Utah County Birders Newsletter
December 2003


Wednesday, December 17th.

Meet at 7:00 PM in the Bean Museum Auditorium on the BYU Campus.
Merrill Webb will talk to us about the Christmas Bird Count. After which we will be quizzed on our winter bird identification skills in preparation for the CBC on the 20th.

Reed's Ramblings
by Reed Stone

Every winter we birders are the recipients of birds in migration. Birds that breed in the northern climes give us a treat by migrating through or stopping over to build up food reserves in order to continue their flight. As we study migration and its reasons we find it interesting, complex and to some even compelling.
Not all species migrate from north to south. Some birds migrate east to west, and some west to east. Some species in warmer climates migrate not at all. Some migrate from alpine regions to lower valleys where the environment is less harsh.

Twice each year as spring thaw takes place migrant birds begin their journey to their nesting "grounds", then again as summer begins to fade away they leave the nesting and rearing locations for more favorable conditions.

Some of the reasons for migration are quite obvious. Some are mysterious and some we don’t understand. Among the most obvious is genetics. Available food has to be ranked near the top of the priorities. The availability of food is effected by temperature. When the temperature lowers insects and plant foods slow down their production making it anywhere from difficult to impossible to find enough food for survival. The length of the daylight delivers a double whammy. Reduced daylight time, not only reduces growing time for food production it also reduces the time available for feeding.

Around 90% of the species in North America move south for the winter. Some, such as the American robin just a few hundred miles while the lesser golden-plover covers thousands, traveling almost pole to pole. Now for some interesting observations. The Blue Grouse in our nearby mountains seem to go against logic. They breed and rear their young in lower areas in deciduous woodlands and open areas where they feed on insects and berries. When winter comes on they move to higher elevations, somewhere around 1,000 ft. higher. At this higher elevation, in the conifer forests, they feed almost exclusively on pine needles. By contrast the Sedge Warbler is a non-stop migrant. Before its migratory flight of about four days, and almost 2,000 miles, it will build up almost double its weight in preparation for the long haul. Some of our feathered friends migrate in ways we tend to give little thought. One might be the Swifts. They leave their summer breeding grounds going south. They feed and rest, or sleep, on the wing and are capable of flying by day and night. This migration is constantly in motion for about 3/4ths of the year. They return to their breeding grounds, most likely, having never stopped to rest. Generally ducks migrate in a north-south pattern. The White-winged Scoter is the maverick. This species migrates east-west. They breed in north-west Canada and migrate to the east coast to winter. This may explain why we get a few visitors in Utah. Cranes and some hawks, the soaring kind, have a unique and energy saving way to migrate. As they fly along they seek out and sense rising air currents called thermals. When they feel these rising currents they circle on them and rise, sometimes thousands of feet. They will then leave it and sail to the next one, rise with it and repeat the process till the cool of the day renders thermals continuing unprofitable at which time they settle down to feed and rest up for the next day. I have just touched the surface of some of the interesting and strange, to us, things about bird migrations. Maybe I will probe into it more next time.

***** Rib tickler from the Reader’s Digest. Late one night a burglar broke into a house. He froze when he heard a loud voice say, "Jesus is watching!" Silence returned to the house, so the burglar crept forward. "Jesus is watching!" the voice boomed again. The robber stopped dead in his tracks and frantically looked all around. He spotted a parrot in a cage. "Was that you?" asked the burglar. "Yes," answered the parrot The criminal sighed in relief and asked, "What’s your name?. "Clarence," said the bird. "That’s a dumb name for a parrot," sneered the burglar. "What idiot named you Clarence?" "The same idiot who named that Rotweiler Jesus."

Parkway Trail Marks
by Robin Tuck

There I am, walking up the Provo River Trail, looking around for birds, and I see the trail mark again. I have seen these marks so many times that they disappear off my radar, but this time, I wonder about them again.

As I walk, I see a single triangle painted in the center of the trail. A short distance away, I see two triangles painted on the walkway, then three, and then four. Then as I walk further, it goes back to a single triangle. And so the pattern repeats; one triangle, two triangles, three triangles, four triangles, then back to one triangle.

On another trail, I found dots painted. As I walked and found the dots, they seemed to change in a strange pattern that didn’t make sense. Coming back the other way, and looking at them reversed, they began to make sense, but only because I have old computer programming experience; the dots were a binary code. Wow, I thought, hardly anybody will recognize a binary code and fewer will know what it means. Binary? Wow!

In 2002, when I was walking the urban trails in Utah County for a personal project, I pushed a measuring wheel, and often passed these symbols painted on the parkway trails, so I measured the distance between them, and could not decide if they were spaced 100 yards apart or 100 meters apart.

Needing some shoes, I stopped at a local runner’s store and spoke with the clerks about the trail marks. It turned out that the marks were painted by the store owner, apparently with county permission, as part of a runner’s club project. The triangle markings won out over the dots meaning that we should begin to see more of the triangles on paved trails all across Utah.

‘Hawk’ Harper, the triangle painter told me they are painted 100 yards apart. So if you see two triangles painted on the path, and continue on and find a single triangle, you will have walked 100 yards. If you start at three triangles and walk until you find three triangles again, you will have walked 400 yards, or a quarter mile. If you find the three triangles four times, you will have walked 1600 yards, or a mile. Hawk and the runners club painted these markings to help them know how far and how fast they were running.

As a birder, I am not particularly interested in how fast I cover a mile, but I am very interested about where I am. Should I see a rare bird along a marked trail, I can now more easily report my exact location on the trail in a way that will make it easier for other birders to find it. All I have to remember is that the triangles are 100 yards apart, that the triangles repeat every quarter mile and that four sets of repeating triangles is a mile.

I want to thank ‘Hawk’ and the other runners for doing this. After all, you have to admire a guy who is called ‘Hawk’ by his friends.

Upcoming Field Trip

Where should UCB go for its next "Big Trip?" Here are some possibilities within a long day's drive:

·Northern California including a Monterrey Bay pelagic trip
·Southeastern Arizona
·Rio Grande River Valley, Texas (about a day and a half)
·Davis Mountains and Big Bend, Texas
·The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone

In our next meeting, we will ask for your suggestions. Or you can email them to Ned Hill at ned_hill@byu.edu