The 121st Christmas Bird Count in Utah

For the 121st Christmas Bird Count, I reviewed 25 counts for Utah. Several compilers mentioned the changes needed to comply with the COVID-19 guidelines. Mostly these guidelines did away with associated social activities like pre-count breakfast and post-count potluck gatherings. The participants seemed to adjust pretty well to being confined to their personal car. Several counts had high participation. Many writings throughout the year mentioned the value of trails and parks, the outdoors, as part of the pandemic lockdown therapy. It seems the potential participants for Utah CBC counts were “looking” for a safe activity. 

Only one Utah count was cancelled. And, we had a new count established, so ended up with 25 active counts. The new count for Utah was UTOV (Ogden Valley). We welcome the new data to Utah’s database to help complete state coverage.  UTOV is strategically located in one of Utah’s high mountain valleys so represents habitats not commonly covered. They recorded 76 species on their first count.  

Utah had six counts for CBC-121 that recorded more than 100 species. We usually only have 2-3 counts with over 100 species, so the counts were very successful for this year. Counts in the state totaled 190 species. There were 22 species recorded on only one count circle. Some of the notable species seen on only one count include the following:  two Long-tailed Ducks were recorded on UTAI (Antelope Island); UTSR (Silver Reef) hit the jackpot with grebes, seeing Horned, Western, and Clark’s; most of Utah’s summer Burrowing Owls migrate, but one was recorded on UTAI (Antelope Island); the longspurs are “hit and miss” on Utah’s CBCs, but UTOG (Ogden) did record both Lapland and McCown’s (now the Thick-billed). Habitat plays a big role for some species, like the 16 Pine Grosbeaks seen on UTBL (Bear Lake) and the 12 Red Crossbills recorded on UTLO (Logan). 

Normally we think of Common Raven, Eurasian Collared-Dove, or Black-billed Magpie as candidates for all counts. However, this year it was the Bald Eagle, White-crowned Sparrow, and Common Raven that “made” all lists. The total of 11,509 White-crowned Sparrows recorded was an all time high. Normally, we get just over 6000 each year and only recorded 4611 for CBC-120 (last year). Other high counts included the 3897 Sandhill Cranes, the 105 Cooper’s Hawks, and the 121 Double-crested Cormorants. 

Some “new to a count circle” species included: a Northern Mockingbird on UTTR, four Western Bluebirds on UTSL, a Phainopepla on UTSG, an Acorn Woodpecker on UTBC, a Green-tailed Towhee on UTPR, a Golden-crowned Sparrow on UTJR, and a Black Phoebe on UTCC.   

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