"Who’s Who in Winter"

Abert’s Towhee

        Almost weekly we make a trip to the local sewage treatment plant in St. George. The beauty is not in the destination, but what we see along the side of the road. About a mile before you come to the treatment plant there is an abandoned ditch line filled with desert bushes. This is a super location where we constantly see Quail, Abert's Towhee by Judy WarrenWhite-crowned Sparrows, House Sparrows, Juncos, Roadrunners, Lesser Goldfinches, and lately Abert’s Towhees. These particular Towhees, instead of being semi-reclusive like most of its breed, have learned to use the neighborhood feeder across the road, and can many times be seen walking on top of the cement wall. Abert’s Towhees, a ‘Lone Ranger’ look-alike with its black face mask, is a beautiful brownish gray color about the size of a Robin. This drive to the treatment plant takes you just north of the Virgin River and gives you a look of what the St. George area was like years ago before a lot of development.

        Abert’s Towhees are generally found on the ground scratching, digging, where there is leaf litter or debris in thick bushes. Mathis Park was a great area to see them until the 2005 flood went down the Santa Clara River and wiped out their habitat. After the flood, many of the Towhees found their way to Tonaquint Park. If you go to Tonaquint early in the morning just as the sun comes up . . . just as things are beginning to warm . . . and spread a little bird seed . . . you will have an opportunity to observe up close the Abert’s Towhees, Gamble’s Quail, White-crown Sparrows, Flickers, Cottontail Rabbits, and maybe a Spotted Towhee. This is a great time of year to see who is spending the winter in southern Utah. There were 103 species counted on the St. George Christmas Bird Count this year, and 113 species counted at the Silver Reef Christmas Bird Count.

        Judy Warren is the artist this week. Thank you Judy for this lovely acrylic painting and giving us an up-close look of the Abert’s Towhee. The Red Cliffs Audubon will conduct a Field Trip on Saturday, February 13, 2010 to the local ponds in our area. Meet at the St. George BLM at 8:00 a.m. Public is welcome. For more information about Birds or Field Trip call 435 673-0996.


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