15 January 2021

Patch Birding

Saturday, August 1st, 2020
Virginia’s Warbler, East Millcreek, Salt Lake City, Utah, 01 August 2020.
Virginia’s Warbler.

I’ll admit it: I’m a patch birder. For about a decade or so I’ve regularly birded one patch or other (with a rare—and delightful—excursion to Monhegan Island, one of my favorite places on the planet). Sure, patch birders might miss out on variety, rare vagrants, long life lists. But if you really want to get to know a place, it helps to get to know individual birds when they return to their particular trees each spring.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird (male), East Millcreek, Salt Lake City, Utah, 01 August 2020.
Broad-tailed Hummingbird (male).

I’m also an ear birder—that is, my very first true birding experiences involved chasing down songs until I found the birds that made ’em. (Fortunately, my ears remain more sensitive than my eyes even.)

In this new (well, almost year-old) Utah patch, I’ve gotten to know a bunch of new species, individual members of those species, their voices, their habits, their subtler sounds. Take, for instance, the Black-throated Green Warbler. Just today I confirmed that I can ID that species by its chip note. Tell you the truth, it feels kind of like a superpower.

Also today, I heard a chip note I had not yet learned. It sounded to me like a warbler’s, but it wasn’t a dry note (like the black-throated gray’s)—it had a touch of music to it. A tiny sweet tone. And then I spied the bird.

My next challenge is to be able to ID a Virginia’s Warbler by its chip. We shall see.

Grandeur Peak Area List
Beginning at 8 a.m., I hiked a few hundred feet up a mountain.

1. Rock Pigeon*
2. Lazuli Bunting
3. Mourning Dove
4. House Finch*
5. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
6. Brewer’s Sparrow
7. Spotted Towhee
8. American Robin**
9. Black-capped Chickadee (v)
10. Black-chinned Hummingbird
11. Broad-tailed Hummingbird
12. Cooper’s Hawk
13. Virginia’s Warbler
14. Woodhouse’s Scrub-jay (v)
15. Black-throated Gray Warbler
16. Pine Siskin (v)
17. Barn Swallow


18. Black-billed Magpie (v)

(v) Voice only
*Also elsewhere

**Voice only elsewhere

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Bird Report is a (sometimes intermittent) record of the birds I encounter while hiking, see while driving, or spy outside my window. —Brian Willson

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