Thursday, January 12, 2012

Birding Goals and a little Patch Birding

Bald Eagle perched on a snag on my way to Decker Lake, West Valley City, Utah
Usually each year I make three challenging birding goals. Some ambitious personal and family goals as well as some increased responsibilities at work have really put a crunch on my birding and bird blogging time. That's okay though. "To everything there is a season" right?

So this year, one of my goals will still be to average at least one eBird checklist per day and I invite you to take the One-a-Day eBird Challenge too. Another eBird related goal will be to have a checklist submitted for each week for my regular birding patches. Then, when I run the bar chart in eBird it will show a complete week-by-week year of the bird comings and goings from my little corner of the world. It will help me and science better understand migration patterns. Now if all of you and your birding friends did the same, think of the increased understanding we'd all have. I also find it very fulfilling personally to enter and follow eBird data. It's not for everyone though. One Utah birder recently commented that counting birds sucks the life out of her. If that is the case, by all means, don't count the birds! Just enjoy looking at them. Other Utah birders have a little eBird competition brewing so my normal eBirding will contribute to that fun little game and friendly competition.

I had considered doing a Davis County Big Year, but I am postponing that for some future year. That half-hour drive north to Antelope Island will be too hard on family time and on the family budget this year. No goals related to life birds for me in 2012. I'll take whatever I get and can afford to chase. So all in all, my goals for this year involve a little more zen and a little more life balance.

One birding patch that I have visited a few times before, but plan to visit each week during the winter waterfowl season on my lunch hour is Decker Lake. Below are some recent images from birding at or near Decker Lake.

(Don't forget, you can click on the images to enlarge your viewing pleasure. A nice lightbox that Blogger now has as a standard feature now opens up on your screen so you can scroll through and better enjoy the images.)

The above and below photos reflect a pretty common winter scene at Decker Lake. Do you see the Cackling Goose in the middle of the photo above? How about the female Common Merganser in the photo below? Which other species can you pluck out of the pictures?

As common as Red-shafted Northern Flickers are, I can't explain why, but every time I see one, it takes my breath away and I get an adrenaline rush. Maybe that is part of why birding is so addicting.
Killdeer on Ice. I thought all the Killdeer would have headed out of town to warmer climes by now, but a few hardy (or dumb) birds try and stick out the cold of Utah's winter. One thing interesting to me about this photo is that I discovered that Killdeer have black toenails.
Not a great photo, but still the awe inspiring iridescence of Black-billed Magpie wings and tails constantly impresses.
Three Long-billed Dowitchers still hanging out in Utah in winter, just past the edge of the ice on the lake, doing what Dowitchers do best, bobbing for food.


  1. Great post Robert, I like the idea of weekly patch. I have been sort of doing that the last 6 months, but I have missed some weeks

  2. @Dan - Thanks for the comment. Weekly patches are fun and deeply rewarding. I get a little ticked with myself when I look at my eBird charts and see that gray-hatched column, showing a week that I missed at my patch. I'm letting it serve as motivation to be more diligent.

  3. Grrrreat photos Robert. It's nice to have some consistent birding areas. You get to know the land and the birds, and there are still plenty of surprises even though you're lord of your domain.
    I was playing Where's Waldo/I Spy with those two panoramic photos. In addition to those nifty Canada Geese, the Cackler, and the female Merganser, there and Northern Shoveler and, it looks like a Snowy Egret there in the top-right corner. I can't figure out those two in white-breatsed waterfowl in the top center. Scaups or Ring-Necks?

  4. when I used to frequent utah I was always impressed by the scrub jays. nice shots.

  5. Love your post Robert. As a bird photographer I don't do lists, I just create photos but I think eBird checklists are a great idea for those who do keep lists.

  6. @Laurence - it is a gull in the top right corner. I believe the white-breasted water fowl are male shovelers.

    @flux biota - Utah does get some nice scrub-jays. They've been an bit absent from my yard of late, unless they are around during the warm part of the day while I'm at work.

    @Mia - eBird rocks! I wish I could photo-list birds like you do! One day, one day.

  7. I'm still making my birding plans for 2012, so haven't finalized any ABA or Lifer goals. But I'm with you on the eBird one a day challenge--so far I'm on track with 42 eBird checklists submitted this year, including at least one a day. I'm also going for my 20 Bird Minimum Daily Requirement--which means birding a bit every day, and making up double the birds I miss on days I don't really bird (like most Sundays). So far so good, including a make up day with 42 species this past Monday to make up for the mere 11 I saw incidentally on the way to church and back on Sunday (daily 20 + 2x the 9 missed the day before).

  8. @Birdchaser - Wow! You are really regimented and strict with yourself. Make-up birds for missed birds on previous days? That's intense. I kinda admire that. Your MDR is always in my mind and I sort feel like I succeeded on days when I get 20 or more and kinda like I failed just a bit when I only get 17 species. I don't let it ruin or run my life though. Like today at lunch, I only saw 17 species, but I saw an unexpected Marsh Wren and a gorgeous male Bufflehead and I felt fulfilled (both first for my lunch-hour patch)!

  9. A terrific post, Robert! Oh how I wish I had the time to submit one checklist a day to eBird. It's definitely too difficult right now, as we are very busy building a house, but I think I will try to submit lists more often. I see so many birds at our property out in the country. I think I will make more of an effort to submit checklists more frequently. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Fantastic photographs! Such a handsome Black-billed Magpie. I would love to see one. Beautiful image of the Long-billed Dowitchers. All great!

  10. Robert, I am so sorry life has gotten so busy for you. I do know how birding can relax as well as excite you. I hope you can find time for it in the midst of all you responsibilities. As you know, I am an avid eBirder and am already submitting at least one checklist a day. I do find that sometimes I can get lost in my listing, so I have made an effort to relax and enjoy the birds I am counting. It all works out.

  11. Great post Robert! Super photos. The Northern Flicker in flight is my fav. What a super shot.

    As you know I took the eBird Challenge when you initiated it and I think I'm doing pretty well. I like the way it helps me keep track of the comings and goings of my local species and will let me easily look at when species first show up and when they leave my area.

    I've never been a lister but eBird makes it easy!

  12. @Julie - Let that desire within you build so that you can join that elite group of birders known as "eBirders", ;-)

    @Kathie - Nothing to be sorry about. It's all good and the things in the works will likely help me enjoy birding much more in retirement!

    @Larry - Amen Brother!

  13. The One-a-day eBird Challenge is an interesting concept. I didn't think I would have the time to do so, but ended up passing that benchmark.

    On my birding trips, I usually birded several locations in a day--and kept track of a lot more birds than if I did just a "trip list" that I may have done in the past. I also kept track of birds at the feeder--at least one complete checklist per week (sometimes a couple of lists per day), and a few "highlights only" lists during the week.

    So I ended 2011 with 302 complete checklists and 398 total checklists.