Utah County Birders Newsletter
October 2005

    October Meeting
    Upcoming Field Trips
    Feather Talk
    Field Trip Report - Lower Provo River Parkway and Provo Airport Dike - 10 September 2005
    Backyard Bird of the Month
    September Hotline Highlights


Wednesday, October 12th.

 Birding Book Reviews - We will have a panel of club members review a birding book each.   

So far the list includes -
Kingbird Highway - Tom Williams
Birding on Borrowed Time - Ned Hill
The Big Year - Alona Huffaker
The Feather Quest - Margaret Sanchez
To See Every Bird - Tom Williams
Red-tails in Love - Bonnie Williams
Spix's Macaw - Tuula Rose
Birders: Tales of a Tribe - Eric Huish
The Complete Birder - Glenn Barlow
Birds of Prey in the American West - LeIla Ogden
Brushed by Feathers - Alton Thygerson

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

Upcoming UCB Meetings:

November 9th (Wed): Sparrow Identification - Milton Moody & Merrill Webb have a power point presentation they put together for the UOS Conference - Meet at 7:00 PM in the Bean Museum Auditorium on the BYU Campus.

December 14th (Wed): Christmas Bird Count Preparation - Meet at 7:00 PM in the Bean Museum Auditorium on the BYU Campus.


October 9th (Sun): The Big Sit! - The Big Sit is like a Big Day in that the object is to tally as many bird species as can be seen or heard within 24 hours. The difference lies in the area limitation (inside a 17-foot circle) from which you can observe. Hundreds of teams from around the world will be sitting on Oct. 9th. We will sit on the East side of the Provo Airport Dike where the moat makes the first bend (Southeast corner, where the mud flats are this year). We sat at the airport dike last year, 2004, and counted 45 species, in 2003 we counted 53. Everyone is invited to join for the whole day or any part of it, come and leave when you want. We will start at 6:00 A.M. and end after dark (We may take a break mid afternoon ~2-5pm). Our goal is to beat our 2003 high count of 53 species.

October 22nd (Sat): East Canyon Reservoir and Morgan Co. area - Meet at 8:00 A.M. at the 800 North park and ride at the mouth of Provo Canyon (on the North side of 8th North between the gas station and the mouth of the canyon.)

Feather Talk
By Alton Thygerson

“Second Opinions About Rare Birds”

Jack, a 50-year-old office worker, discovered a small lump on the side of his neck.  He scheduled a visit with his primary care doctor, who examined the lump and ordered tests.  When the tests results were in, Jack’s doctor explained that though benign, the lump was what he called “pre-cancerous.”  His treatment options were to closely monitor it but do nothing else now, or to surgically remove the lump.

Explaining the pros and cons of each option, the doctor stated that in his opinion the best option was to remove the lump via surgery.  After asking his doctor a number of questions, which he answered in depth, Jack said he would like to take a few days to think about what to do.  His doctor agreed and suggested that he consider getting a second opinion.  In Jack’s case, the second opinion confirmed the diagnosis and recommendations of his primary care physician. 

What does medical diagnosing and getting a second opinion about a medical condition have to do with birding?  Diagnosing a medical condition is similar to identifying a bird.  Moreover, in some cases a second opinion about a bird’s identification is wise just as a second opinion is when dealing with your health. 

Those reading the bird hotline e-mails about chasing rarities in Utah during mid-September know about the dialog which took place about the identification of a jaeger.  Was it a Long-tailed or a Parasitic?  Even with the bird in the hand (after it had died) and excellent photos, it took awhile before a definitive ID was given, and even then it didn’t sound too positive as to which jaeger it was, and perhaps as this is being written, “the jury” is still out.  

Let’s say you’re out birding in a riparian area somewhere, and you happen to notice an interesting bird.  It’s not easily recognizable, and you think it might be something rare.  Now what?  First, do what you came to do:  Watch the bird.  Stay with it, observing as much as you possibly can about its appearance, field marks, and behavior.  Take notes.  Note the time of day, but most important, exactly where the bird was.   If other birders are in the area, point it out to them because one of them might be able to identify it.  Photos also helps for later study and confirmation.

There is the story of three educated ornithologists on a field trip.  A hawk was seen in the distance for which they couldn’t make a definite identification.  One said to the others, “well, we haven’t seen a Rough-legged Hawk, and that must be it.”  And, that’s how it was recorded.  Obviously, that’s not how it is done.  Moreover, if the word gets out, the individual’s credibility will be at stake.  We all experience misidentifications, that’s part of birding.  But, if you don’t know, don’t attach a name to the bird just to fill up your list.

Caution is urged when a someone suddenly starts reporting things that have never been seen in the area.  Either little birding has taken place in the area to identify what birds might be there, or the person doesn’t know what they are reporting, or the person is very good and IDs birds that other birders have passed off as LBJs or as unidentifiable.

While with Mark Stackhouse on a Deseret Ranch trip, the rest of the party birded the ranch house ponds while Mark prepared lunch.  I spotted a bird I had never seen before flitting around the edges of the pond and called Bob Huntington over for his opinion as to what it was.  We were both stymied, so while I kept track of the bird, Bob rushed to the ranch house for Mark who immediately identified it as a Black-throated Blue Warbler—a lifer for Bob and I and a first in Utah for Mark.   The Black-throated Blue Warbler is so well marked that almost anyone using a field guide can come up with its name.  Nevertheless. when in doubt, it’s nice to have a second opinion.

I want rarities reported—I need them for my state list.  However, when a chase is on for a Code 4 or Code 5 bird, the chase can become costly both in time and actual expenses.  

I have had both experiences with the ends of the success continuum—one driving round trip in one day to St. George for a Herrmann’s Gull without seeing it and one driving round trip in a day to Sun Valley, Idaho for a Northern Hawk Owl which was rewarded with a prolonged look.

There will always be challenges in identifying birds and frankly, that’s the way it should be.  Besides, most of us won’t get any rarities unless we chase those reported on the hotline.   It’s a gamble that the bird won’t be there or that the bird was misidentified by whoever reported it.      

What should you do if the bird you see really does turn out to be a rarity?  Phone or e-mail your report, with all the details, to the bird hotline so others can pursue it and report it to the Utah Bird Record Committee.   This group of experienced birders decides, on the basis of past sightings and the evidence provided, whether the bird is a record for the state and if what you saw is actually what you believe it to be.  

The Utah Bird Records Committee Official Website is very informative and is maintained by our own Milt Moody.  Go to www.utahbirds.org/RecCom/index.html for links to such topics as:
• Records Committee Photos (before 2000)
• Rare Bird Finder (table & maps of Utah’s rare birds)
• Records Under Review
• Comprehensive List of Rare Bird Sightings
• Archives (sight records, lists & reports)

Field Trip Report
Lower Provo River Parkway and Provo Airport Dike
- 10 September 2005

by Milt Moody

Utah County Birders on the Lower Provo River Parkway  - 10 September 2005 
photo by Eric Huish

At least 14 birders of every stripe (beginners to veterans) gathered to see what birds would show up on a beautiful pre-fall Saturday morning in September. The group, led by Tuula Rose, decided to start at the mudflats along the airport dike and give the smaller birds of the tree- and bush-lined Provo River a chance to wake up.

Upon arrival at the mudflats on the southeast side of the dike, the scopes were brought out and trained on the numerous peeps, gulls, ducks, pelicans and other birds in the mudflat area, while others scanned the "mote" with their binoculars for flying, floating and perching birds.

Species seen on the mudflats were: Mallard, American White Pelican, Great Blue Heron, White-faced Ibis, Killdeer, American Avocet, Lesser Yellowlegs, Western Sandpiper, Wilson’s Phalarope, Franklin’s Gull, Ring-billed Gull, and Caspian Tern, while in the trees and around the mote were: Forster’s Tern, Mourning Dove, Black-billed Magpie, Marsh Wren, European Starling, House Finch, Black-crowned Night-Heron, American Kestrel, and a female Ring-necked Pheasant planted on the chain-link fence. As the group picked up and left for the parkway, Kay Stone and company while turning around, spotted a Sage Thrasher running on the dirt road.

After parking in the "oxbow" parking lot along the Provo River, the group made their way down stream looking for signs of a Barn Owl that had been seen in the area. Along the trail there were warblers, vireos, and flycatchers flitting in the foliage along the river. Suddenly a shout of "Barn Owl" sent eyes to the tree tops to see glimpses of the owl flying along the tree line then U-turning to come back along the river. Bingo! Other species seen along the trail and in the fields were: California Quail, Cattle Egret, American Kestrel, Mourning Dove, Empidonax Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Black-billed Magpie, Swallows, Black-capped Chickadee, House Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Western Tanager, and Green-tailed Towhee.

Besides seeing 38 species of birds plus some unidentified peeps, gulls, swallows and waterfowl, the group enjoyed a beautiful morning, close to nature, in good company. Can’t beat that!


Backyard Bird of the Month
September 2005

KC Childs - Orem
Chipping Sparrow

Steve Carr - Holladay
Rufous Hummingbird - At the feeder on the way south.

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Green-tailed Towhee - Scratching away under the bushes.

Tuula Rose - Provo
Ring-necked Pheasant - Female hiding in the untamed jungle of summer long neglect. Also found a single egg in the flower bed.

Dennis Shirley - Elk Ridge
Three Sandhill Cranes - Heard them, then saw them flying over the stubble fields below the house.

Alton Thygerson - Provo
2 Mourning Doves arrive each evening for a snack at a feeder

Bonnie Williams - Mapleton
Mountain Chickadee - Showed up the day before fall.

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.