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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Snowbirding

I had the pleasure of participating in the American Birding Association's annual convention held at the Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort in Utah last week. I gave a talk on Tuesday night titled Out of Breath Birding, discussing the environmental challenges of birding in the treeline & alpine tundra ecosystems of the Central Rocky Mountains. After that I could relax and enjoy the convention a bit more for the rest of the week. There seemed to be a great balance of birding (such as seeking & finding specialties like Black Rosy-Finch, Black Swift, and Greater Sage-Grouse), meeting new folks from around the country, catching up with pals I haven't seen in a while, and doing a little business networking. I worked the Leica booth, which is always a pleasure because I get to encourage folks to try some of the best sport optics in the world. We had a prototype of the new 82mm APO-Televid Scope for folks to check out, which generated a lot of interest. I also led trips and helped out on the digiscoping workshop that was held on Friday afternoon. The general consensus among attendees was that our venue, the Cliff Lodge, was the nicest facility to ever host an ABA convention- the food was good, the amenities were great, and the setting was breath-taking. I got one new bird on the trip, a California Quail. Thanks to Bill Fenimore for letting me stake the bird out in his back yard! (And congrats to Bill for receiving the prestigious Ludlow Griscom Award!!)I did a little birding & photographing in Little Cottonwood Canyon before things got underway, and was psyched to get my best pics yet of McGillivray's Warlber and a neat singing Swainson's Thrush. I also enjoyed watching the moon set over the granite cliffs flanking the lower canyon:

McGillivray's Warbler

Swainson's Thrush

Northern Crescent (?)

Anyone know which lizard this is?

One of the trips I helped lead started in Provo Canon at Bridalveil Falls, a Black Swift nesting location. We found 4 of the big blackies high over the opposite canyon walls mingling with throngs of White-throated Swifts- too high for pics but here is what the group looked like as they were scanning:We ended that day at Sundance Resort. Most of the trip participants opted for the scenic chairlift ride, myself included. It was really relaxing & fun to be birding from the lift- here are some highlights:
Yours truly kicking back on the chair- the easy way up the mountain!! (Thanks to Jeff Gordon for the pic.)

Yep- working hard for those mountain birds!

Eye-to-eye with a treetop Western Tanager.

Besides birds, we saw this herd of elk cooling off on a snow patch on the flanks of nearby Mt. Timpanogos. Is it just me or is that snow field shaped a bit like S. America??

I wrapped up my time at Sundance along the bank of the creek that runs through the base area, watching this American Dipper foraging. Other participants were treated to a memorable scene when it was feeding a newly fledged, very vocal chick.


I also co-led a trip to the Deseret Ranch highlands. The ranch is immense and so is the birding potential!! What a great place to visit. Here are a few pictoral highlights:

Field Crescent (?)

Uinta Ground Squirrels

Cordilleran Flycatcher

Lunch along Trail Creek

Orange-crowned Warbler

Greater Sage-Grouse (taken through bus window)

On the last day of the convention, I led a special trip that rode up the Snowbird Tram to the summit of Hidden Peak, elevation 11,000'. We birded around up top for about 1.5 hours (plus studying pikas, marmots, and several high-elevation butterflies and absorbing the scenery) before 7 of us started the long walk down while everyone else rode back to the base on the tram. We took about 5 hours to leisurely make our way down, studying the birds, insects, and plants that presented themselves on the 3200' descent.
Riding up on the tram

Looking up at the summit of Hidden Peak


Pika hunting (photo-safari style, of course.)

Bill Thompson III with some trail booty- I'll bet someone was missing those last winter!!

Making our way down

About 3/4 of the trip down was on snow- in fact, we saw some skiers and snowboarders doing their thing (they rode as long as they could and then hiked the rest of the way down.) We found a safe stretch of snow that some of us glissaded:

Thanks much to the American Birding Association for inviting me to speak and lead trips! Good to see everyone there, and if you missed it, hope to see you at the convention next year in Corpus Christie, Texas!!

1 comment:

Leslie said...

Dear Mr Schmoker,

My mom & I really enjoyed your breathless birding talk during the convention. We agreed, "His students are so lucky!" Too bad we didn't get you as a guide on one of our fieldtrips, but thank you for these wonderful pics. The juvie Am. Dipper was a highlight for me during what proved to be a marvelous week and look, here it is!
Thank you so much,
Leslie