Utah County Birders Newsletter
April 2003


Wednesday, April 23rd.

Meet at 7:00 PM in the Bean Museum Auditorium on the BYU Campus.


Upcoming Field Trips will be announced at the meeting
and posted on ucbnet.

Reed's Ramblings
by Reed Stone

What a fantastic time of the year for birders. Migration is in full swing. There are new birds showing up almost daily. Color fazes are changing. What were, a few weeks ago, flocks of geese and ducks, are pairing up, bobbing their heads and stretching their necks. The mallards leave the water searching for nesting places. The Redwing and Yellow Headed Black Birds are gathered into all male choirs.
     While assisting some students with their identification of birds we noted many of their courtship performances. The Redwing Blackbird raises his wing patches so they smack you right in the eye. The cock Pheasant tilts his back toward the hen with the wing closest to her drooped down and the one away is held high so as to impress the "ladies" of his great beauty. The Canada
Goose will extend its neck foreword on the water in an apparent submissive posture.
     The color changes are interesting to observe. The American Goldfinch is changing from its grayish winter "suit" to a striking bright yellow and black one. The Eared Grebe is starting to show its golden ear patches.
     On the 29th of March 19 of us were privileged to observe the courtship dance of the Gunnison Sage Grouse. It was interesting to see the males with their air pouches fully inflated, their tail erect and fanned out charging at each other to impress others of their dominance. The females seem to ignore the goings on.
     Some species are setting up house keeping. Ospreys are paired up. Great blue herons are checking out the nests. Great horned owls have been incubating for some time now. The last few days I have been watching robins making a nest from my back window. I do hope I have tweaked your interest.
     May each of us take the time to drink in the beauty of nature and its interesting performances.

A thought for the day. Some times people go birding to forget things...... before they get very far they realize they did.

Where is it?
by Robin Tuck

OK, describe to me how to find the best place in Utah County to find Lewis Woodpeckers.
Periodically, I get asked this question and am always at a loss, because I don’t know how to describe some of the intersections so that an out-of-towner could find them. Its even worse if I have to do it in a hundred words or less.
     There are solutions to this dilemma, but they take money and effort, commodities we are often short of. Of course, I am talking about birders purchasing and using a Global Positioning System device or GPS and sharing bird sighting information using latitude and longitude coordinates.
   I understand that my love of gizmos and electronic toys tends to cloud my vision, but I believe it is time for all birders to seriously consider purchasing a GPS and learn how to use it. We have all seen how accurate GPS units have made the military operations in Iraq safer for the civilian population and more deadly for those targeted. We can have this same accuracy in the palm of our own hand, both for directing others and being directed by others.
     You all know by now that GPS units use very accurate atomic clocks in satellites orbiting the earth to calculate where they are. There are 24 satellites in use at any one time, although there are ‘spares’ available in orbit should they be needed. GPS units have to receive and decode signals from 3 satellites to calculate where they are on the earth’s surface.
     To calculate altitude, 4 satellite signals are needed. Note that altitude calculations are about 3 times less accurate than the
latitude/longitude calculations, partly due to the bulge around the equator.
     GPS devices determine the latitude and longitude of where they are very quickly. If they are moving, they calculate a series of latitude/longitude points, making a ‘track’ of where they have been. Some GPS devices have built-in maps where they display the path they followed. If you want, you can save a location as a ‘waypoint’ and have the GPS guide you back to
it at a later time. Additionally, you may manually enter a waypoint and have the GPS guide you to it even if you have never been to that place before.
     GPS devices can be connected to computers and have saved waypoints and tracks displayed on maps, and can have locations and trails copied from the map back into the GPS.
     Of course, all this isn’t cheap. GPS devices cost from $110 to over a thousand, depending on the capabilities you want to have. My GPS cost about $250 and has all the features I need, including maps of almost the entire world. I like it’s portability and utility. I don’t like how hard it is to enter information into it, but small size has its trade-offs.
     The most common brands are Garmin and Magellan, both quite good. I have had my Garmin E-trex Legend for almost 2 years and use it quite often.
     There are a number of Internet sites that compare the features of the different models to help you choose what you ought to buy. There are many videos and books that teach how to use GPS devices and get the most from them.
     I believe each birder should purchase a GPS and learn how to use it, keeping it with her binoculars ready for any trip outside.
     By the way, the Lewis Woodpeckers are at N40° 3' 23" W111° 38' 41" in degrees, minutes and seconds. Unfortunately, that is not how most GPS units display the location; most use degrees and minutes as in N40° 3.379' W111° 38.680'.

Utah State Breeding Bird Atlas?
by Robin Tuck

Jim Parrish, the Avian Coordinator for the Utah State Division of Wildlife Resources, spoke to the Utah County Birders at their March meeting and mentioned the need for a Utah Breeding Bird Survey.
     In order to evaluate if this would be a good project for the Utah County Birders to participate in, we need to know what a Breeding Bird Atlas is and what having one will do for us.
     In summary, a Breeding Bird Atlas documents the current status and distribution of breeding bird species within the state, published as a permanent record. The atlas accomplishes the following objectives:
  1. Survey the state for evidence of breeding during the appropriate seasons for all bird species using survey techniques that can be duplicated 20 to 50 years in the future and that will provide a baseline against which future changes can be measured.
  2. Classify and map the breeding evidence for each species using a set of codes based upon observable criteria for territorial, breeding, nesting, and rearing behaviors.
  3. Gather current information on the relative abundance, timing of breeding, and habitat selection of all breeding birds.
  4. Organize data from breeding observations into a series of maps (an atlas) that show the breeding occurrence, distribution, and abundance of each species within a grid of uniform blocks covering the state.
     A Breeding Bird Atlas will benefit us by providing the following:
  1. Provide accurate and up-to-date information on the breeding occurrences, so that conservation planning and land-use decisions can adequately address any needs of special breeding bird species.
  2. Provide a major scientific reference for applications in public policy, education, recreation, and research.
  3. Introduce local birders to a new and exciting way of birding, which at the same time contributes valuable information to a large statewide ornithological effort.
  4. Provide a coordinated and cooperative project that will bring bird enthusiasts together.
     Over 40 of our neighboring states and provinces are currently building an atlas or have completed theirs. New York has even started its second atlas project.
     We propose the Utah County Birders begin a pilot project to build a Breeding Bird Atlas of Utah County to determine the unique elements of surveying and reporting breeding birds in Utah. We have the opportunity to borrow methods and procedures form neighboring states, but will benefit from running a trial adjusted to our land and people.
     Please ponder this proposal and come to the April meeting with your opinions and suggestions.
(Portions of this article were adapted from the New Mexico Breeding Bird Atlas project web site.)

Birding in Bed
by Eric Huish

My bed is one of my favorite places to bird. My own personal hotspot with a nice comfortable place to sit. I’ve got thistle, sunflower, and peanuts just a foot outside my window that brings in finches, chickadees, jays and more closer then I could see them anywhere else.
     Just last week I found out that if I set my scope up across my bed and open my window, Between some houses I can see the Osprey nest south of the Linden Boat Harbor, the large nesting colony of California Gulls on the gravel hill East of the boat harbor and a section of the Geneva cooling ponds. (This is all about 2 miles away but I can make out a few birds and it is the only angle I can see the gull colony from.)
     This morning being Sunday I decided to open my window, sit in bed and do some birdwatching. I saw or heard 16 species- Canada goose, Mallard, Osprey, Ring-necked Pheasant, California Quail, California Gull, Rock Dove, Black-capped Chickadee, American Robin, European Starling, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch, Lesser Goldfinch, and House Sparrow. Other species I have seen in the past week or so from bed include- American White Pelican, Turkey Vulture, American Kestrel, Western Screech-owl, and Scrub Jay.
     You don’t have to see any birds to bird from bed. My favorite bed birding is just listening. That way I can lay down with my eyes closed. In spring there is always birdsong in the morning. Today it was a Red-winged Blackbird, Robins, House Finches, and Lesser Goldfinches. Last month it was a Spotted Towhee and White-crowned Sparrows.
     Tomorrow when your alarm clock goes of, hit snooze, open you window, lay back down, and go birding.