Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Not Bad For Office Birding!

I originally posted this last fall on birdingisfun.com. I wanted to share a copy of the same post here on my own blog.
Several years ago I worked in a facility on the edge of Spanish Fork, Utah. It was surrounded by agricultural fields and just 10 minutes from numerous birding hot spots. I could leave for lunch and bird open fields, mountains, woods, the shore of a major lake, and multiple riparian areas in less than an hour. And then my company decided we needed to move from the more rural area to class A office space in the big city of South Jordan, just minutes from downtown Salt Lake City. I, for one, was not excited about the move because I feared losing easy access to nature on my lunch breaks. However, because of my position, I was allowed to choose my office in the new location so I made a trip to the new building and was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that we had a small cow pasture, a creek, and a small hillside dotted with Russian Olive trees behind our building. I was glad a family or two was still holding out on selling their property to further commercial developments. I returned to my coworkers and stated, "I want the corner office that looks out over the cow pasture." No one argued with me because they wanted to be on the front side of the building looking at the beautiful man-made water fountain in the middle of a large roundabout.

You can see a Google Map I created to highlight the area and some of the notable sightings during my time in that office by clicking here.

We officially moved in to the building in the spring and it wasn't long before a pair of Swainson's Hawks flew in from Argentina and established a nest. They soared and hunted outside my office daily. Soon their young were fledged, and then they left for the season to be replaced by wintering Red-tailed Hawks. I noticed Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks rising from the Russian Olives almost daily, had a few Prairie and Peregrine Falcon fly-bys, Bald Eagles, and then an adult Golden Eagle that flew literally ten feet from my window. "That's it! I have to start bringing my camera to work!" My secret bird photography hobby soon became well known by my coworkers and landlords when I informed them that we had a pair of Peregrine Falcons perching on and hunting from the ledges of our buildings. I soon became friends with the maintenance guys who gave me access to places in and around the buildings to get the following images of the Peregrines.

This bird was just on the other side of a tinted office window when I arrived for work one morning.

This one was having lunch on the ledge right outside my top-floor corner office. There were some safety wires on the balcony between the bird and me that caused the two blurry lines running across the image. This goes to show that I do very little editing (crop, sharpen, darken, etc.) to my images. I don't shoot in raw format and I don't own Photo Shop. I do all my photo management with Google's Picasa--a low budget approach.

A building maintenance worker allowed me access to this bird from the roof of our building after it had finished eating its meal.

This is one of the juvenile Peregrines that hunted around our building in the spring of 2011. I have documented at least three separate Peregrines near my office.

This adult female would often perch on a ledge right below my office. I was able to identify the male and female based on a size comparison when the two birds were perched close. The female had more of a pink/rufous wash on the chest and belly than the male.

This image allows a comparison of the two adult Peregrines. The female is the larger one on the right. The female had more of the pink/rufous wash on the chest and belly.

Below are a few images of other fun birds seen from my office.

One day I noticed a Golden Eagle perched in a tree below my office. The bird remained in the area for about four days straight. I thought this was odd since Golden Eagles usually hang out and hunt more in the foothills and mountains rather than the middle of the valley surrounded by buildings and homes. I soon learned that a deer had died among the trees and was providing a consistent food source for the eagle.

The image below isn't all that great, but it was taken as the eagle's nictitating membrane was mid-blink. You get a decent look at the golden nape feathers as well.

I was greeted by this juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk when I pulled into my parking space early one frosty winter morning. I love how the frost crystals are sparkling as the sun hit them. Both the hawk and the crystals would soon be gone so it was a special moment in time.

These Magpies often fed on scraps left by humans in and around the office parking lots.

I watched a family of Red Foxes grow up in the trees below my office. Two kits came out from the trees in the image below.

This fox is hunkered down in a ditch from which it ambushed grazing Canada Geese more than once. I will spare you the images of what was found in the ditch.

The fox below was hunting for voles since there were no geese around.

A severely cropped image, but the fox below had just taken a Canada Goose by the neck and is dragging it back to the irrigation ditch for a private meal. I witnessed this scene with some coworkers during a break from work. The magpies are waiting for their turn at the prey. The food chain manifested itself below my office on a daily basis as one creature preyed on another.

As the sun would set each winter night I'd witness thousands and thousands of European Starlings flocking to an unknown roost north of my office. I wish I would have taken pictures of that spectacle when I had a chance before changing jobs. Some images are stored only in our minds as we witness the scenes of nature.


  1. Bet you looked forward to going to work every day :-) How nice to have all that activity so close at hand.

    1. It was the best office ever, CabinGirl. I enjoyed it while it lasted. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Wow,you have got to be at the same round about and cow pasture on Riverfront parkway as I am. In fact, in the photo of the Peregrine falcons they are perched on my company's logo. We have been there a couple of years and I have seen some of these same birds/animals (the fox), but have never caught any on film. Thanks so much for posting these.
    Have you ever walked up the trail by the golf course and seen the nests hanging in some of the Russian olive trees?

    1. You and I were in the same building. I was on the sixth floor, corner office looking out over the field and hillside. Unfortunately, the company fell on hard times, let go of middle managers and consolidated down to the 2nd and 5th floors. Sounds like you may have discovered the nests of some Bullock's Orioles along the trail. Drop me an email and I'll share some more birding tips for the area if you are interested. I'd love to get to know you "Unknown." Thanks for commenting.