Day 366 +10 - April 2016 Recap

Tuesday, January 10, 2017 0 Comments A+ a-

called it the April boom when I blogged about it--but really April hit like the headwinds of the May Hurricane that was to follow.  From the very first weekend of the month things went exceedingly well.  I took my family camping in the desert near Lytle Ranch on the 2nd and 3rd.  As we lay in the tent early in the morning on the 2nd I heard my first new year birds--and Ash-throated Flycatcher.  This was quickly followed up by a flock of Pinyon Jay that moved through camp.  A good start to a breastful morning.

Camping on the BEaver Dam Slope

Pretty soon I could hear the buzzing of Brewer's Sparrows, followed by flyover Barn Swallow--more year birds.  We hit the road to head to the ranch but didn't make it far when a flicker came swooping across the road--with golden yellow underwings flashing on each wing beat.  We were in a Joshua Tree forest in the Mojave--I didn't even have to look to know it was a Gilded Flicker.

The Joshua Tree Forest

While a Yellow-shafted Flicker is possible it would be even rarer than the Gilded.  I jumped from the truck and followed the bird snapping a few shots as it landed on a Joshua Tree.  They weren't great, but they showed the cinnamon face.  The bird took flight flashing the yellow again, and disappeared over a hill.  That was a great year bird.

This was my 4th Gilded Flicker on the slope in the last 10 years

The record passed the UBRC with a vote of 7-2.  The dissenters were incredulous to the ID, despite the facial pattern, location, and lack of features that would rule out the eastern vagrant, or a hybrid.  We continued to the ranch where a few breeders had arrived including Lucy's Warbler, Bell's Vireo, and both Costa's and Black-chinned Hummingbird. After a short hike, we headed to a nearby reservoir for lunch--I picked up the local pair of Common Black-Hawk for the year, and surprise migrant Whimbrel on the mudflats at the inlet.

Whimbrel with  a flock of American Avocet

That night we camped near the ranch and heard my first Common Poorwill and Long-eared Owl of the year.  19 new years birds for the day was the best since January.  The following morning was much of the same.  We took a side road out into the desert to check a watering tank called Zella Tank.  Over the years I've found random good birds here, refueling on their journeys.  Today when we rolled up, a Meadowlark was perched on the edge of the tank and flew giving a high pitched "chweet" and rattle which had me flying out of the car,  before landing about 100' away. I got some photos and it again gave the high pitched call before taking flight and heading south out of sight.  The bird looked like a sure fire Eastern Meadowlark. Any meadowlark  on the slope is a good bird with this being the 1st of any species I've seen away from Lytle Ranch.

Eastern Meadowlark near Zella Tank

I submitted the record to the UBRC to see what would happen.  They voted and after a couple rounds, the record was not accepted 3-6.  That's an odd vote--usually, it's all or none--but 1/3 of the voters sided with the ID.  A 3-6 vote is essentially as good as a 7-2, based on who voted yes and who voted no. To each their own--for me this was year bird 181 regardless of the outcome of the record.

April brought its normal array of migrants: shorebirds, terns, hawks, and swallows.  The usual stuff until April 15th when a Magnificent Frigatebird was reported at Quail Creek Reservoir some 270 miles from Salt Lake.  The was no hesitation--I called my friend Kenny Frisch and we were in a car on our way early the next day.  The bird wasn't at the reservoir though... We waited and scanned the horizon in futility till my phone rang.  Local birder extraordinaire Rick Fridell was on the other end--the bird was at a pond a few miles away.  We rushed over and quickly found ourselves staring at the gorgeous glider as it circled the pond...

The very lost, and very cooperative Magnificent Frigatebird

How out of place.  Seeing it cruise past the red rocks was a sight to see.  We spent over an hour watching it as it circled the pond then headed to the reservoir then back to the pond.  Over the next few days, a lot of Utah birders got their state and lifer frigatebird.  It was only the 2nd record--15 years after the previous one.  I had no expectations of this species for the year, so it was a complete freebie.

Windy conditions at Sand Hollow Reservoir

We should have left the frigatebird and gone to Zion National Park to look for Painted Redstart--a bird I missed in 2016--but we instead went to nearby Sand Hollow Reservoir where we found a good flock of shorebird that included Snowy Plover, Sanderling, Western, Least, and Semipalmated Sandpipers.  All great birds for down in the desert.  by lunch time we were headed back north with a successful chase complete, and my year list sitting at 203 species.

Snowy Plover on the red sand at Sand Hollow

I spent the rest of the month picking off arrivals as they popped up.  Evening Grosbeak, Common Tern, Burrowing Owl, Mountain Bluebird, Wilson's Phalarope and Band-tailed Pigeon.  As birds showed up I quickly picked them up.

Band-tailed Pigeon at a regular hang out in Utah County

Then as the end of the month neared a Palm Warbler was reported just outside Park City--about a 30-minute drive from my house.  I wanted to chase but didn't want to be seen since I knew birders would be out in force.  I waited till late in the day and went--strike 1, no warbler.  That night two more birders had it after I was there--crap I'd missed it.  I went back the next morning despite a snowstorm overnight that dumped a couple inches on the ground.  After 2 hours of searching along with a handful of birders I left--strike 2.

An hour later the next email through the listserv reported that the bird had been seen again.  I was beside myself.  I couldn't make it back up that day as I was now about 60 miles away and didn't have time.  So I waited.  The next morning sure enough others were out and had it with no problems.  I snuck away before lunch and found myself wandering down the path where the bird had been seen.  Like nothing the Palm Warbler called and then flew and landed no more than 5 feet away.  3rd tries the charm!!!

The Palm Warbler on my 3rd try!

It was my 216th species for the year and the last bird I would see in April--a month that blew in with force and really got things moving.  56 new year birds behind 2,300 miles in the car... Lot's of time on the road...  I put 28 miles in on the ground and 78 hours birding.  It was a great month--but Hurricane May was right on its heels, and May was a HUGE month.

Another adventure with my budding birder

2016 Year List: 358


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