Utah County Birders Newsletter
February 2005

    February Meeting
    Upcoming Field Trips
    Feather Talk
    Field Trip Report -1/15/05 - Local Cemeteries Tour
    Field Trip Report - 1/22/05 - Heber, Francis, Kamas
    Random Observations
    Backyard Bird of the Month
    January Hotline Highlights


Wednesday, February 9th.


Date: February 9, 2005 Wednesday
Time: 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. (our regular meeting time)
Place: Brick Oven Restaurant, 111 E 800 N, Provo (room capacity 90)
Menu: All-you-can-eat Salad, Pasta, Soup Bar
Cost: Approximately $10.00 per person

Special Guest Speaker: Dennis Shirley will speak about his record breaking adventures during his "Big Year 2004." His goal: the highest total species of birds seen in one year in the State of Utah. You won't want to miss the entertaining details of the chase to find target birds around the state as Dennis worked to reach this incredible goal.

We will recognize those hardy individuals who completed the 2004 Birding Contest.

Fun and More Fun!
You won't want to miss this night! There will be great food, a great speaker, fun awards, a raffle for prizes, plus other enjoyable activities during the evening. If you haven't been to a club meeting for a while, this is one you won't want to miss! Bring your spouse, significant other, bring a friend. A great night to introduce someone new to birding. We have plenty of room.

Note: We need to start our evening promptly at 7:00 p.m. so plan to be on time.

Please RSVP by e-mail to: marjaleenar2002@yahoo.com. You can also contact one of the award committee by phone: Leena Rogers [592-5496], Milt Moody [373-2795] or Tuula Rose [377-5477].


February 8th (Tue): Provo Airport Dike, Utah Lake State Park - Meet at the East Bay Sam's Club Parking lot at 8:00 A.M.

February 12th (Sat): Farmington Bay, Antelope Island Causeway, (maybe Bountiful Landfill) - 7:00 am - Mid afternoon. Meet at Orem Center Street Park & Ride.

February 19th (Sat): Utah County February Big Day - We will meet at the East Bay Sam's Club parking lot at 7:30. We will bird till later in the afternoon. Bring a lunch.

February 26th (Sat): Alta, City Creek and, Salt Lake Cemetery - 7:00 am - Mid afternoon. Meet at Orem Center Street Park & Ride.

March 12th (Sat):  James Walter Fitzgerald WMA, Clover Springs (Tooele County) - Meet at 7:00 am at the Orem Center Street Park & Ride.

March 19th - 26th (Sat - Sat):  Southern California - led by Aaron Smith - Bird San Diego, Santa Cruz Island, Salton Sea, etc. See the Yellow-Billed Magpie, Island Scrub Jay, California Gnatcatcher and more!  If you are planning on coming, join us at Alton’s house (3300 Mohican Lane Provo) on February 8th at 7:30 p.m. or contact Aaron Smith at (801) 373-5153. We must know who is going by the 8th so that arrangements can be made.

March 26th (Sat): Utah Lake Front Tour (Am. Fork Boat Harbor, Timpanogos Treatment Plant, Lindon Boat Harbor, Powell Slough, Provo Boat Harbor) - 7:00 am - Noon.  Meet at Orem Center Street Park & Ride.

Feather Talk -- February 2005
By Alton Thygerson

February’s Utah County Birders meeting features our own Dennis Shirley, the new Utah Big Year record holder with 332 species during 2004. All 332 species were seen with no audibles listed. Utah has 426 species on the most recent checklist. Dennis’ enthusiasm is contagious and you will want to listen to his account of his record setting year.

Elsewhere in this newsletter are details about the meeting which includes Dennis’ presentation, awards for many birders, dinner, and surprises according to the 2004 Birding Challenge committee consisting of Leena Rogers, Tuula Rose, and Milt Moody. All birders and nonbinding spouses, friends and associates are invited.

While thinking about Dennis’ Big Year, I recalled another Big Year featured in a book entitled Kingbird Highway by Kenn Kaufman. Kenn managed to do what other birders only dream of doing: take a year and chase birds from one end of the country to another. I’ve had thoughts about doing something similar until the alarm goes off reminding me of my day job and other responsibilities to which I failed to say no to.

At 16, with his parents' blessing, Kenn dropped out of school and began doing cross-country birding by hitchhiking around the country. His knowledge of birds grew and his contacts with other birders increased. In 1973 and at the age of 19, he decided to go for a Big Year in which he attempted to break the record for most birds seen in a year.

Kingbird Highway is about Kenn’s "Big Year." He planned to show up at the right habitats at the right moments to bag birds he needed for a record one year tally. At that time, ornithologists figured 650 species lived in the United States and Canada, plus visitors. (Currently, the ABA area consisting of the United States and Canada lists 932 species.) Nobody, it was assumed, could possibly see them all in one lifetime. Roger Tory Peterson, in 1953, totaled 572 species. In 1956, a lister hit 598. But by 1973 publications detailed which birds hung out at virtually all key North American sites. And a birder grapevine allowed no rarity showing up without birders converging within hours. When Kaufman began, the Big Year record stood at 626.

The book is a joy to read, and one that's hard to put down. During his Big Year of birding. Kaufman slept under bridges, ate cat food to save money, hitchhiked, and picked apples for traveling money. In one year, Kenn traveled 80,000 miles, saw 666 species of birds from Alaska to Florida, and spent less than $1000 in doing so (half of the $1,000 was for two flights to Alaska).

You will have to come to the meeting to find out if Dennis ate cat food, hitchhiked, and slept under bridges. He truly made a Herculean effort to set the Utah record. Not only is he one of the Utah’s foremost birding experts, he willingly shares his expertise, and is fun to be around. Congratulations, Dennis!

Field Trip Report
Local Cemeteries Tour
- January 15, 2005
by Eric Huish

 Utah County Birders at the Provo Cemetery.  January 15, 2005          photo by Eric Huish

On Saturday (January 15th)15 Utah County Birders met at 8:00 am for a field trip to our area cemeteries. Tuula Rose was our leader.

East Lawn Cemetery was our first stop. We saw 14 species at and around East Lawn. Our first sighting was of a Steller’s Jay, then some American Robins and a dozen Cedar Waxwings in a tree near where we parked. Other species at East Lawn were; Northern Flicker, Western Scrub-Jay, Black-billed Magpie, Brown Creeper, Townsend’s Solitaire, European Starling, Spotted Towhee, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco and House Finch. To add to all the birds we also got to see a cute little cottontail. On our way out, just down the road from the cemetery, we found a flock of Wild Turkey.

Our next stop was Provo City Cemetery where we counted 13 species. Our first bird here was a Red-breasted Nuthatch that was calling from the tall evergreens above where we parked. The best bird at Provo Cemetery was probably the Golden-crowned Kinglet which most everyone was excited to see. Other bird here were; Black-billed Magpie, Black-capped Chickadee, Mountain Chickadee, Brown Creeper, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Townsend’s Solitaire, American Robin, European Starling, House Finch and Pine Siskin.

At Evergreen Cemetery we only saw 9 species, 3 of which weren’t seen by everyone. The lack of species was made up for by the number of birds and quality of species. Our first birds here were a flock of Evening Grosbeaks feeding in a couple junipers at the edge of the cemetery. At closer inspection the trees were also filled with Mountain Chickadees and Juniper Titmice. As if that wasn’t enough activity a flock of Cedar Waxwings flew into the very same trees. Other birds seen at Evergreen included; Norther Flicker and American Kestrel. Canada Geese and a Great Blue Heron were seen flying in the distance by a couple birders and a Townsend’s Solitaire was also seen by a few of the participants.

Other Trip birds included; Lewis’s Woodpeckers seen at ‘the usual place’, a dark morph Red-tail Hawk near Salem and Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck Common Goldeneye, Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird and House finch at some of the ponds in Salem.

Our trip total was 37 species. Trip participant were; Aaron & Shauna, Alona, Alton, Bonnie, Carol Jean, Darlene, Eric, Flora, Leena, Matt ((from Toronto), Melanie, Milt, Reed, and our leader Tuula. We all had a great time and I’m looking forward to many more great UCB field trips.


Field Trip Report
Heber, Francis, Kamas
- January 22, 2005
by Tuula Rose

Utah County Birders, Mirror Lake Highway - Jan 22, 05
photo by Eric Huish

Due to the reality of fog in Provo/Orem and the prospect of encountering pea soup in SL Valley, the Saturday Jan 22nd UCB Field Trip was revised at the last moment (7.09 or so am, common consent) and we headed for Heber-Francis-Kamas via Provo Canyon. Turned out to be the right decision because the fog vanished the minute we got into the canyon and sunshine and warm weather were with us the whole way into the mid-afternoon.

I counted 30 species for the day, the best one being a bonus WHITE-THROATED SPARROW in Francis that wasn't even on our wish list. We went after rosy finches that Lu Giddings reported on Lower River Road, lucked out on those and ended up further down the road in front of a house with feeders, where God-Bless-Him-Eric found the sparrow. A few minutes before we had just seen a flock of 30-40 GREATER SAGE GROUSE fly over the road, over the fields and disappear over the next hill. We didn't even know sage grouse can fly that far.

No Bohemian Wax Wings in Kamas, Oakley or Peioa, so up the Mirror Lake Highway we went. Aaron soon spotted three RED CROSSBILLS right on the road, right in front of his car. Looked like they were picking up grit off the asphalt having to turn their heads sideways to make bill contact with ground. Those specialized beaks don't work as well on a flat surface as they do on pine cones. We had great looks of these beautiful birds.

Besides hoards of snow-mobilers, snowshoers and skiers, we saw TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRES, MOUNTAIN CHICKADEES, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES and BROWN CREEPERS up by Soapstone Basin.

On the way home, quick stops by Jordanelle Wetlands and Wasatch Mountain Park produced the usuals like DIPPER, RING-NECKED DUCK and BUFFLEHEAD. In Provo Canyon by Deer Creek Reservoir the two cars bringing up the rear of the expedition stopped to check out some ducks and were treated to a great display of soaring GOLDEN and BALD EAGLES, eight in all, sprinkled with a couple of red-tails.

A great trip! Join us for the next one, Feb 12th, 7:00 am Orem Center Street Park & Ride. We'll go to Farmington Bay, AIC etc.

Random Observations

 A while ago a co-worker showed me a book belonging to his father. It was an early field guide to western birds, a 1948 edition of “Birds of the West” by Ernest Sheldon Booth. I borrowed it for a few days and looking through it came to a description on the starling, part of which I thought worth repeating. Here is a direct quote:

“They are not native to America, but were introduced from Europe, much to the dismay of all Americans. They are now common or even abundant in the eastern states, and have penetrated commonly as far west as the Rocky Mountains, and have sent their vanguards even farther west to explore the western states. There are now scattered records of starlings in almost every western state, but we hope that they will find the area unsuitable to their liking, and will return eastward although this is really too much to hope!”

Well, we all know the rest of the story.
~ Tuula Rose


My kitchen window faces east looking into a small side yard where I have most of my feeders. I have thistle socks, hanging black oil sunflower seed feeders and platform feeders both in a tree and on the ground for millet and other small seeds. These bring in a variety of birds in big numbers, especially after a snowfall.

From my bedroom window to the north I can see the back yard with fruit trees, bushes, flower beds and garden area. This fall the cold and snow came early and the fall clean-up of last summers annuals and spent flowers of the perennials didn’t get done (you can read this sentence as a feeble excuse for preferred chasing of fall migrants instead of yard work).

The other day when my side yard feeders were full to capacity with birds, I noticed activity in the back yard. Goldfinches and siskins were the acrobats hanging from dried stems of various flowers that now had seeds in them. I watched a house finch climb up a stem far enough for the whole stem to bend over onto the ground, where he could dine as well as share with the juncos.

The most popular plants seem to be “Bluebeard” bushes (Caryopteris incana), Korean Hyssop (in the mint family), an annual Salvia called “Lady in Red”, also a favorite of hummingbirds, Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) and the old-fashioned Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia). Mixed in between all these, though I’m not confessing to them, can be found a fair mix of grasses and nameless weeds with millions of seeds that could feed the masses. After seeing the activity at my natural smorgasbord I didn’t feel quite as bad about leaving a mess in the back yard.
~ Tuula Rose


I have a female Downy Woodpecker that "puppy guards" the woodpecker bar. She will not let the Red-breasted Nuthatch anywhere near the feeder. If she is sitting on the bar (and not eating) and looking up above her, then I know the nuthatch is there.
~ Cheryl Peterson

We would like to try to have a monthly ‘Random Observations’ column in the newsletter. If you have a random observation you would like to share please send it to newsletter@utahbirds.org.

Backyard Bird of the Month
January 2005

Steve Carr - Holladay
Brown Creeper - 2 individuals on a cedar tree.

KC Childs - Orem
Townsend Solitaire - a new yard bird number 55.

Wade Covert - Provo
Black-capped Chickadee - amusing avian acrobats

Dana Green - Canyon Lake, Texas
Carolina Wren - they pish up and come close.

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Bohemian Waxwing - 50+ in neighbors ash tree.

Milt Moody - Provo
Dark-eyed Junco - Slate-colored & Pink-sided.

Leila Ogden - Orem
Black-capped Chickadee - very friendly, allows close proximity.

Cheryl Peterson - Provo
Downy Woodpecker - She keeps us entertained!

Bruce Robinson - West Jordan
House Finch(!) - Partial melanistic female.

Tuula Rose - Provo
Brown Creeper - Likes the suet stuffed in cracks in the bark.

Dennis Shirley - Elk Ridge
White-throated Sparrow - "tan striped" adult at my backyard feeder.

Mark Stackhouse - San Blas, Nayarit, Mexico
Yellow-breasted Chat - eating berries on the sidewalk outside my front door.

Reed Stone - Provo
Mourning Dove - it comes and goes.

Alton Thygerson - Provo
Downy Woodpecker - unpredictable visitor but a welcome sight.

Bonnie Williams - Mapleton
Steller’s Jay - because blue is my favorite color.

Backyard Bird of the Month is a new monthly column. We would like you to share you favorite backyard bird each month. Please send your favorite bird at the end of the month to newsletter@utahbirds.org or call 360-8777. If you would like a reminder at the end of the month e-mail the above address.