Utah County Birders Newsletter
May 2005

    May Meeting
    Upcoming Field Trips
    Feather Talk
    Field Trip Report - Carbon County Sage Grouse Trip - April 2nd, 2005
    Field Trip Report - Sanpete County Tour - April 16th, 2005
    Field Trip Report - Fish Springs - April 30th, 2005
    Random Observations
    Backyard Bird of the Month
    April Hotline Highlights


Wednesday, May 11th.

Hawk Watch International will present a program on their organization, research raptor ecology, and conservation trends, as well as a brush up on raptor I.D. A live bird of prey will be a part of the presentation.

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


May 14th (Sat): 7:30 am - Bird Walk, Skipper Bay Trail.
Meet at the trail head parking north of the Utah Lake State Park.

May 17th (Tue): 7:00 am - 3:00 pm - Dennis Shirley - Utah County Big Day.
Meet at the Springville DWR Office, 1115 North Main Street.

May 21st (Sat): 7:00 am - Dawn Chorus Sit & Listen - We’ll re-learn the spring songs that were forgotten over the winter. Meet at the Oxbow parking lot on the Provo River Walkway. Bring your bird song CDs. We’ll also go to Rock Canyon Trail Head Park for a second stop and different species.

May 28th (Sat): 6:30 am - Lu Giddings will lead a trip to Jordanelle Wetlands & Rock Cliff Campground - Deer Creek on the way.
Meet at the 800 N Orem Park and Drive by the mouth of Provo Canyon.

May 30th (Mon): 7:00 am - Bird Walk, South Fork, Provo Canyon - Vivian Park River Walk, Big Springs Trail.
Meet at Vivian Park, located about five miles into Provo Canyon.

We might be calling impromptu Bird Walks during May and June at the spur of the moment as intuition and weather dictates, so check your e-mail daily. We’ll send notices through ucbnet.

Feather Talk
By Alton Thygerson

Field Trips: Part 2

Yogi Berra, a former New York Yankee baseball player, said: “You can observe a lot just by watching.” Here are a few things I have observed and learned over the course of a lot of field trips.

• Do NOT linger over another’s spotting scope. UCB has several birders who are great about sharing their scope with those who didn’t bring one on the trip (e.g., Milt Moody). However, as we all know, birds may sit for three seconds and then take off. Waterfowl and some other species will pose for you. While you may be getting the look of your life through the scope, others waiting behind you won’t. When it’s your turn, take a 2-second look and move off to the side so others lined up behind you can get a look. If the bird hangs around, you can line up again for another look after others have seen it.

• Rotate seats on a trip. The best seats in vehicles (other than the driver’s) is the front passenger and near the door(s). I must admit that there is one seat which I will arm wrestle anyone as a place I do not want to sit—the very back corner of a van or SUV. This seat has a window, but you will be the last one out of the vehicle. That’s not my reason for refusing to sit there; my reason is claustrophobia—I don’t like feeling trapped and confined.

• Do NOT wear white. I saw this recommendation in Pete Dunne on Bird Watching book and also read a posting by Kristin Purdy telling her bird walk participants not to wear white. White in nature is an alarm color, and birds will flee. Last year, I toured with Tom Hince, one of the best birders and guides in Canada, in the Point Pelee area, and one night we were out searching for an American Woodcock (noted for males performing a remarkable “sky dance” on spring nights). The first night the bird would not come in. Before going out the next night, Tom suggested to a person with gray hair to cover it since it reflected a “whitish” color in the moonlight. We were fortunate to see the bird display on the second night.

• Describe the bird’s location. The leader, others in the group, or yourself will be the first to see a bird to share with others. We all know how frustrating it is when everyone else sees the bird but you despite their directions. Learn how to give and receive directions to a bird’s location. You can use something behind the bird to line the bird up for others. Another useful method is to use the face of a clock. If the bird is on the ground or not very high off of the ground, tell others that it is at 2:00 for example. For a bird overhead or in a tree say that the bird is at 10:00. When the bird is still, you can say that it is close to some object (e.g., 2 feet left of the second fence post). If you are good at telling distance, just say, it’s 10 feet away or 15 feet up in the tree. For a bunch of waterfowl and shorebirds, you can use the method which enabled me to locate a rare Great Black-backed Gull as being the third gull from the left on the log. I had checked the Colorado hotline, drove to its reported location, and had some Denver birders point it out—the third gull from the left on the log.

• Be quiet! You may be tempted to use your rendition of pishing, squeaking, Northern Pygmy Owl, or a tape.. Ask the leader or your fellow birders how they feel about sounds or pishing before you start hissing through your closed teeth (description of pishing). Should you get a negative answer, don’t make sounds to attract birds. I have heard pishing done in many ways with varying effectiveness. Some pishers may not know that not all birds respond to pishing (e.g., Jack Connor, an expert birder and author said that sparrows aren’t especially attracted to the pishing). Others in the birding group may be “purest” and don’t want to use a tape to attract birds. If you are in the East, the pygmy owl isn’t as effective as the Eastern Screech Owl (incidentally it would take a lot of practice and talent to mimic this screech owl).
Use of tapes can present a problem. Here is a 1997 trip report found on the internet: “Jeff Pippen and I (David Powell) took the KingRanch tour and were very satisfied. Tom Langscheid did a good job of leading the tour. He used a tape to get the birds to come in, but in no way did he abuse this. Blake Maybank, who authored the ABA Code of Ethics, was along and he had no problems with Tom's use of tapes. I would recommend this tour for those ABA birders (like me) who have had trouble with the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl.” So here you have some top-notch birders using tapes. Many feel that during nesting season tapes and pishing should not be used at all or if used only minimally due the birds may become anxious and their nesting may be disturbed. Of course, you being there stresses the bird so discretion is needed about even approaching a bird during nesting season.

• Avoid flash photography—which can stress the bird. While in Ecuador looking at the Cock-of-the-Rock (one of the rarest birds in the world), one of our party took a photograph with the flash. This was after being explicitly told not to take any flash photos. While the person thought that the camera’s flash was off and felt badly about the incident, the guide and all other members of the group were appalled at what happened. The moral of the story is, know your camera and when in doubt don’t take flash photos. Another great Ecuador bird seen was the Black Barred Owl where we were within 10 feet of it and the guide instructed us not to take flash photos—fortunately, everyone complied.

• Make a list and give it (verbally or on paper) to the leader. While this may be a wish list, the leader can scan quickly over the list and can tell you what chances you have of seeing the desired bird.

• Correcting others’ bird identification. If someone calls out, “Merlin on the post,” what do you do when you know it’s not the bird being named? There are three choices: (1) say nothing, (2) if you know what it is, you could say, “I don’t see the Merlin, but I see a Prairie Falcon,” or (3) I don’t know the ID marks of a Merlin, can you explain them to me?” Most people don’t like to have their mistakes pointed out. Just be sensitive. Every birder makes mistakes.

• Do not trespass. Stay off private property unless you have permission. Before looking for the Red-headed Woodpecker in Wilson’s Orchard in Washington County, Glenn Barlow went to the house and asked for permission to search the orchard for this much-sought-after bird. While people may not like strangers pounding on their doors, it is the right thing to do and should be done before walking through private property. You wouldn’t walk into someone’s house without their invitation, and the same applies to a farmer’s or rancher’s piece of property.

• Be an ethical birder. The American Birding Association, the largest organization in the country devoted to birding, has an excellent code of birding ethics. Read it at their website http://americanbirding.org/abaethics.htm.

• Stay with the leader. It is annoying for everyone else if one person decides to forge ahead of the group or goes off by himself. Not only do good birds get scared away but the group may have to wait for the loner to return to the vehicle. If you want to get away from the group, consider staying behind and waiting for the birds to reappear. By staying with the group, there is a greater likelihood of seeing birds—the more eyes, the better.

• Be prepared! Birding is an outdoor venture. Vehicles break down, tires go flat, somehow vehicle keys are locked inside the vehicle, the sun scorches, the temperatures can be at both extremes (hot and cold, even on the same field trip), and insects bite and sting. Know and prepare before going as to what to do when the unexpected might happen.

• Use caution when birding alone in a remote location. Field trips are the very heart of birding, and can be done either with a group or alone. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. An obvious caution for being alone, but especially for women, is to exercise caution in remote locations or even parks and cemeteries where it can be dangerous if alone. While it happened in an underdeveloped country, it could happen in the United States, the world record holder for the most species seen, Phoebe Snetsinger, was raped while birding.

Field trips are what make birding exciting, especially when you visit new places in search of new birds. Such trips can vary from taking your binoculars and a field guide in the car and going to a place to watch birds or some distant place where few people have been.

This article and the preceding Feather Talk (Part 1) has covered some of the author’s observations and experiences. See you on the next UCB field trip!

Sage Grouse at Emma Park Lek (Carbon County) - 
April 2, 2005
          photo by Eric Huish

Sage Grouse at Emma Park Lek (Carbon County) - 
April 2, 2005
          photo by Eric Huish

Field Trip Report
Carbon County Sage Grouse Trip - April 2, 2005

by Matt Williams

On Saturday, 2 April 2005, Utah County Birders headed southeast to the tri-county (Utah, Carbon & Duchesne) area. Participants included Eric Huish (trip leader), Tuula Rose, Reed Stone, Alton Thygerson, Bonnie Williams, Matthew Williams plus 3 young ladies from BYU who were attempting to reach 75 species of vertebrates. While it wasn’t the birdiest of trips, we had pretty good diversity and helped the vertebrate total considerably.

We arrived at our destination shortly before the sun rose over Matts Summit in Carbon County. Only a few Sage Grouse were initially visible but with the combination of the waxing light and our increasing ability to pick out birds from snowy sagebrush sea, we soon found many. The fact that the birds seemed to be congregating on the road and its edges certainly didn’t hurt either. The males displayed without any regard for the two silver SUVs packed full of birders or for the occasional car that whizzed right by them. At this location there were anywhere from 40-60 birds. It was a fantastic sight to see these beautiful birds lit by the golden morning sunshine. We left the lek and continued to see Sage Grouse (probably another 30 or more) on our way back east to Route 6. Much to the delight of certain county listers present, we even saw several Sage Grouse within Utah County. The bulk of the lek was in Carbon.

While stopping to check out what ended up to be a Robin lit up atop a bare branch, we found some Mallards and Cinnamon Teal in the river just off of Route 6. Mountain Bluebirds lined our route along the edge of a very frozen Schofield Reservoir. Just before we had completely given up hope for any waterfowl, we spotted a crack in the ice where there was open water and ducks. After an unsuccessful restroom and grosbeak search in the town of Schofield, we got back to the lake. Two beautiful and close Sandhill Cranes greeted us and each other with a wonderful dance display. The male (presumably) grabbed bits of vegetation in his bill and tossed them as he hopped, skipped and did just about anything he could to win the favor of his companion.

The waterfowl flock was certainly not large but for the fewer than 100 birds present, the diversity was fairly high. A handful of Ring-necked Ducks turned out to be hiding a Lesser Scaup in their midst. Canada Geese and Common Mergansers were mostly just standing around the open patch. Several Bufflehead and a couple Common Goldeneye dove almost constantly. Our trip leader picked out 2 nice American Wigeon that were resting alongside Mallards, Gadwall and Cinnamon Teal. Here, we also heard a Northern Flicker and a singing Western Meadowlark.

Fortunately for all, an open restroom was found at one of the parking/picnic areas. Nearby, a beaver pond contained several more Common Goldeneye. A small spillway just off the road contained 3 Green-winged Teal. Conversation along the way back led us on a small detour up the road to Sheep Creek Canyon, where we thought we might try for Blue Grouse. After a few sightings of deer to help the vertebrate listers, the road got snowy so we decided that it may have been a bit early for Blue Grouse. On the way back down towards the valley, we saw a Golden Eagle soaring and a Bald Eagle along the river.

We ended the day at Evergreen Cemetery in Springville. This spot gave us the best chance at a few new species. The first one was Juniper Titmouse and after that, many of us got distracted. Eric tracked down and got us looking at a few Pine Siskins that had flown into a nearby tree. While looking up, we spotted a Turkey Vulture, which was a year first for several people. Then, when we thought we’d find no more, we added Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper and Ruby-crowned Kinglet for a lively end to a great day of birding.


Utah County Birders near Yuba Dam - April 16, 2005          photo by Eric Huish

Field Trip Report
Sanpete County Tour - April 16, 2005

by Leena Rogers

Saturday, April 16, turned out to be an excellent day of birding for nine Utah County Birders and six BYU students. We set out from the Sam’s Club Parking lot in south Provo on a beautiful but very chilly morning for Sanpete County. Our first stop was along I-15 at Juba Reservoir, then back up to Hwy 28 with a stop at Chicken Creek Reservoir. From there we continued south on Hwy 28 to Painted Rock State Park on the southeast shore of Juba Reservoir [not marked on all maps]. There seemed to be almost as many people as birds out on the reservoirs ,and the insects [thankfully the non-biting kind] were out in full force too. A sure sign that spring is here! We then drove up Hwy 89 to Nine Mile Reservoir, made a quick stop at the wetlands near Fayette, then on to Palisades Park by Sterling. Our final stop of the day was along Hwy 132 at Wales Reservoir near Moroni.

It was great to have the students with us. The enthusiasm they showed each time a new bird was spotted gave the rest of us seasoned veterans an opportunity to see our feathered friends through “fresh eyes.” The kids had Saturday finals and left the group early but the rest of us continued on until mid-afternoon. A magnificent Golden Eagle perched on top of a roadside telephone pole near Wales Reservoir capped off a great day of birding! Grand total of birds seen by the group was 75. Trip leader was Tuula Rose. Following is a list of the highlights at each stop:

Juba Reservoir
Loggerhead Shrike, Red-tailed Hawk, Rock Wren, Tree Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Black-necked Stilt, American Robin, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Canada Goose, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Shrike, Eared Grebe, Green-winged Teal, Kildeer, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, House Sparrow, Gadwall, Brewer’s Blackbird ,House Finch, European Starling, Brown-headed Cowbird, Dark-eyed Junco, White-crowned Sparrow, Common Raven, American Coot, Cinnamon Teal, Mallard.

Chicken Creek Reservoir
Lesser Scaup, Say’s Phoebe, Redhead, Willet, American Avocet, Barn Swallow, Rough-winged Swallow, Sage Thrasher, Long-billed Curlew, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Snowy Egret, Bufflehead, California Gull, White-faced Ibis, Franklin’s Gull ,Violet-green Swallow, Western Kingbird, Horned Lark.

Painted Rock State Park
Western Grebe, Clark’s Grebe.

Fayette Wetlands
Double-crested Cormorant, White-faced Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Sandhill Crane, Northern Harrier, Swainson’s Hawk, Osprey.

Nine Mile Reservoir
Canvasback, Common Loon, Ring-necked Duck, Common Merganser, Vesper Sparrow, Red-breasted Merganser, Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon), Black-billed Magpie, Rock Pigeon.

Palisades State Park
Canyon Wren [great looks up close], Yellow-rumped Warbler [Myrtle race], American Goldfinch.

Along the Way
Mountain Bluebird, Mourning Dove, Kestrel, Lark Sparrow.

Wales Reservoir
American Wigeon, Ruddy Duck, Golden Eagle.

Thanks Tuula for arranging such a successful birding trip, and thanks to those who were willing to drive. Happy spring birding everyone.


Cloudy weather made for beautiful scenery on our way out to Fish Springs
 April 30, 2005
          photo by Eric Huish

Field Trip Report
Fish Springs - April 30, 2005
by Tuula Rose

The weather gods were good to our group of eight venturing to the West Desert for a long drive on the historic Pony Express route to Fish Springs. The road gods also had heard our prayers and the drive was not half as bad as we had feared. Several sightings of beautiful Pronghorn Antelope delighted us on the way. A brief stop at Simpson Springs yielded the first Lark Sparrows. The campground was full of tents and the smells of frying bacon reminded us of the missed breakfast due to our early start. The best birds en route were a Prairie Falcon (a lifer for Matt) perched on a rock, a Short-eared Owl flying low over the grasses and several Long-billed Curlews.

Soon after entering the Wildlife Management Area we came to the first ponds and wetlands where we quickly doubled the trip list of fifteen species found on the way. Several duck species including a Canvasback and a very festive blue-billed Ruddy Duck plus a Red-breasted Merganser were in the pond and several Common Yellowthroat were heard, and after a little chase also seen in the reeds. A female Northern Harrier treated us to a spectacular aerial show that appeared downright reckless in its plunging dives and upside-down loops.

We were hoping to find a few more migrating warbler species besides Yellow and Yellow-rumped in the trees by the Park Headquarters, but were probably a week or two early for the main migration. The auto tour through the marshes gave us looks at most of the larger waders including Ibis, Avocets, Stilts, Willets, and Long-billed Dowitchers. Black-crowned Night Herons and Snowy Egrets were everywhere. We were lamenting the absence of smaller sandpipers when someone yelled "shorebirds flying" and a good-sized flock landed within scoping distance. No peeps, but a flock of beautiful breeding-plumaged Red-necked Phalaropes. Our target species, the ever elusive American Bittern lived up to its reputation. All the numerous night-herons flushing all over the place also refused to turn into bitterns while the real ones refused to flush, only turning up their noses at us, invisible, blending in the reeds.

According to the updated and fabulous Wildlife Checklist the bittern is common all year round at Fish Springs. This list is the best I have ever seen at any Wildlife Refuge. Kudos to Colby Newman et. al. for good work. The list has information on 272 species of birds seen on the refuge. Our group saw a total of 63 species on our trip, the last being a Black-throated Sparrow found singing on the sage-brush hillside on the west side of the Refuge. A memorable day!

Random Observations

The Desperate Northern Flicker.
by Reed Stone

Today’s date is April 24, 2005. For about two months my wife and I have watched the NORTHERN FLICKER patiently and laboriously chiseling, chipping and carving a nesting cavity in a dead cottonwood tree. The tree is about 50 ft. from our bay window where we have a clear view of the activity. The work is going on the shady side of the trunk.

When the hole became deep enough for "Woody" to get half way in the STARLINGS began monitoring the site. As Woody continued chiseling deeper and deeper the STARLINGS increased their attention. When Woody would leave, even for a moment the robber STARLINGS would enter the cavity. When Woody would return and find the robber inside he would reach in and grab the robber by the head and literally drag it out by the head. They would then lock "talons" and flutter almost to the ground, a fall of about 20 ft. This happened many times though it was not always the full distance.

The aggressiveness is beyond my ability to describe. With the WOODPECKER literally standing on his head chiseling and chipping a starling would enter the cavity, going over the back of the WOODPECKER, with its beak full of nesting material and attempt to take over. I am sorry to report that it often successfully repulsed and flushed the WOODPECKER from the cavity it had so laboriously evacuated.

As the labor continued the STARLINGS, sometimes as many as six, would perch intimidatingly close, just waiting for a chance to take over. Once the cavity was deep enough for the STARLINGS to use, they would come by twos carrying nesting material. With two STARLINGS in the cavity they would repulse Woody from reclaiming his hard-earned nest cavity.

Woody would go around the neighborhood drumming out his territory. He would drum mostly on our aluminum chimney cap rattling our whole house. I agreed with my wife, he had earned the right. At first the drumming was a little annoying. After observing the great effort of Woody trying to protect his nesting cavity the drumming became music to our ears.

Finally with the continual effort of trying to maintain some control of his domain and drumming for a mate she arrived. She accepted the nesting place. With her in the cavity and Woody on the outside they had some degree of ownership. The starlings still maintained their presence and intimidating attitude as the woodpeckers threw out the nesting material.

Like thieves on one’s doorstep the woodpeckers could not leave without the interlopers taking over. Sometimes there were as many as six starlings mobbing the site.

For several days the pair of WOODPECKERS were able to keep the STARLINGS at bay. However, with the continuing pressure, the WOODPECKERS were driven from their hard earned nesting cavity.

There may possibly be a bright side to the story because the male WOODPECKER still drums and calls out his territory. It is just possible he has another nesting site; I sincerely hope so.

My conclusion. It is an absolute wonder to me that any cavity nesting bird is not at great risk of being eliminated by the aggressive starling. I refuse to capitalize starling again. There needs to be concerted effort to reduce their numbers and give cavity nesters a chance.

 If you have a random observation you would like to share please send it to newsletter@utahbirds.org.

Backyard Bird of the Month
April 2005

Steve Carr - Holladay
Mallard - A pair walking around the backyard, close to Mt. Olympus.

KC Childs - Orem
Cassin’s Finch

Wade Covert - Provo
Cassin's Finch - welcome addition to my birdseed welfare program.

Sylvia Cundick - Provo
Lazuli Bunting - 26 on April 24th.

Alona Huffaker - Springville
The Lazuli’s are back and sooooo gorgeous!

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Plumbeus Vireo - New for yard, species #84

Milt Moody - Provo
Green-tailed Towhee - Bright rusty cap and losts of green

Cheryl Peterson - Provo
25+ Cassin's Finches - new for yard

Bruce Robinson - West Jordan
Cedar Waxwing - 12 in a tree, new yardbird

Tuula Rose - Provo
Bullocks Oriole - Two males, sipping hummingbird nectar on opposite sides of the feeder

Bonnie Williams - Mapleton
Lincoln’s Sparrow - New for my yard.

We would like you to share your 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.