches. Let's see how long it takes me to get to 100 species here!

The aerial map below shows my office location relative to my new birding patch. I can take the Jordan River Parkway Trail either north or south depending on where my birding mojo leads me that day.

Inspired by the awful species labeling during the Attu fly-over on the movie version of The Big Year, below is a close-up map of my new lunch-hour birding patch with labels of where I regularly see certain species.
The Jordan River runs along the west edge of my patch. The pond hosts a variety of waterfowl. The area is surrounded on three sides by golf course and creeks. Most of the trees are Russian Olives, but there are some Cottonwoods.
I'm looking forward to photographing Terns from this dock next year! There are always several fisherman at this regularly stocked pond during the lunch-hour. I stopped by before work recently while frost covered the ground and fog clung to the pond, and it had way more ducks and geese on it. Sharing with the fisherman will have its disadvantages, but I've already had a couple of them ask me about what birds I was seeing, so I suppose its worth it from the birding-outreach aspect.
Below is the view looking north. Mostly Coots on the water.

I had this Red-tailed Hawk fly over the other day. One fisherman informed me it was a female Red-tail. I asked him how he knew, and he just grinned. I don't know how to determine gender on Red-tailed Hawks. Jerry Liguori, can you confirm what the crazy fisherman said?


  1. Cool new patch Robert! I'm looking forward to hearing what you find there. Good luck!

  2. You are fortunate to have nice little place for a mid-day escape. The mountains make for a nice background view.

  3. @YsMum @Jeremy @Paula - thanks for your nice comments. Patch birding really is very rewarding and interesting...maybe not always as exciting as seeing a new life bird, but each new patch bird brings its own excitement.

  4. Hi Robert:

    You can only sex Red-tailed Hawks if you see a pair together, or are familiar with a mated pair. There is a paper on sexing Western birds by measurements, but that doesn't apply to flighted birds of course.

    There are slight differences in shape and wing beat between very small males and very large females, but many fall in the overlap range. There is one plumage marking that I have learned but it does not apply to many birds (only some) and I'm not willing to put that on the internet. Feel free to e-mail me personally with any other questions...I don't follow the blogs that closely, not even the one I contribute to.

  5. I stopped by the Sandy Fishing Pond today for a few minutes. I didn't see the Red-tailed Hawk, but did see your Grebes. I also saw a Downy Woodpecker in your Starlings and Robins tree. Big blue is a regular at the pond last year I persuaded a fisherman to share with him. Her is a link to a picture :