June 14, 2020
  • Jordan River – Heart of the West Side

Birding along the Jordan River

This male Yellow Warbler was spotted in late August 2019 in Victoria, Texas on its way back to the tropics. Yellow Warblers are migratory birds found across most of North America, including Utah, spring through fall. They spend our winters in Central America and northern South America.
This male Yellow Warbler was spotted in late August 2019 in Victoria, Texas on its way back to the tropics. Yellow Warblers are migratory birds found across most of North America, including Utah, spring through fall. They spend our winters in Central America and northern South America.|||| This male Yellow Warbler was spotted in late August 2019 in Victoria, Texas on its way back to the tropics. Yellow Warblers are migratory birds found across most of North America, including Utah, spring through fall. They spend our winters in Central America and northern South America.|||| ||||
By Anne Terry

As I write this, I am full of excitement, listening to the first Yellow Warblers I’ve heard this year. These tiny, bright yellow birds come to Utah all the way from Mexico and Central America. Every spring, they migrate under the cover of darkness until one morning, they’re in your neighborhood, with the males singing their sweet songs from the treetops.

This is what birdwatching (or “birding”) brings to my life, and the lives of many others. It turns a simple observation of, “Oh, birds are singing; that’s nice,” into, “Oh my gosh! A bird that only weighs as much as two credit cards just flew hundreds of miles to be here and sing that song!” You learn the incredible natural stories that help you feel more deeply connected to the place in which you live.

Of course, there are many motivations for birding, and all are valid. Some love keeping lists of the birds they’ve seen, whether it’s to challenge themselves to see a certain number of species or just to reflect back on great experiences. Some appreciate that birding motivates them to be active, while others are glad to watch bird feeders from their window.

With the Jordan River running through the West Side, we have some fantastic birds living among us! Spring and summer are particularly exciting times, as birds use the river as a migratory pathway and a place to nest. But fall and winter have their own charms, as some birds who nest north of here or at higher elevations come to the relatively warm valley.

However, the prevalence of birders (people who watch birds) on the West Side doesn’t seem quite so high, at least based on online birding records.

The online database, eBird, was created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Anyone can create an account and record the birds that they see. I’ve recorded birds I’ve seen in my Poplar Grove neighborhood, and eBird has notified me that several of my records, such as the Western Screech Owl and Red-breasted Nuthatch, were species previously unreported in our area at this time of year. As fun as it is for me to be the first to record them, I'd rather share the fun with more people.

So, how does one get started birding? It’s great if you can buy binoculars and a field guide (Sibley Birds West is a great guide for our area), but you don’t have to. The Jordan River is an advantage for birders, as it brings larger birds like ducks and herons close enough to identify with the naked eye. If you’re trying to see small birds, you can bring many to you with feeders. There are wonderful free online resources to help you attract and identify birds. Below are a few.

I hope this inspires you to take a closer look at the birds of the West Side. Happy birding!

Anne-Terry-headshot.jpgAnne Terry lives in Poplar Grove and works as the Manager of Tracy Aviary’s new Jordan River Nature Center located at 1125 W. 3300 S.