In order to assess the health of Alta’s ecosystem, Friends of Alta has partnered with Tracy Aviary, Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, and Alta Environmental Center, to conduct bird surveys. These studies will be the first systematic survey of the bird species present at Alta. Starting in early Spring 2015, volunteers were trained to record baseline breeding bird surveys this summer. The protocol followed by volunteers calls for data to be collected along a pre-defined grid, at least once each breeding season. In addition to the breeding bird surveys, monthly resident bird surveys will take place throughout the winter. If you can’t make it up the canyon, we have put up bird feeders and a live streaming camera outside our office (first floor of the Town of Alta building). These are very popular with the local birds, and birdwatchers. For more information on volunteer opportunities and events, please visit our volunteer page.
The first year of this study recorded 4,259 individual birds recorded and documented 82 species of birds. The five most abundant species were the White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Clark’s Nutcracker, Chipping Sparrow, and Pine Siskin. The researchers saw six new bird species never before documented at Alta. These were the Northern Goshawk, American Pipit, White-winged Crossbill, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Yellow Warbler, and Plumbeous Vireo. In addition to the birds the researchers saw, the birds they did not see say a lot about the forest health in Albion Basin. American Three-toed Woodpeckers and Evening Grosbeaks feed exclusively on Spruce Bark beetles and budworms. The lack of these birds indicates that population of Spruce Bark beetles and budworms is low, and the trees are in good health.
2015 Alta Bird Findings:
BLACK ROSY-FINCH STUDY.
Black rosy-finches reside in the Rocky Mountains, but you'll need to climb cliffs in the highest of mountains to spot one. In the winter, rosy-finches form flocks and often roam across vast plateaus and canyonlands. Their rugged habitat and mysterious nature makes rosy-finches the least understood birds in North America.
With climate change shrinking rosy-finches' nesting habitat right of the map, many scientist are worried. Without basic knowledge of their needs, it's difficult to know what to do to ensure these birds are resilient against climate change. Nearly every conservation organization and government agency recognizes rosy-finches are of highest priority for action.
Friends of Alta Involvement
Friends of Alta has been supporting the Black Rosy-Finch study conducted by Wild Utah Project, Utah State University, Tracy Aviary, and the Utah Dept. of Wildlife Resources. The study started in March 2019. There is surprisingly little information on the Black Rosy-Finch bird species. While their cousin the Gray-Crowned Rosy-Finch migrates to next in Canada, the Black Rosy-Finch nests here in the Albion Bsin and in the Uinta Mountains. The Black Rosy-Finch prefer high Alpine environments to nest.
For the 2019-2020 season, we caught 3 Black Rosy-Finch with RFID tags, as well as 61 Gray-crowned Rosy-finch with RFID tags and another 29 with just metal bands, for a total of 90 Gray-crowned Rosy-finch.
For the 2020-2021 season, we caught 19 Black Rosy-finch with RFID tags, 69 Gray-crowned Rosy-finch with RFID tags, and an additional 4 with just the metal bands, for a total of 73. So for the 2020-2021 season we caught a lot more Black Rosy-Finch.
For the 2021-2022 season, we caught 19 Black Rosy-finches and banded all with RFID tags. We also banded 359 Gray-crowned Rosy-finches, but only 68 with RFID tags. We also recaptured 1 BLRF and 1 GCRF that were banded with RFID tags in Spring 2021, and an additional GCRF with only a metal band that was captured in early 2020.