I was stoked about going to the 2019 Audubon Christmas Bird Count at beautiful Bryce Canyon National Park. Since I had never participated in group bird count before, I signed up to do so with the Red Cliff’s Audubon group out of St. George, Utah. Being a member of this group, I was happy to go with them. However, the weather forecast to be VERY cold so I wore the warmest clothing I had.
Arrival at the Park
The sun was rising upon arrival near the park. It was a blustery cold 11 degrees in the parking lot at the Bryce Canyon National Park and I was surely hoping that is would warm up some. Luckily, it did! (I was still reeling from the fact I was going to get to do this birdcount at a National Park!)
Upon arrival at the visitor’s center, we all went upstairs to a meeting room. The room had various round tables along with a small kitchenette in there. The leader from the park in charge was Peter Densmore, the Visual Information Specialist of Bryce Canyon National Park. He talked a little about the park, just what we were going to do, and how to record the bird species we saw. Peter showed us on the map displayed in the room some of the areas the groups would be assigned to. I was in Group II, and we were to go to Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, the ranger housing area and another area that escapes me at the moment. All equipped with our Bird Count Species Checklist, Group II set out with Peter to observe the park’s birds in our assigned areas.
And Away We Go!
I was so hoping that sometime during the bird count that I would get some good photos of a beautiful bird of the high elevations – the magnificient Steller’s Jay! This particular jay has been hard for me to get good photos of so my fingers were definitely crossed. At the very first place we stopped, Sunset Point, we immediately saw Mountain Chickadees in a tree growing on the outside of the safety fence. We then had some Townsend’s Solitaires and Red Crossbills fly into a dead tree just by the trail to view. The Crossbills had the sweetest song to listen to.
Upfirst, the Red Crossbill
This was my first time meeting the Red Crossbill, ever. There were several, and they sat above us chirping and we were able to observe them before they flew off.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw some movement. A beautiful Clark’s Nutcracker flew like a bullet across the massive amount of “hoodoos” in the canyon. So cool to see these at an elevation of 8000 feet! We could also see across the way, the highest plateau in North America – Aquarius Plateau.
The next stop, Sunset Point is at an elevation of 8000 feet. There were more Clark’s Nutcrackers and I got my wish! A gorgeous Steller’s Jay flew into a tree just over the fence in front of me. I took as many photos of it as I could. There was lots of snow on the ground and it helped to show up the cute little Pygmy Nuthatches.
Ahmm…Can’t Make it up the Snowy/Icy Hill
Everything was going fine. The birding was great. We were all having a great time, then the one road back of where the rangers live proved a snowy frozen and icy problem. It wasn’t steep mind you, but went you got the apex of it, the ice made you slide back down. After trying everything we could to no avail, the volunteer with us called another ranger on the radio for help.
Back to the Visitor’s Center
After about 2 hours, we all returned back to the upstairs meeting room at the visitor’s center for a scrumptious chili lunch. There were several different types of chili and I partook of the vegan one. Dee-licious! It was the perfect food to warm me up after being out in the cold for the bird count. During the lunch, each group at a table got the chance to tell everyone where they went, what birds they saw and the quantity of each species. The numbers were recorded and given to Peter. Afterwards, we each got a cool long-sleeved tee shirt with a Clark’s Nutcracker on it to take home with us, and a cool few stickers.
As a final tally of out birds we saw in Group Two, we saw 5 Steller’s Jays, 8 Clark’s Nutcrackers, 2 Common Ravens, 17 Mountain Chickadees, 15 Pygmy Nuthatches, 8 Townsend Solitaires, 1 American Robin, and 13 Red Crossbills. Not a bad morning for birding!
The Red Cliff’s Audubon group is located in St. George. I was glad they sponsored this bird count and I surely enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow birders from different areas as we went out. Can’t wait to do this again!