Utah County Birders Newsletter
February 2002


Wednesday, February 27th.
Meet at 7:00 PM
in the Bean Museum Auditorium on the BYU Campus.

Featuring Kent Clegg, a noted Sandhill and Whooping Crane migration researcher.

In 1997, Kent Clegg led a flock of Sandhill Cranes from southeast Idaho to central New Mexico to research the problems that might occur when trying to teach the endangered Whooping Cranes new migration paths. Since that time, Kent has participated in numerous mammal and avian conservation projects. Kent lives in Grace Idaho at his ranch and continues biological research projects.

All are welcome for this free lecture.


Saturday, March 2nd

Our February field trip to see the Snow Geese is actually going to be Saturday, March 2nd.
We will leave from the street parking in front of the Provo Temple at 6:30 A.M. Reed Stone has graciously consented to lead us there and to other areas in the vicinity. Dress warmly and bring a lunch, snacks etc. Reminders, changes or additions to this field trip will be posted on your e-mail.

Backyard Habitat
by Dennis Shirley

What’s In A Name by Dennis Shirley Last night, members of my family and I had tickets to the Olympic Medals Ceremony and the accompanying concert. When I told my BYU class that I was going to the meadals ceremony and concert by the “Fighting Few,” there were blank stares in the students faces. Then one student realized that what I meant to say was the “Fu Fighters.” When I asked my students where the name for the group came from, nobody knew. Then I found out I was also spelling the name wrong and that it was the “Foo Fighters.” So what’s in this name? Whether it’s few, fu, or foo makes a big difference.
     The same problem applies to birds and birding. We’re all familiar with changes in common names of birds by leading scientific organizations such as the A.O.U. The duck once called the Oldsquaw is now called the Long-tailed Duck. There is no longer any such thing as a Rufus-sided Towhee. Instead, we now have two birds: a Spotted Towhee and an Eastern Towhee. What was once known as the Plain Titmouse, is now named the Juniper Titmouse, and its close California relative is the Oak Titmouse.
     Bryan just got home from New Zealand. His dilemma with adding birds to his world life list is complicated when the same bird species has several common names, one recognized in New Zealand, one in Australia, and one in North America. Such is the case of one gull found in New Zealand. Most books name this gull the Reed-billed Gull (Larus novaehollandiae). But Australian field guides have this same gull named the Red-billed gull found in New Zealand is simply a subspecies of the Australian Silver Gull. Adding to the confusion, when Bryan got home and opened his Clements’ “Checklist of Birds of the World,” he found that Clements lists two separate species: the Silver Gull (Larus novaehollandiae) in Australia only and the Red-billed Gull (Larus scopulinus) in New Zealand. So who do you believe? Bryan knows he saw a gull in New Zealand, but what’s it name?
     Bryan also relates the story of going on a pelagic trip off the coast of New Zealand. During the trip, the boat’s captain called out the name of five species of albatross. But Bryan recognized that, in reality, there were only two species of albatross with several subspecies. When questioned about this, the captain agreed but said “I just called them species anyway.”
     Except, of course, he called them mollymawk, not albatross. Bryan could also relate stories of varying opinions about the number of species of kiwi and several other New Zealand birds.
     So what’s in a name? Good old Webster says that a name is “a word that constitutes a distinct designation of a thing.” That sounds pretty straight forward, but it isn’t as simple as it seems, especially with common names of birds. Thank heavens for scientific names which help clear up the problems (but no always). If you’re a lister, no wonder it’s hard to keep track of how many birds you have on your list!
     Some people share their names with birds. It must be fun for a birder to have first a name such as “Robin,” “Merlin,” “Phoebe,” “Martin,” and “Deedee,” or a last name such as “Hawkes,” “Van Moorhen,” or “Shearwater.” In my case, I am known as Dennis, Denny, Officer Shirley, Mr. Shirley, Brother Shirley, Bishop Shirley, Dad, Grandpa, and a few other that I better not print. But no matter what you call me, I’m still the same person. The birds are too, if we can just figure out what!

Robin's View

Bald Eagle Day, 2002
by Robin Tuck

     That’s the only word for the Bald Eagles that winter in Utah. Actually, the word works for Bald Eagles everywhere.
     Groundhog Day, 2002, was sunny, clear, and cold, with the local groundhog seeing his shadow all day long. The threat of a longer winter diminished my enjoyment of a bright Saturday not a bit, so I gathered my visiting mother and headed out to enjoy the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) Bald Eagle Day.
     Scott Root, the DWR Public Affairs Officer in the Springville Office, set up his station at the fish hatchery near Fountain Green which was nearest me; but other Officers were at five other spots throughout the state. The press releases said that late morning would be a good time to see Eagles; so we didn’t hurry, quite unlike other birding trips I have participated in.
     Hitting the road by 10 allowed us to reach Fountain Green by 11:30; indeed in time, because we discovered four Bald Eagles, two mature and two immature eagles, in a stand of trees several hundred yards east of the hatchery. Scott had several scopes, adjusted in height for small children aimed at the most prominent Eagles. I didn’’t need the scopes nor the binoculars I carried to see that these were full-grown adult Bald Eagles. Whenever I see a big, really huge, black blob in the trees without an obvious head or tail, I know it is a mature Bald Eagle because the white heads and tails seem to disappear into the background. Of course, closer examination resolved the head and tail against the bright light blue of the far horizon. They were indeed magnificent.
     We loitered around Scott’’s display, admiring the stuffed Eagle and noting that although it had once been a real live Bald Eagle, it didn’t elicit the same emotional response the distant ones did. We took the poster and the 2002 Bald Eagle Day pin and read the display while Scott spent time with other visitors.
     Bald Eagles, like most other birds, are hatched without feathers and must be cared for by their parents until the eaglets reach full-grown size, which takes 3 to 4 months. Immature Bald Eagles are mostly dark with some white under their wings, taking 4 years to gain their mature plumage.
     About 1300 Bald Eagles from the Canadian Rockies migrate to Utah every year, seeking sustenance from Utah’’s plentiful small game and relative warmth in Utah’’s ‘‘warmer’’ winter weather. Although the Fountain Green area attracts larger concentrations of Eagles than surrounding areas, it is not uncommon to find them anywhere in the state, including sitting on power poles along busy city streets.
     The four Eagles putting on a show for us at the Fish Hatchery were good, but I remembered much higher concentrations along the road between Fountain Green and Wales that had been the viewing spot in prior years, so I asked Scott about it. He said he had visited the place that morning and saw numerous eagles. This answer sent me scurrying to find that spot again.
     We located eagles at several spots along the road, but not until I stopped at a wide spot in the road and cleaned my glasses that I looked east and saw a big tree loaded with Eagles. I probably would have missed this sight had not another bird watcher stopped beside me and raised his field glasses, but there in the distance, about 500 yards away, was a large leafless tree with at least 20 Bald Eagles in it.
     During the next hour as we stood and watched, Eagles flew in and out of the tree. I was transfixed by the sight, but, alas, my non birder mother, although patient with me, never felt the awe.

© 2002 Robin Tuck, UtahNature.com

Good Back Yard Year
by Bonnie Williams

 I didn’t go to any Exotic Island, but I did have a good year in my back yard. I added 9 birds to my yard list, most of which I never expected to see from my yard. It all started in February when UCB came for a field trip and a Great Blue Heron flew over my house. Wild Turkeys came wandering in the neighborhood in April. Something I never expected to see. Then thanks to Alona’s good eyes and ears I was able to see the Northern Saw-whet Owl and the Northern Parula from my yard. Then nothing new until a Fox Sparrow showed up the last Sunday in November (It is still hanging around the last of January). Merrill came to check out the Fox Sparrow and told me to watch for a Redpoll. I looked out the window a few hours latter and there was an Indigo Bunting and a few minutes latter the Redpoll. What a beautiful little bird. I am sorry that all my good birding friends that came did not get to see it, But I did enjoy the company. I added 2 more to my yard list thanks to Merrill and Dennis and their good eyes.
     Years ago I thought there were Larks, Bluebirds and Seagulls (our old primary classes). Now all these years latter at the end of 2001 I have 87 Beautiful Birds in my yard and met lots of wonderful people that I never would have met if I was not a Birder.
     What A wonderful hobby.

 On our web site: A note from the webmaster

The New “Records Committee” Section

The “Utah Bird Records Committee” is charged with keeping records of the species of birds found in Utah and publishing the official Utah Ornithological Society checklist. With the help of us “regular birders” who find and report rare birds, the committee maintains a state checklist and a “review species list” (of rare birds that need documentation) and publishes these lists for anyone who’s interested in the birds of Utah.
     The new “Records Committee” Section of our web site (www.utahbirds.org) has been created to give us a “ring-side seat” on the working of the Records Committee as well as a handy resource we can easily use to participate in the process of defining the bird life in Utah. They need our help! Even we “rookies” can be of help in finding and documenting these rare birds.
     Here are some of the features of the new section:
  - There is a list of records under review by the Records Committee along with many of the actual sighting records, photos and drawings submitted to the committee.
  - There’s a list of official rare-bird sightings for Utah taken from “historical” published materials and from the official reports of the records committee. (There are links to some unofficial sightings as well -- mostly compiled from the state hotline reports).
  - The latest review species list is updated as soon as changes are made. (As new species are seen and documented in the state or as species cross the “rarity threshold,” species are added or deleted from the list).
  - A variety of sighting forms is available. There is an electronic form you can fill out and submit right on the web site. There are printable forms and forms you can download and fill out using your word processor.

     I think it’s pretty exciting to be able to see the photographs, drawings and writeups of the rare birds that are being seen in Utah as well as being able find out how many time, where, when and by whom these birds have been seen in the state. Check it out! (As usual, suggestions are very welcome).

Field Trip Report
Saturday, February 9th

We went to Utah Lake State Park. The Swan's were no place in sight, but we found Lesser Scaup and Herring Gulls where the river runs into the lake, also several Bald Eagles on the ice. The dike was closed around the airport so we went to Powell's Slough to find the Moorhen which Eric had seen. The Sewage Plant was closed, but we had success at the southern part that you access from University Parkway's west extension. We found one Tree Sparrow, some Vesper Sparrows and a Rough Legged Hawk at this location. Our next stop was Salem Pond. Here we found several Canvas Backs, a Kingfisher, Widgeon, Green Winged Teal, Common Goldeneye, a Ruddy Duck, Pied Billed Grebe, Shovelers, Lesser Scaup and on the south end one Cinnamon Teal. Woodland Hills cooperated and gave us a beautiful sighting of Lewis' Woodpecker. And among other things Covey's ponds in east bay had Common Mergansers and a Double Crested Cormorant. This list is from the one in my head. It does not include some of the more common sightings.

Carol Nelson

Raptor Nest Survey Volunteers Needed

Are you interested in exploring and hiking? BLM Salt Lake District Office is interested in volunteers to locate and monitor raptor nests in Tooele, Utah, and Rich Counties. BLM and Utah DWR will use this important data to make land management decisions. Training is provided, as well as a manual, maps, and the location of historic raptor nests. You would be searching primarily for new nests but also checking for activity in old nests. You must commit to 6 full days in the field, on your own schedule, between mid-March and mid-July. You must be willing to keep good records on nests but also have an email address, binoculars, and a spotting scope. (If you live near SLC you may borrow a scope from BLM or HawkWatch.) Many of the survey areas require rough trail driving although not necessarily 4-W driving, and most areas would require hiking. BLM biologists and interns have been collecting raptor nest information for years but it was only last year that an expanded pilot volunteer project was started. Last year volunteers monitored 650+ nests which included active great horned, long-eared and burrowing owls, prairie falcons, American kestrels, golden eagles, as well as red-tail, Swainson’s and ferruginous hawks. In addition 61 nestlings were banded. Training classes will be in March.. If you are interested or have any questions, contact Dawn Sebesta at sebesta@parkcity.net.