The 122nd Christmas Bird Count in Utah

For the 122nd Christmas Bird Count, I reviewed 25 counts for Utah. This summary is my 24th review and last. Yes, I’m retiring after this review and summary. For CBC-99, I wrote: “This is my first year as Regional Editor for the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) circles in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.  First, a big ‘HATS OFF AND THANK YOU’ to Helen Downing for 19 years of dedicated service!” At the time I couldn’t believe we had the same editor for 19 years, and now I complete my 24rd year. The regions have become more aligned with state boundaries, so over the years I’ve “downsized” from three states to one. My regional editor “run” has been a good one.

Utah had three counts for CBC-122 that recorded more than 100 species. Last year we had a whopping six. We usually only have two or three counts with over 100 species. The 25 Counts in the state totaled 193 species, which is close to the average. There were 31 species recorded on only one count circle. Some of the notable species seen on only one count include the following: White-winged Scoter on UTLO (Logan), Red-necked Grebe on UTSR (Silver Reef), Green Heron on UTSG (St. George), Thayer’s race of the Iceland Gull on UTSL (Salt Lake), Williamson’s Sapsucker on UTZI (Zion NP), Phainopepla on UTSG (St. George), Fox Sparrow on UTHV (Heber Valley), Rufous-crowned Sparrow on UTZI (Zion NP), and Red Crossbill on UTSL (Salt Lake).  

Normally we think of Bald Eagle, Common Raven, Eurasian Collared-Dove, House Sparrow, or Black-billed Magpie as candidates for all counts. However, only the Common Raven “made” all of the counts this year. A total of 11,509 White-crowned Sparrows was an all-time high on CBC-121. CBC-122 was closer to the average for White-crowned Sparrows with 6861 (on 22 counts). We only recorded 4611 for CBC-120. Other high counts included 6074 Sandhill Cranes which topped the high count of 3897 Sandhill Cranes last year, and we’ll need to follow this trend to see if higher numbers of Sandhill Cranes are remaining in the state thru December.

Some “new to a count circle” species included: Lapland Longspur was “new” on two circles – UTBL (Bear Lake) and UTJR (Jordan River); Common Redpoll was “new” on three circles – UTDJ (Jenson) and UTAI (Antelope Island) and UTHV (Heber Valley); Turkey Vulture on UTMG (Morgan); Orange-crowned and Townsend’s warblers on UTSL (Salt Lake); Eurasian Wigeon on UTOG (Ogden); and Virginia Rail on UTPC (Park City).

I’ve noticed several changes in the Utah CBC data over the 24 count years. First, several species, like Lesser Goldfinch and Great-tailed Grackle, have been expanding their range to the north. Next is the Eurasian Collared-Dove story. We had been reading about their spread out of Florida when a few records appeared in Utah in the early 2000s. The first Utah CBC record was on CBC-103 when 25 were recorded on five counts. Their numbers increased rapidly to 10,409 on 22 counts for CBC-114. Then numbers decreased and leveled off. For CBC-122, 5682, were recorded on 24 counts (only 25 counts in Utah). In recent count periods, Utah has experienced several mild fall seasons and a lot more open (un-frozen) water. This has resulted in much higher waterfowl and waterbird numbers and species. Also, Wild Turkey populations have been expanding and increasing. The 18 count circles reporting Wild Turkey on CBC-122 was very high; although the 1392 number was not as high as the 1593 reported on eight counts on CBC-111. I’m sure many of these trends, and probably a few new ones, will continue over future years. Thanks for all of the support over the last 24 years.