Utah County Birders Newsletter
February 2006

    February Meeting
    Upcoming Field Trips
    Feather Talk
    Utah Habitats - by Robin Tuck
    Field Trip Report - Antelope Island - Jan. 14, 2006
    Backyard Bird of the Month
    January Hotline Highlights


Wednesday, February 8th.

Tim Avery - Bird Photography and Identification - Meet at 7:00 PM in the Bean Museum Auditorium on the BYU Campus.

Upcoming Meetings:

March Meeting:
Wednesday, March 8th.
Merrill Webb - Influence of St. George Area Golf Courses on wintering waterfowl

April Meeting:
Wednesday, April 12th.
Field Guide and Bird Guide Reviews


Saturday, February 11th.

We'll look for winter birds in Utah County, starting at the Provo and Springville cemeteries, and continuing south to Salem and Spring Lake - Meet  at Sam's Club parking lot in East Bay in Provo at 9:00 am.  Back by noon - 1pm. Target birds: golden-crowned kinglet, winter ducks, trumpeter/tundra swan, Lewis's woodpecker.

Saturday, March 4th.

Leena Rogers is going to be our leader on a trip to the Delta Snow Goose Festival - Meet at Sam's Club parking lot in East Bay in Provo at 8:00 am.  Back by mid- to late afternoon.

Feather Talk
By Alton Thygerson

Presidents and Birds

This month we celebrate two U.S. Presidents’ birthdays—George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. You may ask what do they have to do with birds? I’m not sure about these two, but probably any other U.S. President looking at a bird was looking down the barrel of a 12-gauge shotgun.

Thinking about U.S. Presidents started me searching for bird-related president stories. Few could be located, but these few may surprise you.

Abraham Lincoln

“He Rescues the Birds” by Noah Brooks

Once, while riding through the country with some other lawyers, Abraham Lincoln was missed from the party, and was seen loitering near a thicket of wild plum trees where the men had stopped a short time before to water their horses.

"Where is Lincoln?'' asked one of the lawyers.

"When I saw him last,'' answered another, "he had caught two young birds that the wind had blown out of their nest, and was hunting for the nest to put them back again.''

As Lincoln joined them, the lawyers rallied him on his tender-heartedness, and he said:

"I could not have slept unless I had restored those little birds to their mother.''

Jimmy Carter – adapted from a Birders’ Digest article

Though he wasn’t born in February and doesn’t have a holiday declared in his name, Jimmy Carter, who is best known as the 39th President of the United States, has added bird watching to his list of passions. Former President Carter and First Lady Rosalyn Carter first got the birding bug while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in 1988. Since then, the Carters have birded in 35 different nations, usually with the help of a crack local guide

On one of Bryan Shirley’s Texas bird tours to the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, we missed seeing the Carters by a few days. On their Texas trip the Carters managed to record 41 bird species they'd never seen before, including Aplomado Falcon, Elf Owl, Tropical Kingbird, Chihuahuan Raven, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, and Green Kingfisher.

Mrs. Laura Bush, the President’s wife

Failing to find other accounts of Presidents connected with birds, I had heard about Laura Bush, President George W. Bush’s wife. I recall that the first Christmas tree in the White House was decorated with bird ornaments, that she was an avid birder, and had birded in Belize. Our new UCB secretary/treasuer, Carol Jean Nelson, knowing that Mrs. Bush would be in Utah during the 2002 Olympics invited her to a UCB meeting.

In an address to the Seoul, Korea Girl Scouts on February 20, 2002 Laura Bush gives this account of some of her birding experiences:
“I remember that all the girls earned bird badges. For the girls in the troop, this just meant that we had completed our basic study of birds and bird watching, but for my mother, it led to what would become a lifelong hobby.”

“Bird watching became a big part of whatever we did as a family. We often drove out to the home of a woman we knew who kept her yard in its wild, natural state - just to attract birds.”

“I remember driving to see my grandparents when I was in high school, trying to sleep in the back of the car, when suddenly my mother would gasp, pull out her binoculars and announce, "There's a Hawk!" or "Did you see that Painted Bunting!' Being a teen-ager, I didn't want to be bothered, of course. But eventually, I did develop an interest in bird watching and the outdoors.”

“In fact, through bird watching I learned a little bit about "community" - about being a part of something bigger than my close group of family and friends.”

“One year, my mother identified a bird called a Varied Thrush in our own back yard. This was a rare bird for that part of Texas.”

“During the bird's stay in our garden, a lot of bird watchers in our town would come over on their lunch hours, sit at the counter in our kitchen and patiently wait for the bird to show up. As they waited, they got to know each other better through their common interest.”

“A lot of times the bird would never come, but when it did, everyone would jump up and hug each other -- they were so thrilled that they had spotted this rare bird. And my Dad would watch it all and say to me, ‘You know, bird watchers are really good people.’"

Laura Bush keeps a birding journal. At the Bush ranch near Crawford, Texas, several hundred acres of hardwoods have been preserved that are home to the rare Golden-cheeked Warbler.

These stories bear out that these famous people share the same passion for birds and birding that we do.

Utah Habitats
by Robin Tuck

For being a desert, Utah has a lot of different habitats, in bands, patches and swaths all over the state, some lurking where you might not expect.

This year, the Birding Challenge included a challenge to locate 6 bird species in 6 different habitats. If you want more information about the Utah habitats and the bird species that live in them so you can accomplish this, read on.

In all, 24 different habitat types of interest to birders have been defined by Dr. Jimmie Parrish in the Utah Division of Wildlife's Partners in Flight Avian Conservation Strategy, v 2.0 (April 2002).

Since birds tend to be habitat specific, knowing where to find, and how to recognize the different habitats can be an important tool in finding some of the more uncommon bird species.

As part of the Utah Breeding Bird Atlas project, I have gathered Utah habitat information and placed it on my web site. Recently, I created a web page that allows anyone with Internet access to determine what habitats are known to exist at any desired place in Utah, and print topographic and habitat maps for reference by pointing and clicking on a Utah State Map. While this web page is currently somewhat crude and inconvenient to use, it is developed to the point that ordinary people can find useful information from it.

Begin by going to my web page, www.utahnature.com. There at the top of the list of features is a clickable link to 'Display Maps of Utah Habitat.' Click this title to enter the Display Habitat Map page.

The web page displays the 'All Habitats' habitat map of Utah and a legend identifying all the recognized habitat types. If you would like to use a map displaying a specific habitat, select the radio button corresponding to the habitat and press the 'Show Habitat' button. When you move the cursor over the map, you will see the Horizontal and Vertical tracking numbers change, indicating where the cursor is over the map. If you click your mouse on the map, the cursor position is converted to a latitude and longitude value approximating the cursor location. After the latitude and longitude values are displayed, if you click the button 'Get Habitat Map', a topographic and habitat map at that spot will be displayed on the right side of the web page.

The topographic map shows a 12 mile square to help you determine exactly what spot was selected while the habitat map displays a 3 mile square showing the habitat detail. The colors on the habitat map correspond to the habitats in the Legend.

When the topographic and habitat maps are displayed, several additional controls are displayed as well. One of these is the 'Nudge' select box that allows the displayed maps to be shifted a small or large distance to some desired spot. The Nudge is needed because the latitude and longitude calculation is approximate and it is difficult to select just the right spot from the Utah map.

When the maps are displayed and adjusted to suit your desires, pressing the button 'Display More Information' will display the same two maps again along with a list of the habitats at or near the selected point which includes a list of the bird species that are known to nest at that spot. This page may be printed as desired.

Since this is very much a work in progress, if you have any suggestions for improvement, please let me know.

Using this tool, you might notice some anomalous habitats on the maps. As you might expect, no cliffs show up. This is because Dr. Parrish didn't have any accurate cliff data because cliffs are vertical and often do not take up much actual distance on the ground. However, looking at a topographic map and finding places where the topographic lines bunch up tells us where cliffs are.

An additional problem with the maps are places where the habitat data is completely missing, and shows up as white areas. In most cases, these are alpine barrens but here an there you may find some errors in the data.

There are other things that can make the habitat information less correct. This data was gathered 20 years ago, in the early 1980's using satellite imagery. Since that time, fires have raged throughout the state and the population has almost doubled. Roads have been built and in several places literally mountains of fill dirt have been removed. Additionally, the images used to determine the habitats were good only down to areas about 25 acres in size, so small patches of habitat are not recorded.

In spite of these problems, the habitat maps are quite useful and will be a good assistance in seeking out specialty places to bird.


Field Trip Report
Antelope Island
- January 14th, 2006

by Junece Markham

We got great looks at a Rock Wren at the Antelope Island Visitor Center  - 14 January 2006
photo by Eric Huish

Three car-loads of Utah county birders followed each other to Antelope Island S.P. We met two Salt Lake cars on the Island who joined the birder's parade. The birds were few and far between so any bird was exciting to see. I checked 33 species on my Davis County check-list that Milt pass out to the group.

Some of the more memorable birds were a pair of Great Horned Owls in a tree at Garr Ranch, also a Barn Owl in a box at the Buffalo Corral. We stopped twice in the area that the Burrowing Owl had been seen but were disappointed both times. Other birds that were good to see was a Chuckar, a Rock wren, that Steve Sommerfeld called out, a Loggerhead Shrike, a Prairie Falcon, and our car saw a Ring-necked Pheasant that none of us remember seeing on the Island before.

We also stopped at the Kaysville Ponds to add ducks to our species. The most exciting duck was the Hooded Merganser.

Come Join us it was FUN!

Backyard Bird of the Month
January 2006

Steve Carr - Holladay
Sharp-shinned Hawk - Missed his catch, but was beautiful to look at.

KC Childs - Provo
Green-tailed Towhee - sticking around for the new year. Always fun to see.

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Western Screech-Owl - sitting at the entrance to the nest box.

Junece Markham - Provo
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - Who thinks he is King flashing his ruby red top already.

Milt Moody - Provo
Black-capped Chickadee - a pair coming almost every day.

Tuula Rose - Provo
Northern Flicker - a red/yellow-shafted hybrid male with red underwings, red malar stripes and a red nape crescent. He comes for the peanut butter suet in the cracks in the bark of my feeder tree.

Mark Stackhouse - Salt Lake City
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - follows the chickadees to the feeders every day - now showing a little red on top.

Mark Stackhouse - San Blas, Nayarit, Mexico
Streak-backed Oriole - a gorgeous male on the clothesline out back.

Bonnie Williams - Mapleton
Pine Siskin - First bird of the year.

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.