Utah County Birders Newsletter
Upcoming Field Trips
Field Trip Report - The Big Sit, Provo Airport Dike - 9 October 2005
Report - East Canyon Reservoir, Morgan County - 22 October 2005
Backyard Bird of the
Wednesday, November 9th.
Sparrow Identification -
Milton Moody & Merrill Webb have a power
point presentation they put together for the UOS Conference with added material
for our meeting - Bring your Field Guide, Pen and Paper.
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
November 12th (Sat): Let's explore some of the less known
local city parks for closer to home winter
birding places. Meet at the Paul Ream Wilderness Park parking lot at the west
end of 500 North in Provo at 8:00 am.
By Alton Thygerson
Boardinghouse reach: reaching across those near you for food instead of
asking them to pass it. The first time I heard that idiom was at scout camp
where we all sat at large tables, and scouts would simply reach across others to
help themselves. This tendency among some scouts may be partially explained by
the 13th Scout Law that “a scout is hungry.” This boardinghouse reach behavior
is still associated with many scouts.
You can identify people by how they walk, their posture, and even by how they
eat. When you have five sons as I have, you observe their differences. Just as
they have different names and different looks, they also have different eating
While my sons were growing up, one son was a very slow, deliberate eater—the
last to finish a meal. Another son ate slowly because he did a lot of talking at
the table, while another son consumed hamburgers and tacos in about four bites.
Still another sometimes talked with food in his mouth—a dangerous practice. The
fifth one must have had undistinguishable eating behavior because I can’t recall
any particular behavior to label him as I do his brothers.
As any birder or probably anyone over four or five years of age knows, different
species of birds eat differently. In fact how a bird eats can provide a clue for
identifying it. Birds spend a lot of time looking for food and eating it.
Therefore, a birder looks at a lot of birds either while they are looking for
food or eating it.
A great resource for learning the behaviors of birds is The Sibley Guide to Bird
Life and Behavior (printed in 2001). It contains a section on “food and
foraging” for each of the bird families of North American (e.g., pelicans,
ducks, vireos, thrushes, etc.). It serves as the major source from which the
below information was adapted.
Here’s my attempt to classify birds according to their foraging and feasting
characteristics. Probably not all birds fit into these categories, and there may
be categories which I should have included. Nevertheless, it can be a jump-start
Pecking – picking up food from the ground is probably the most common
method of eating by birds.
Plucking – refers to eating berries and seeds directly from a plant.
Cedar Waxwings are an example.
Probing – sticking bills into sand or mud identifies shorebirds. These
can be further divided by how they probe. Dowitchers rapidly probe (called
“stitching”) while plovers and willets slowly and deliberately probe. Other
probers include the woodpeckers and the brown creeper who stick their bills into
tree bark crevices.
Plunging – suddenly dropping or diving into water from the air to catch
fish. Examples are kingfishers, terns, and ospreys.
Hawking – Flycatchers sit and wait from a perch, then will suddenly dart
out, grab a flying insect, and return to usually the same branch or one nearby.
Hummingbirds also “hawk” insects. What is interesting is that not all hawk
species use this “hawking” technique of sit-and-wait hunting. Some buteo species
hunt on the wing. Another method of some is hovering while actively flapping
their wings (e.g., Red-tailed an Rough-legged hawks). Northern Harriers hunt by
cruising close to the ground over flat terrain. Eagles and Ospreys hunt both
from perches and from high in the air. Many species make a steep dive with wings
folded known as a “stoop” to capture prey.
Flying – catching insects while flying is found among swallows, swifts,
and nighthawks. Other aerialists are the raptors that capture their prey while
it is on the ground or perched in a tree. The Peregrine Falcon is noted for its
aerial pursuit in which it strikes its prey in mid-flight.
Scavenging – these are common around road kill, garbage dumps, and
landfills. They are part of nature’s clean-up crew. Scavengers include:
vultures, crows, gulls, and the Black-billed Magpie. Bald Eagles also feed on
Dependency – refers to birds finding food as the result of another.
Examples are Cattle Egrets following cows that stir up insects, and California
Gulls following a tractor plowing a field.
Generalists – look for food anywhere and everywhere. Examples include
European Starlings, Ring-Billed and California Gulls.
Unique feeding behaviors of birds found in or on water:
Dabbling – these feed with heads and necks underwater and rumps in the
air. They include ducks (e.g., Mallards, teals, Northern Pintail, Gadwall,
Diving – these dive completely under water to get food. Examples are
ducks (e.g., scaups, buffleheads, mergansers), loons, grebes, and cormorants.
Stalking – standing in shallow water, these birds move slowly and
silently stalking food. Examples are herons and egrets.
Surface feeding – these birds eat from the water’s surface. Gulls are an
example. Phalaropes spin in tight circles to bring prey to the surface. American
White Pelicans thrust their bills into the water and scoops up prey.
Birds seeking food can be fascinating to watch. The Scrub Jay coming to a peanut
feeder, flies off with the peanut and buries it for another day. Gray Jays
(nicknamed “camp-robbers”) boldly come to a campground and steal food.
Naturalists and ornithologists may have explanations for these behaviors just as
a psychologist may have an explanation for why my five Eagle scout sons have
different eating behaviors. While Eagles in the wild have the same feeding
behaviors, my five Eagle sons don’t.
Field Trip Report
The Big Sit, Provo Airport Dike - 9 October 2005
by Eric Huish
A Merlin, Milt, Tuula and KC,
and the view of the mud flats from our sit circle - 9 October 2005
photos by Eric Huish
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.
Sit Participants: Eric Huish, KC Childs, Milt Moody, Tuula Rose, Deb Thornton
and Cheryl Peterson.
The TV weather reporters had us all believing we would be sitting in the rain
and wind all day but to our relief we had beautiful weather. Due to this year’s
higher water levels we moved our circle from where we had it the last two years
to take advantage of some mudflats which were loaded with shorebirds. The move
gave us no practical views of the open lake so we were unable to get the Diving
Ducks and Grebes we’ve seen in past years but the number of shorebirds on the
mudflats (12) made up for our missing species. We beat our record big sit total
of 53 by 2 ½ species. We saw a couple Western/Clark’s Grebes we couldn’t ID in
the very distant lake I’m counting as half a species.
KC Childs and I started the sit before dawn at 6:00 A.M. We tried for owls and
rails with no luck. While it was still dark we were able to get a Black-crowned
Night-Heron silhouetted against the water croaking in the dark, Wilson’s Snipe
flying around overhead and a few calling Killdeer. As it got light we quickly
began adding species to our list. Milton Moody and Tuula Rose showed up and
helped us add several birds. We had 50 species by noon when Deb Thornton came by
and joined the sit for a while. The wind picked up in the afternoon but Tuula
and I stayed to 1:30. The last species added before our afternoon break was a
Greater Yellowlegs (#53). I returned to the circle at 5:00 and was joined by KC
and Cheryl Peterson. We added two more species to the list. After KC and Cheryl
left I sat until dark (8:00) watching the sunset and all the birds on the
We had a great time and there was plenty of bird activity to keep us
entertained. Especially entertaining were the two Merlins which would frequently
zoom across the mudflat sending the thousand or so shorebirds up into two
swirling flocks, one flock of dowitchers and one flock of peeps. Once the two
merlins even chased each other. During one exciting chase the merlin raced after
a single peep that was separated from the flock. In the end, with some
high-speed maneuvering, the peep managed to barely escape the merlin and it
wasn’t until dusk that I finally saw one of the merlins with a kill.
Our Big Sit list total was 55 ½ species; Gadwall, Mallard, GW Teal, RN Pheasant,
PB Grebe, W/C Grebe, AW Pelican, GB Heron, Sn Egret, BCN Heron, WF Ibis, No
Harrier, SS Hawk, RT Hawk, Am Kestrel, Merlin, SH Crane, SP Plover, Killdeer, Am
Avocet, Gr Yellowlegs, Le Yellowlegs, Ma Godwit, Least Sandpiper, Baird’s
Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, LB Dowitcher, Wi Snipe, Wi Phalarope, Fr Gull, RB
Gull, Cal Gull, For Tern, Rock Pigeon, Mo Dove, B Kingfisher, Do Woodpecker, No
Flicker, BB Magpie, Barn Swallow, BC Chickadee, Ma Wren, Am Robin, Eu Starling,
Am Pipit, YR Warbler, Song Sparrow, WC Sparrow, DE Junco, RW Blackbird, We
Meadowlark, YH Blackbird, Br Blackbird, Ho Finch, Am Goldfinch, House Sparrow.
Field Trip Report
East Canyon Reservoir and Morgan County - 22 October 2005
by Tuula Rose
Utah County Birders at East Canyon
Reservoir - 22 October 2005
photo by Eric Huish
A beautiful fall day and six UC Birders heading north through Provo
Canyon. A good start for a day that turned out perfect. East Canyon
Reservoir gave more than it had promised, even though we did not find the
Pacific loon that had been spotted earlier. But there were COMMON LOONS
all over the place to look through and more winter ducks than expected,
the best being BARROWS GOLDENEYES and HOODED and COMMON mergansers.
We met with Aaron Smith and he took us on a tour around Morgan County,
his home stomping grounds. He took us on Morgan Valley Road on the west
side of Weber River all the way to the town named after one of our own,
Milton, where we checked on a few famous feeder places. We crossed the
river and visited Stoddard Slough WMA to call for soras and rails. No
show, just a couple of answers from an elusive SORA in the thick reeds.
A quick stop at Aaron's brothers place in hopes of seeing chukars and gray
partridge that come to his feeders unfortunately did not produce any this
time. On the way home we stopped at Croydon, where we had good luck at
some feeders on a previous county hunt. No luck again but the time of year
in between summer and winter seasons for birding can be blamed for the
scarcity of species. All and all a good trip in good company (and Eric
added 15 species to his Morgan County list, which made it even more
Backyard Bird of the
Glenn Barlow - Fruit Heights
Sandhill Cranes - Flock of 16 flew over.
Steve Carr - Holladay
Mountain Chickadee - Early for my yard; the first of October.
Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Black-headed Grosbeak - A horribly injured bird remained well into
Milt Moody - Provo
Red-breasted Nuthatch - looking very bright and colorful.
LeIla Ogden - Provo
California Quail (Or what was left of it). A pile of feathers in one
place and about 10' away was the complete skeleton. Picked absolutely clean.
Bruce Robinson - West Jordan
Dark-eyed Juncos - Montane birds are coming down.
Reed Stone - Provo
California Quail - Alpha Male on alert, covey feeding in the dirt.
Bonnie Williams - Mapleton
White-throated Sparrow - New for my yard list.
We would like you to share your favorite backyard bird each
month. Please send your favorite bird at the end of the month to
email@example.com or call 360-8777. If you would like a reminder at
the end of the month e-mail the above address.