Utah County Birders Newsletter
March 2006

    March Meeting
    Upcoming Field Trips
    Feather Talk
    Six Species in Six Habitats by Robin Tuck
    Field Trip Report - Utah County Caravan – February 11th, 2006
    Backyard Bird of the Month
    February Hotline Highlights


Wednesday, March 8th.

Merrill Webb - Influence of St. George Area Golf Courses on wintering waterfowl  - Meet at 7:00 PM in the Bean Museum Auditorium on the BYU Campus.

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


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.

Friday - Sunday, April 7th - 9th.

Utah Ornithological Society (UOS) Trip to San Juan Co. (see below) - In order to try to coordinate rides and motel reservations for UCB members, I'm asking all those interested in going on this field trip to either e-mail me (Tuula Rose) at tuularose@juno.com or call me at 377-5477 or 787-8491. Please let me know if you can drive and how many you can take, or if you need a ride. If you already have a roommate(s), you can make your own arrangements, or if you need someone to share a room, let me know and we can coordinate, and make reservations together. In either case, it would be good to know who all are planning to go and when you are returning. This trip is going to be awesome, so I encourage everyone to take the time and come along. Please make your plans now so we can all get rooms reserved and not be left out.

UOS Field Trip - San Juan County - We will leave the Salt Lake area (SE area parking lot of Sugar House Shopko) at 7:00 a.m., Friday. There will be a carpooling area in Davis County to be determined later, and one in Utah County. We will rendezvous at a spot in Utah County and travel by caravan. We will stop at the Burriston Ponds in Juab County, which is often good for migrating warblers and many other birds. Next, we'll stop at Chicken Creek Reservoir for a short time, then at Sevier Bridge Reservoir nearby. We will then go to Wayne County and visit the Bicknell Bottoms WMA, an interesting wetland area just south of Bicknell. It may be a little early for flycatchers, but there should be an abundance of birds to observe there. We'll go to Hanksville, then follow U-95 to Hite on the Colorado River. We'll stop there for a while, then follow the White River on U-95. If it is still daylight, we'll stop at Devil's Canyon campground. Wild Turkeys are often seen there, plus White-breasted and Pygmy Nuthatches. Hopefully, we will have heard some word about the elusive Acorn Woodpecker that has been seen there. We'll end up at Monticello for the night. The next posting of this trip will list the motels and any KOA campgrounds there.
   On Saturday, early a.m., like maybe 4:30 to 5:00 (DST will be in effect then), Lu Giddings, Pat Jividen and possibly Dr. Jim Redd from Blanding, will take us to the Gunnison Sage-Grouse lek to watch these birds. This bird will be a lifer for many people who have not been down to see it. Afterward, Lu will lead us to many good birding spots in the County, such as the Hickman Flats road, Recapture Reservoir, and the sewage lagoons at Monticello and Blanding. For those staying over Saturday night, there will be additional tours to Bluff, Hovenweep, possibly Lisbon Valley and LaSal, as well as other places. Birders heading home either Saturday or Sunday afternoon will also stop at the Matheson wetlands just out of Moab.
   The Saturday and Sunday schedule is subject to alteration, depending on what Lu and others may have discovered in the days before we arrive. Dr. Redd has seen the very rare Scaled Quail in his yard just south of Blanding, but not for 4 - 5 years. He will keep us posted if he finds a covey that we can visit. 
   Click here for Motel Info. for this trip.

Feather Talk
By Alton Thygerson

Birding Blunders

A recent newspaper article entitled "Scholars Rate 10 Worst Blunders by American Presidents" caught my attention. The article said that U.S. presidents have been blamed for egregious errors from engaging in sexual relations with an intern to letting the Vietnam War escalate. The article sparked the idea for this month’s Feather Talk on blunders by birders. Readers should recognize that there are more blunders by birders than those below. There is no ranking of the blunders.

Blunder #1: Not protecting yourself

Utah has the highest skin cancer rates of any state. While a suntan can be admirable, not wearing sun protection catches up with a person in the form of early wrinkling and skin cancer. A hat should be worn—and whenever possible one with a 3-inch brim. Applying sunscreen with at least SPF 15 to exposed areas of your skin is advisable. Wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants also provide protection.

Too cold at dawn, too hot at noon, too cold in the late evening! Most birders know about the changing temperatures found in Utah and are prepared. Despite warmer temperatures than the Wasatch Front, St. George can still be very frosty. Wear layers of clothing that can be added or taken off as needed.

Don’t forget the insect repellant. Mosquitoes are most likely to bite when birding is usually at its best--sunrise or sundown. Repellant with 30% DEET provides adequate protection.

Other than birding in the backyard, most birding involves driving. Some trips require a hike up a mountain such as the Ptarmigan trip to Leady Peak led by Dennis and Bryan Shirley. However, getting there involved a long drive. Rules of the road should be strictly observed. Common sense and courtesy should be practiced. When parking to view a bird, the driver should pull completely off the road. Of course on some remote roads this may not always be necessary. Make it a habit that whenever in a motor vehicle to wear a safety belt.

Blunder #2: Trespassing

I’ve had neighborhood kids climb over my back fence, break shrubs and fencing, and have felt animosity toward them for doing so. Of course, kids will be kids, and when I was that age I did the same thing. The point is that a farmer, rancher, or other type of property owner probably has the same feelings that I had when the neighborhood kids climbed over my fence.

Birders looking through binoculars or a spotting scope at a tree near someone’s house raise suspicions. Birders have been reported to the police for their suspicious behavior, and police have questioned birders about what they are doing.

Some landowners won’t let birders onto their property because when the word gets out about a rare bird, a horde of people converge on the area—cars everywhere, cattle frightened, gates left open, crops trampled, I’ve seen that several excellent birding spots in Arizona have been closed largely due to enthusiastic birders. Some birders refuse to report a rare bird because they know crowds of chasers will arrive and sometimes present problems to nearby residents and landowners.

I admire Glenn Barlow for his going up to the owner’s house where the redheaded woodpecker was found in Washington County. He politely knocked on the front door and received permission to walk through the pecan orchard to search for the woodpecker.

Blunder #3: Not keeping the field guide in the bag

I spend a great deal of my professional time with a book in hand. However, experts advise tucking the field guide(s) away in a bag or leave on a car seat.

When you see an unknown bird, take in as many clues as possible (try for three) before the bird flies. Then, pull out the field guide to identify the bird’s name. Too often people take a few seconds looking at an unknown bird and then quickly look for it in a field guide. They should do the opposite—take in all you can while looking at the bird and after the bird flies or after a prolonged view, then pull out the field guide.

Blunder #4: Afraid of making a mistake

A previous Feather Talk discussed this problem which every birder experiences. Examples of hurried errors I’ve made include mistaking a decoy for a duck or turning a stump of a tree limb into a Barn Owl. Difficulties arise among certain bird families (e.g., sparrows and gulls) posing more identification problems than for other groups of birds. Another problem is that plumage in some families can vary according to age (e.g., gulls) or even time of the year. For most birders, the female poses identification difficulties. Again, expect to make a mistake—all birders have.

Blunder #5: Not using utahbirds.org to find birds

While a telephone hotline is good, the Internet is much better. Utahbirds.org provides good birding locations in all 29 Utah counties. Better still is the hotline reports of rare or accidental birds in the state. Most of the directions to the desired bird are exact and will place you exactly where the bird was sighted. Those belonging to Utah’s 300 Club (unofficial name of those recording over 300 species in a single year) will all testify that they couldn’t have surpassed 300 without utahbirds.org.

Blunder #6: Not birding the crummy places

My wife often accompanies me while I bird. She jokingly says that I have taken her to some really romantic places—sewage treatment ponds, landfills, barnyards, weedy fields, and swamps. H’mmmm…I wonder if I had done that during our courtship if she would have said yes to my proposal for marriage. Regardless of the smells and the shabbiness, the places described can be conducive for good birding.

Blunder #7: Not going after a lifer

Birders often drive long distances to see a lifer or to add a bird to a county or state list. Sometimes with success and other times without. A lifer appearing on the hotline offers a difficult temptation with which to cope. Obviously, there are times when priorities must be made, and birding may not be at the top.

Blunder #8: Not reporting a rare bird

Sometimes a birder sees a rarity but doesn’t report it because there is no photo taken for proof or a field guide shows it being far out of its range or the birder may not feel competent enough to make a positive identification. One of the reasons for reporting rare birds is to get a confirmation from others about it. Many of us are grateful to the person who reported the Purple Gallinule at the Jordanelle Wetlands in Wasatch County. I would never have thought that I would ever see this specie in Utah.

Blunder #9: Not studying

This is one of my major shortcomings. I have not devoted the necessary time to sit down and study birds’ traits and identification clues. I excuse myself by saying that I have more important things to do and my time is limited. However, before going to Montana with Junice and Dixon Markham for the Snowy Owl, I read all of my resources about Snowy Owls. While we easily found this owl, reading about it provided a greater appreciation for it.

Blunder #10: Not being patient

Many of us, are "cut-and-run" birders. We go to a good habitat area or to an area where a rarity has been reported. Then, after a short period of time, move on if nothing is seen or heard. The best birders are patient; they have learned to sit and wait.

Blunder #11: Not birding alone

Usually the best way to see a lot of birds is to have a lot of eyes looking. However, you can have an ethereal experience by birding alone whether its in a city park, cemetery, national forest, or Utah’s west desert. Caution should be used since birders have come across those dealing with drugs, those poaching wildlife, those vandalizing, and those engaged in other types of law-breaking activities. Being in the field alone could be dangerous regardless of gender, but women should be especially careful. There are remote parts of the Southwest where I would seriously consider carrying a gun for protection if I were birding alone.

Blunder #12: Not calling a local expert

When visiting an area or merely traveling through it, consider using the American Birders Resource Guide to contact a local birder who can direct you or in some cases take you to a desired bird. Glenn Barlow while in Wisconsin contacted a local birder who took him to a Henslow’s Sparrow—a secretive, hard to locate bird, and one that most birders don’t have on their life list.

Blunder #13: Not taking notes

Regardless of age, memories can be short. Some experienced birders check off the birds seen with a few notes at the end of the day. For new birders this may be overwhelming. I believe it wise to check off or write down each bird after it has been identified. For a bird you are unsure about, write down as many identification marks as you can. Some will make a sketch with the ID marks seen.

Blunder #14: Not going to a bird festival

Bird festivals bring people with similar interests together. While there may be a lot of elementary school children on a field trip there, you will find expert birders from whom you can learn either in a class situation or in the field. These groups usually don’t mingle except at the displays so don’t hesitate to attend a festival and select the activities best suiting your interests and needs. Utah has several festivals in St. George, Delta, and Davis County. Several UCB members—Milt Moody, Merrill Webb, Dennis Shirley, and Bryan Shirley—have made presentations during some of these festivals. Junice Markham has attended many festivals throughout the United States and raves about her positive experiences at them.

Blunder #15: Not participating in UCB activities

Perhaps some feel that Utah County Birders’ outings or those of any other bird club is elementary, even dull. Most club trips, even slow-paced ones, can provide plenty of good birding. The UCB needs the experienced birder to participate and to share with others their birding expertise. The UCB needs more Reed Stones who attends as many field trips as possible and willingly helps beginners identify birds.

Six Species in Six Habitats
by Robin Tuck

The 2006 UCB Birding Challenge has some daunting challenges, but some look much more difficult than they really are. Take the '6 species in each of 6 habitats'. Sounds hard but is actually a 'piece of cake' if you know your habitats.

For example, right here in happy valley you can find 8 habitats close to Utah Lake without even heading for the mountains. Here's some easy places:

WATER - Utah Lake itself is Water Habitat, as are the other lakes in the area. A quick trip down to the Provo Boat harbor will easily yield the 6 species you need.

URBAN - Of course, the cities we live in are all Urban habitat, which means that monitoring our feeders will likely yield the 6 species we need. If we fall short, going to the Provo Cemetery ought to solve that quickly.

WETLAND - Utah Lake is surrounded by wetlands, with Eastbay (Camelot woods area), Powell Slough and Lincoln beach being prime examples. Six species would be a snap at any of these places.

AGRICULTURE - We cannot drive anywhere on a birding trip without passing through farm fields, and as we drive we can skip the easy species like the Starlings and find some of the 'better' birds, such as Hawks and Swallows, and easily reach our required 6 species.

LOWLAND RIPARIAN - Swede Lane and River Lane, both favorite Utah County destinations are lowland riparian habitats, and attract numerous species, especially during migration. If we cannot find 6 species there, we must have our eyes closed and our ears plugged.

SHRUBSTEPPE - While there are stands of sage scattered all over, one of the most accessible shrubsteppe areas is Lake Mountain, with the easiest access being following the road from Lincoln Point to Goshin. Here you will have to look a little harder to find the 6 species, but with a little luck you might be able to find some Chuckar.

GRASSLAND - Continuing aground Utah Lake, opposite Lincoln Point is a large area of grassland habitat that sometimes is good for Curlew. Again, you might have to look harder, but the 6 species should be there, especially during migration.

PINYON-JUNIPER - Who can drive around Utah Lake without a quick trip up to Dividend. Winding through the PJ forest surely will yield the 6 species you need.

Utah Valley is a diverse place with a lot of different habitats close by. To see an overview on a larger scale, visit my web page at http://www.utahnature.com/utahnature/showhabitats.php where you move around and see the local area habitats with relative ease. This web page shows the habitats of 6 topographic maps and can move around to see adjacent areas by selecting a direction and displaying a new map.

Of course, and easy way to accomplish this is to simply record where you see the birds you already are seeing, then look on the habitat map to see which habitat you were in.

Good luck birding Utah Valley and fulfilling this requirement for the 2006 UCB Birding Challenge.

Field Trip Report
Utah County Caravan – February 11th, 2006
by Margaret T. Sanchez

Birders looking for the Varied Thrush at BYU  - 11 February 2006
photo by Eric Huish

Birders gathered in the parking lot west of Sam’s Club in Provo. Shortly after 9 am, we carpooled, and, as directed by this day’s field trip leader, Bonnie Williams, headed for the Botany Pond at BYU. Saturday parking was not a problem. Up the steps we climbed to the brick walk, and headed west. Our goal was to see the Varied Thrush, and to our great delight it posed for us, side view and front view, at the base of a small tree only a few feet away. Oh for a camera! For me, that was one of the two high points of the day. In the vicinity, we also saw Cedar Waxwings, American Robins, a Downy Woodpecker, and a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet.

Then we rode to Provo Cemetery, identifying some European Starlings along the way—wouldn’t you know? At the cemetery, few birds were to be seen, but there was a Brown Creeper climbing the trunk of a tree, and Dark-eyed Juncos, House Finches, and a Pine Siskin there, too. At Evergreen Cemetery in Springville, there was a fly-by of Red-winged Blackbirds, and someone saw a Red-tailed Hawk.

Next stop was at the North Pond in Salem (400 North and Main). Avoiding the houses built around the pond, we entered from the left, on Main Street, following a path through the weeds to the southwest corner of the pond. There Milton Moody, Reed Stone, and Alton Thygerson set up their spotting scopes, and there one could even see and identify the birds on the water with a good pair of binoculars. It was a feast for the eyes! The Trumpeter Swan was the unusual bird there, surrounded by Mallards, Northern Shovelers, Gadwalls, American Widgeon, Ring-necked Duck, Green-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Lesser Scaup, and Common Goldeneye. Canada Geese flew overhead, and in the distance there was seen the Birders’ emblem, the Black-billed Magpie. For me, this was the second highlight of the field trip, to see so many birds in so small an area.

Salem Pond showed a pair of Pied-billed Grebes, and some Ravens. We walked over the hill from the parking area, and through the picnic area, enjoying the view of the water in several directions. From there we disbanded, but some headed back to Woodland Hills to catch sight of the Lewis’s Woodpecker, perched on a power pole, and of an American Kestrel in the vicinity. We stopped at the WalMart parking lot by 400 South in Springville, to see Great-tailed Grackles, and found them again when we returned to the parking lot by Sam’s Club in Provo, which we reached by 12:30.

It was a very pleasant trip, on a sunny day, though the temperature remained about 38 degrees. Thanks to all who furnished transportation, and/or brought spotting scopes. People and cars joined us along the way, or left us when they wished, but 22 persons were counted on the field trip, including Lu Giddings and Tim Avery, as well as Bryan Shirley, and at least five cars formed most of the caravan.

Backyard Bird of the Month
February 2006

Steve Carr - Holladay
Audubon's Warbler - No insects yet, so she made do with the peanut butter.

KC Childs - Provo
Red-tailed Hawk - perched in a tree in the backyard.

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Red-winged Blackbird - A singing male and a female at the feeder.

Milt Moody - Provo
Dark-eyed Juncos - slate-colored and pink-sided forms.

LeIla's Backyard Bird of the Month - 19 February 2006 photo by LeIla Ogden

LeIla Ogden - Provo
Western Screech-Owl
- is sitting in the window of my owl box this snowy morning. He has been there for awhile and is still there. Looks like he is sleeping.

Cheryl Peterson - Provo
Mourning Dove.

Bruce Robinson - West Jordan
Redtail Hawk - Regular winter visitor previous years, 1st time this year

Dennis Shirley - Elk Ridge
Red-naped Sapsucker.

Reed Stone - Provo
Yellow-rumped Warblers - foraging, flitting and gleaning through the trees.

Alton Thygerson - Provo
Black-capped Chickadee - two habitually have come to a feeder. They sit looking around and then suddenly fly to the feeder and quickly fly off with a seed.

Bonnie Williams - Mapleton
Yellow-rumped Warbler - First for 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.