20 May 2024

Drama

Thursday, August 26th, 2021
Green-tailed Towhee, East Millcreek, Salt Lake City, Utah, 26 August 2021.
Green-tailed Towhee.

This morning’s hike with dog began quietly. The air was cool (if a bit smoggy), but very few birds to start, not much very exciting to look at—other than the familiarly magnificent landscape—and a few humans and dogs as distractions. I detected within me a feeling of disappointment, bordering on mild depression. Why? The quietness? The bad air? The fact that Jack didn’t deign to follow me up a particular side trail (a route he never questioned before)?

I decided to take a detour down below the trail, into the thickets where the deer hang out in the off season. That’s because I heard the little whine of a vireo (same as yesterday) and wanted to confirm. The good news: Jack didn’t question this detour at all. The bad news: within a few minutes, I turned to check on him, and my dog wasn’t there. Because he no longer hears well, and he’s taken to staying in one place when he loses sight of me, I panicked a little. Retraced my steps, didn’t see him, but I did see a bird in a tree—the vireo!

(Crazy that, although worried about losing my best friend of all time, a bird distracted me.)

American Kestrel, East Millcreek, Salt Lake City, Utah, 26 August 2021.
American Kestrel (banded).

Soon enough, we found each other. But still no great bird photos—until we began our return trip when, scanning for hummingbirds, I heard an unfamiliar mewling alarm note. Caught sight of the bird perched on a twig nearby, and recognized it right away as a Green-tailed Towhee. First of year. Moreover, this shy bird perched and preened and posed and let me take plenty of photos before flitting away.

Just after that, I heard the high bright call of a falcon and spied, on a snag up-slope from us, a kestrel. Second of the day, actually. I know this because the first bird didn’t have a blue leg band with the number 16 on it (which I only discovered when reviewing photos).

Finally, we surprised a big group of sparrows and finches and such coming around a bend. Added chippie, Brewer’s, and bunting to this morning’s list.

Ironically, it being such a dramatic turn—from feeling blue to feeling high excitement—I discovered when I got back to the truck that I’d forgotten to turn my GoPro on. (First time in many months.)

Oh, well. Didn’t detract from this fun, dramatic day.

Grandeur Peak Area List
At 7:09 a.m. (8:09 MDT), I hiked a few hundred feet up a mountain.

1. Black-capped Chickadee (v)
2. Woodhouse’s Scrub-jay**
3. Black-chinned Hummingbird
4. House Finch**
5. Rock Pigeon*
6. Spotted Towhee
7. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (v)
8. American Kestrel
9. Warbling Vireo (v)
10. Downy Woodpecker
11. Broad-tailed Hummingbird
12. Lesser Goldfinch
13. Green-tailed Towhee†
14. Chipping Sparrow
15. Brewer’s Sparrow
16. Lazuli Bunting

Elsewhere

17. California Quail
18. Black-billed Magpie

Mammals

Red Squirrel
Rock Squirrel
Mountain Cottontail

(v) Voice only
*Also elsewhere
**Voice only elsewhere
†First-of-year bird

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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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