Utah County Birders Newsletter
July 2004


Wednesday, July 21st.

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

The guest speaker will be Kent Keller who has been banding Golden Eagles for 25 years. He will discuss some of his experiences and display some slides with us. Don't miss this.


Tuesday, July 20th - Half Day
Goshen Canyon - Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-breasted Chat, etc.
Meet at 7:00 AM at the Sam’s Club East Bay (Provo) parking lot.
Led by KC - 225-0625

Saturday, July 24th - Full Day
Mirror Lake Highway - Uinta Mts. - High mountain species.
Meet at 6:00 AM at the Orem Center Street Park & Ride off I-15.
Led by Bryan - 491-4084

Thursday, July 29th - Half Day
Lincoln & LeBarron Points - shorebirds.
Meet at 7:00 AM at the Sam’s Club East Bay (Provo) parking lot.
Led by KC - 225-0625

Reed’s Ramblings
by Reed Stone

My goodness, nature is running all over at my place. The peas have come and gone as has the spinach. Carrots are ready to eat, tomatoes are setting on, peppers are forming and the list goes on. Birds are sitting, setting and singing.

Today, June 6th, as I was watching out my bay window I noticed a mourning dove repeatedly flying up near the top of my old plum tree. It always went to the same spot. I began to pay closer attention to the activity. It was quite obviously building a nest. It is about 22' above the ground. I was watching a news program on the TV while watching out the bay window. The dove was getting its material all from the same place; then I noticed it was going to another location. I wondered if it had run out of nesting material. Some time later it began going to another location over and over again as it had with the two previous ones.

It was then I realized the first location had very course material; the second had less course material and the third location had rather fine dry grass. It was then that I put it all together. It started with sturdy coarse material to form a base. Then it went to a little finer material to form the cup and finally fine material for insulation and protection for the eggs.

About two weeks later, I was weeding in the garden and noticed a ½ white shell of a morning dove egg. My presumption is the egg had hatched. Some time later there was a dove egg directly under the nest, punctured, with a partly developed form inside. Nature makes it own decisions. Later on I was able to see the one surviving mourning dove chick.

About the same time that the doves were doing their incubation, activity at the suet feeder was getting interesting. I was starting to see two and three downy woodpeckers at the feeder at a time. The adult male was filling his beak with suet and offering it to a fledgling. The behavior was repeated over and over again for it and two others. After some time the newly fledged would copy the actions of the adults. They would creep around the side of my log feeder and hang upside down and feed themselves.

By now you are probably tiring of my repeated comments about my garden and what is happening in my yard. The main point has been to get each of us interested in the study of birds, their behaviors, their skills, how they learn and how birds adapt to certain conditions. I also hope you have enjoyed the commentary. I also hope there has been some stimulation to experiment with the way you feed the birds.

My garden will continue to grow and the birds will still come regardless. When convenient, I may even share some garden produce with you. That is if I can beat the birds and the raccoons to it.

***** From the Reader’s Digest*****

I recently returned to work after a year abroad with the Army Reserve. On my first day back, a visitor from headquarters took me aside.

"How are you?" he asked, looking concerned. "Do you feel all right?"

"I’m fine," I replied, nonplused.

"Great!" he said. "I heard that you were away from work for a year because you were in a wreck.."

It took a minute before it dawned on me what he meant. "Iraq," I said finally. "I’ve just come back from I-raq."


Mistaken Identity
by Alton L. Thygerson

Someone said, "We don’t see things as they are, but as we are." Birders can attest that expertise, as in most endeavors, comes with experience, and that as you improve your skills you begin to see things which you previously passed over.

A decade ago, I avidly played golf. However, anyone who has ever played the game knows that no one has nor will achieve perfection. I remember watching Craig Norman ("the Great White Shark") on television during a major golf tournament slicing a golf ball into a parking lot. I felt better about my golf game because I had done the same thing—hitting an atrocious golf shot (in fact, many bad shots).

Likewise, no one will ever see all of the estimated 9,838 bird species in the world (Tom Gullick of Spain has 8,324), and I, like most birders, have made mistakes in bird identification__being the first in a group to call out the name only to have misidentified it. For instance on a trip to Southeastern Arizona, it happened four times when I was the first in the group to see a new specie, blurted out what I thought it was, but had misidentified it. If I had waited and synthesized what I was looking at for a few more seconds, I may have arrived at the correct identification. It can be embarrassing, but birders must realize that it is part of birding.

My suggestion is not to worry about making mistakes. Many expert birders still make mistakes. For example, several years ago while on a Utah County Birders’ field trip in Devil’s Canyon south of Blanding, Utah, one of the better known birders in Utah called out that a woodpecker she saw was a Hairy. Moments later, several other expert birders said that it was actually a Red_naped Sapsucker. Her problem was being too quick to "pull the trigger" on what the bird was. Identification mistakes are made by all of us, and the way to approach them is to learn something from the experience. As the saying goes, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." You don’t have to wait for the trip leader to verbalize the name of the bird.

Many errors come from not knowing about local distribution or timing, and "expecting" the wrong bird. This can lead one to think they see something that is not there.

While birding with a group at Point Pelee, Canada, I met a birder who said that she always uses at least three reliable field marks before making an identification. Moreover, many guides and trip leaders accept an identification only if a minimum of two people agree about the identification.

On the other hand, beginners often find rare birds and assume they are a variation of a common specie. Beginners tend to be hesitant about tell others for fear of making a mistake and being embarrassed.

For look-alike birds, construct your own "cheat notes" to help in naming a bird. Here are examples for some confusing species:

Confusing species                                         Identification hints

1.  Sharp-shinned Hawk

2.  Cooper’s Hawk

  1. Near size of jay; squarish tail, smaller head than Cooper’s
  2. Near size of a crow; tail rounded.  Head larger than than Sharp-shin

1.  Downy Woodpecker

2.  Hairy Woodpecker

Both have white on their backs

  1. Very short bill
  2. Longer bill (same length at its head); larger sized bird than Downy

1.  American Tree Sparrow

2.  Chipping Sparrow

Both have red-brown (rusty color) caps

  1.  Dark spot on breast, bill dark above & yellow below
  2. Clear breast; black line through the eye & white line over it

Carrying and using a field guide is essential in eliminating mistakes. However, experts advise staying on the bird with your binoculars until it flies before consulting a field guide. I am a great fan of the Roger Tory Peterson field guides because of the system he used—arrows to mark the main characteristics (makes for a quicker look of the main field marks), grouping of birds with similarities together (e.g., all sparrows with rusty caps are together on the same page), and you have more birds per page for comparison purposes. Kenn Kaufman’s book, Birds of North America, does much the same thing. I find Sibley’s guides to be useful because of the multiple images of the same bird, but only two species are found per page which causes a lot of page flipping in attempting to compare one specie against another.

College students are told that every hour in the classroom should be matched with two hours of study outside of the class. While the 1:2 ratio may not exactly apply for developing birding skills, a birder should take time to read and study before going out in the field. This means reviewing the birds most likely to be expected.

Misidentified birds probably appear on my bird list. However, most were seen with a good birder or trip leader at my side, or the location of a target bird was well described on the internet hotline.

While it is helpful to have experienced birders helping with identifications, being in the outdoors and experiencing solitude is a plus for birding alone. Birding alone also allows you to set your own pace, and you will not be embarrassed if you do misidentify a bird. It forces you to look closer for field marks and locating the bird in a field guide.

Despite all the facts to learn about birds, remember why you watch them in the first place. Enjoy yourself! Birding can be challenging but provides hours of fascination. Apply yourself as much or as little as you please, but have fun in the process.