Day 366 + 4 - The Birds I Missed

Wednesday, January 04, 2017 0 Comments A+ a-

Perhaps the only thing more surprising than the great birds we had in Utah this year--were the species I missed. This post is going to focus on those! I'm going to list them from most common to rarest birds that I chased--and follow up at the end for others I didn't.  With any big year, there are going to be missed species.  For example according to eBird, in 2016 in the ABA area there were 882 species reported.  John Weigel who ended up on top of the list has 779, while Olaf Danielson who came in 2nd tallied 776.  That's over 100 species that neither saw--or roughly 12% of the birds.  I won't know the total % here in Utah since I will need to submit records to the UBRC on several species.   I think the total of all birds reported in Utah this year is in the 375 range, plus a couple others that never made it into eBird (eBird shows 365 "verified").  So 378-380.  That puts me around 94% which is pretty darn efficient.

In any event, here is the list of the missed!

White-tailed Ptarmigan

This is perhaps unforgivable. I am still at odds with the fact I didn't have one despite 3 trips to a location in the western Uinta Mountains where they were regular last year. My mistake was not taking a trip over a weekend to a traditional hot spot in the eastern Uintas. I thought I would just stumble upon one, and before I knew it, Autumn hit and I ran out of time to make the needed trip. In my previous big year I saw this species in one try, so this was a big miss...

Ruddy Turnstone

My first Utah Ruddy Turnstone came in my first Utah Big Year in 2007. Since then I have literally seen dozens in what had become an annual spring migrant on the Great Salt Lake. But the low water levels on the lake made for less than ideal conditions this spring. One bird hung around for almost a week, and despite looking on 4 occasions, I was never able to pick it out. I also missed the sole fall report at Utah Lake by a day when I chose to chase another bird instead. That other bird was Greater White-fronted Goose which I ended up seeing 5 or 6 of in the following months...

Painted Redstart

You might be asking, "wait, there are Painted Redstart in Utah?". Yep, that's right, there are PARE in Utah. This southern specialty ranges into the southwest corner of the state and is found annually in Zion Canyon in Zion National Park. Despite 4 trips to the main canyon in the park this year, including 2 tries specifically for the redstart I struck out. Another species I easily picked up in 2007. The park was busier than normal this year, and more people meant more noise and less optimal conditions for this bird. Still, I feel like I probably didn't do enough as this should have been a sure thing...

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

So this species in not on the official Utah Checklist--but that's an oversight on the current and past committees abilities to deal with this species and the forgone conclusion that all lowland "Western" Flycatcher migrants through the Mojave in the fall (and maybe spring) are PSFL. Call notes recorded seem to validate this, along with the information from Nevada and Arizona. I made multiple trips in the spring and fall and saw not a single "Western" Flycatcher. What a bummer. I would have counted it because of what the data says. Instead, a strange year in the Mojave didn't produce the bird I expected...

Hermit Warbler

This annual fall migrant in the pine-oak forests of the southwest moves through Utah from mid-August through September. I wasn't able to make it down at the height of migration but figured there would be a few stragglers in late September. I was wrong. In fact by late September songbird migrants were almost non-existent in the area. My missing the window likely killed any opportunity I had for this bird in 2016...

Red-breasted Sapsucker

One day... I missed this species by one day. While birding Lytle Ranch on a very underwhelming morning in late September, I had this on my target list of possible arrivals for the fall. The next day one showed up--and I was 300 miles away. It wasn't seen again, and despite efforts 2 weeks later and again in December, I couldn't turn one up. Although this species is reported most years in Utah, this was a less than average year and this seemed to be the only good report...

Hooded Warbler

This was an unexpected bird for the year, and when I got wind that one had been banded at a park in southern Utah while I was in the area, I made my way there. Horrible winds made the birding horrendous, and despite covering the park quite well the bird was not seen again. This wasn't as big of a deal as it was sort of a freebie. IT sure would have made a nice one though...

Least Bittern

Although there were no public reports of Least Bittern in Utah this year, I had it on good information that they were still breeding along the Virgin River in St. George. A friend and I mad ea late June trek through the river one evening to see if we would have any luck. We didn't. I could have absolutely put forth more effort on this species, but decided the effort would be better spent on other species...

Elf Owl

This was a species I had twice in 2007, and despite trying 3 times in 2016 I was not able to track one down. The extent of this species and its range in Utah is still widely debated. It's been years since there has been a report, so its existence in Utah may be a thing of the past...

Bendire's Thrasher

Another species I snagged in 2007, I tried several times during 2016 in areas where I have seen them before. This is another species that isn't regularly encountered in Utah anymore and may be pretty rare nowadays. The effort I put in was on par with previous years so it just wasn't meant to be...

And below are the birds I didn't chase or try for that were reported during 2016 or in the days leading up to it...

Winter Wren

Terribly rare in Utah, and the only report was a fleeting glimpse in the days after Christmas. I weighed my options and decided it wasn't worth the chase with the information I had. I did have this species as one I expected this year as they are being reported with more frequency than in the past.

Yellow-throated Warbler

In the last couple weeks of 2015 a Yellow-throated Warbler showed up in the Hyde Park are in Cache County. I tried unsuccessfully for it before the year was over and hoped it would show up into 2016. Sure enough, it was reported a handful of times in the first couple days, but after the first weekend came and went with no reports I decided not to try. This is my current Utah Nemesis Bird--one I have tried for 3 times and do not have.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

In what was an odd year for this species there were only a couple reports and neither were chase able. More probably passed through unreported, but this species is almost guaranteed at feeders in and around Salt Lake or Provo every year. I had expected this as a sure thing in 2016 so it was a big disappointment to not pick one up.

Upland Sandpiper

A 30-minute wonder, this bird showed up in the middle of the desert on a telephone pole and was calling up a storm.  Unfortunately, the bird was gone 30 minutes after the sighting.  I was poised to hop in my truck and trek the 120 miles to go see it but saved the trip while others searched in vain the rest of the day.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

This was an obscure sighting I just happened to come across.  I recall the report but at the time didn't think it was worth the effort given the difficulty in relocating cuckoos in Utah.  This species used to breed here, and may still (last summer a cuckoo carcass was found at a local Peregrine nest in Salt Lake City) but had become quite difficult.  I had both species of cuckoos in my previous attempt in 2007, but since then there have only been 2-3 good reports of either species in Utah.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Another obscure sighting from a backyard feeder in eastern Utah. I saw the pictures and wasn't sure how the record was verified in eBird given the shape of the primaries of the bird.  To me, it looked like a BCHU, but it currently sits on the official list for 2016.  In any event, I opted not to chase because of these reservations.


This bird was a one hit wonder--although apparently it may have been around a few days.  The original observer decided not to share the sighting,  and used the following as the reason, "undisclosed spot to protect the surrounding areas". Not quite sure what that meant, but this is now the 2nd Gyrfalcon in the last few years that was delayed being reported to the general public.  Both were at state parks and the odds of human-caused disturbance seemed minimal.  In any event, I can't be too bothered, since, I didn't share all my sightings as well... Also, once word got out and others looked, no reports surfaced saving me the time of chasing and looking.

Chestnut-sided Warbler

This was a reliable find, with a good audio recording, but I wasn't sure I was up to the challenge given the time it would take for the chase and the size of the area the bird was found.  It was never relocated so I guess I made the right call.

Orchard Oriole

This might be the biggest oops of the year.  I was less than 5 minutes away but given the lack of info, I decided not to take a chance.   I was also birding undercover and trying to stay incognito.  I chose to look for another bird which I didn't find, only to learn later in the day that the bird was seen by many and provided great looks.  Oops.

Common Redpoll

In early December 2015, a flock of Redpolls were found hanging around in Morgan County. I went and saw the birds which included a bird that looked mighty fine for Hoary Redpoll. I planned on making this a January 1 priority. But on January 1, the roads were impassable to the area, os I didn't try. This flock was the only report for the 2015-16 winter, and likely a ghost flight from the previous year as no reports have surfaced so far in the winter of 2016-17

2016 Year List: 358


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