Utah County Birders Newsletter
June 2006

    June Meeting
    Upcoming Field Trips
    Feather Talk
    The sign would read:  by Lana Creer Harris
    Personal Big Day  by Flora M. Duncan
    Field Trip Report - BYU Bird Walk - May 6th, 2006
    Field Trip Report - Southern Utah Bird Trip - May 12th - 13th, 2006
    Backyard Bird of the Month
    May Hotline Highlights


Wednesday, June 14th.

Wayne Martinson is the State coordinator for the Audubon Society’s Important Bird Areas Program. He will discuss important Bird Areas around The Great Salt Lake and Utah Lake.
Click here for details on Utah's IBA Program.

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


Saturday, June 3rd
We’ll do a Big Sit.  We will sit at the Southeast corner of the Provo Airport Dike (Where you first see the lake after passing the airport-at the first bend in the mote) from 6:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon and from 5:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Come and go as you like.

Saturday, June 17th
KC Childs is going to take us to Timpooneke Trail in American Fork Canyon.
Meet at the Orem Center Street Park & Ride at 7:00 am.

Feather Talk
By Alton Thygerson

One Call, That’s All

Don’t be misled by this article’s title—it does not apply to bird calls. The Salt Lake City attorney’s television advertisement saying “One Call, That’s All” gave me the idea for this month’s article.

Many of you travel to other states to vacation or visit family. Some of you may involve birding on such trips. Your travels can lead to one or more lifers or to a better look at a bird you’ve previously seen.

It is helpful to use the short-cut of “one call, that’s all” to locate desirable birds while outside of your usual birding haunts. I’m suggesting telephoning or e-mailing before your trip people who are in the know as to where a particular bird can be found.

You can find local experts by using the American Birding Association’s A Birder’s Resource Guide. This publication is one of the many benefits and services available to members of the American Birding Association. It contains Yellow Page Advertising showing local professional bird guides, festivals, tour operators, and destination resorts. All of these can be helpful, but there is a less expensive way of locating a desired bird in a particular area. That’s using another part of the ABA Resource Guide known as the ABA Membership Directory arranged alphabetically and by state.

During a visit with a son attending graduate school in Pennsylvania, I wanted to see a Henslow’s Sparrow which would be a lifer. The Henslow’s Sparrow is rare and declining in numbers. It is found in wet, weedy fields. It has a very weak song, often given at night or in rain. It is more often heard than seen though its song is nothing more than a short hiccupped, “Tslick.”

From the ABA Resource Guide, I called a local Pennsylvania birder who the resource guide identified that she and her husband were willing to answer telephone inquiries about birds and their locations.

I called and received specific directions to a Henslow’s Sparrow location. She said that neither she nor her husband could go out the next morning, but later in the week could if I didn’t locate the bird on my own. Armed with the directions, my son and I found the location and spent two hours without success. Two days later, after a visit to Gettysburg, I called her and told her about my failing to locate the sparrow. She immediately said that she would meet me the next morning at 6:00 a.m. at the location. She was there and as luck would have it, she had heard and seen several of the wanted sparrows, but when I showed up they disappeared. She led me up and down a road and to a couple of other fields with only a long-distance view of the sparrow. As we were preparing to leave the area, she located a Henslow’s Sparrow for a close-up view.

While visiting my California son I called a local birder for directions to a Wrentit and was successful because of his excellent directions, however, I wasn’t so fortunate when I tried to follow his directions to a Mountain Quail location.

The ABA Resource Guide was last issued in 2003. A new edition will be out this August. If you don’t belong to the ABA, you might consider joining just to acquire a copy of their resource guide listing birders who can direct you to a desired bird while you are in unfamiliar birding country.

Remember, “one call, that’s all” can add a lifer to your list.

Bird-finding Guides

Another very helpful method of locating a desired bird is to use bird-finding guides. These guides may be simple pamphlets, a trail map similar to those which Keith Evans has produced for Utah, or a sizable book. Regardless of how they look, they can lead you to great birding spots.
Bird-finding guides often give specific notes about the best times to look for particular birds at any given place. To make the best use of a bird-finding guide, you should study it before your birding trip and then take it along to check directions as you go.


Within Utah an excellent way of finding good birding spots is utahbirds.org. This website lists good spots in all 29 counties and is the best source for locations and directions.

For most bird species, you can do a search (e.g., google) where one or more websites can provide help with identification and location for any desired bird. For example, try Mountain Bluebird, Turkey Vulture, or any other bird and you will be surprised at what pops up.
Bird hotlines (internet or phone) can also give directions to birds you may want on your list. As you travel, use the ABA Resource Guide which gives local hotline phone numbers.

There are chat groups which can lead you to desired birds and their locations. Glenn Barlow belongs to an eastern birding chat group and has corresponded with this group for years and has never met most of the people. This spring Glenn spent time with members of that group in locating Utah birds. In fact while I was on the King Ranch in Texas this spring, one of the tour’s participants was a member of Glenn’s chat group and had known him for over a decade.

Bottomline: Consider using others’ directions on locating desired birds.

The sign would read:  “Blue spruce condominiums for rent, no predators allowed”.
by Lana Creer Harris

The Blue Spruce in our yard is about 30 feet tall. It started as a five foot, live Christmas tree in the early 70’s. Now it is home to a large aggregation of birds.

Winter residents include Dark eyed Juncos, House Sparrows and House Finches. Some times during the winter the Juncos only drop in for a nosh and the finches don’t always stick around, but the lay-about sparrows hang out all winter, cadging food and causing a racket. I’ve taken to purchasing really cheap bird food in winter. The sparrows don’t seem to notice. They are the kind who would buy generic beer, smoke cheap cigarettes, and refuse to hold a job.

But at the height of summer the place is really jumping with quality guests.

Goldfinches arrive. The House Finches outnumber the sole pair of goldfinches five to one, and the thistle feeder empties faster. Robins move in, and a Brewer's Blackbird drops in to forage the lawn, but doesn’t nest. A pair of White-crowned Sparrows sets up housekeeping about the same time. I hear the male declaring his territory in a vocal battle with Ring-necked Pheasants and Western Meadowlarks. Little guy has no way of knowing they aren’t interested in his fourth floor walk-up.

As insects begin hatching out in the farm country where I live, Western Kingbirds nest in the penthouse. They keep the rowdy, ne’er do well House Sparrows in line. Some summers they are so powerful the sparrows hie themselves to a barnyard.

When nectar rich flowers start to bloom the Black-chinned Hummingbirds set up house keeping in the lower third of the tree. Their feeders are close enough they can feed, keep an eye on the nest and escape marauding barn cats. They’ve been nesting in the tree for probably 15 years. My late mother fed them, even had a male follow her into the house demanding food. I wonder if these are the descendants of the pair my mother fed. No way to know, but it’s a nice thought.

Once in a great while the Great Horned Owl who lives in the neighborhood roosts there at night. Owls may fly silently, but when started by me walking my dogs they make a heck of a racket getting out of a spruce tree in the dark.

Sharp-shinned Hawks drop in to lower House Sparrow numbers, but they use the more open maple trees to perch. A warning cry goes out from the kingbirds and all the residents duck back inside their homes until the all clear is sounded.

My neighborhood is much more interesting and diverse because of the spruce tree condo.

Personal Big Day
by Flora M. Duncan

On Saturday, 20 May, LeIla Ogden, Esther Duncan and I were led by Mark Stackhouse in pursuit of Personal Big Day numbers at Deseret Ranch. We started the quest in areas that were not visited previously because of bad roads and bad light. Only birds that were first sightings for the year or other Uncommon or exciting sightings will be noted. New to my list this year include: Greater Scaup, Barrow's Goldeneye. Of special joy was the sighting of three grouse in three different sites: Greater Sage Grouse, Ruffed Grouse, and Blue Grouse.

For me it was special to see Golden eaglets on the nest; Prairie Falcon incubating; and Bullock's Oriole female gathering long strands of material for nest building. Great flocks of Red-necked Phalaropes were beautiful in flight showing light and dark variations in plumage.

The Black Tern was fun to see along with the first Forster's Tern of the year. Three Great Horned Owls were observed in the barn. A single Burrowing Owl was seen in the most unexpected place. My memory doesn't let me recall the scene. Late in the evening, Common Poorwills were sitting along the dirt roads. One place, Mark said that shrikes had been seen--sure enough, there was the Loggerhead Shrike. The same thing happened with the Sage Sparrow and at the same time a Sage Thrasher was in the same spot--about six feet apart. Sparrows observed were: Brewer's, Vesper, Lark, Savannah, Fox, White-crowned with a Song Sparrow heard me but seen by others.

Now for the most unusual bird of the day--Rose-breasted Grosbeak in the trees near the housing units. The Lazuli Bunting was a first seen for this year. Bullock's Oriole and the Mountain Bluebird were vibrant.

From previous trips, I know there are more birds to be seen but had to save them for the next trip. (The count for the day was 122)

Field Trip Report
BYU Bird Walk - May 6th, 2006

by Eric Huish

Black-headed Grosbeak singing from the top of one of the old cottonwood trees on the BYU campus - May 6, 06
photo by Eric Huish

7 Birders (Bonnie, Tuula, Margaret, Milt, Eric, Robert and Kevin a first time birder acquaintance of Roberts) met at the BYU Botany Pond to do some spring birding on campus. The area around the botany pond was filled with bird song as we gathered. Lesser Goldfinches, House Finches, Robins, Quail and Doves were singing and before we even got started I heard my first Yellow Warbler of the year and couldn’t wait to find it. It is so exciting when these colorful songbirds come back after being absent all winter. I knew this was going to be a great day for birding.

Robert led us around the network of trails through some beautiful wooded areas on campus. All the plants were leafing out. Lilacs, Chokecherries and many other trees were in bloom. But the best part was all the bird activity and bird song everywhere.

We saw many new spring arrivals. We found the Yellow Warbler we heard earlier plus a couple more bright males. Also first for me this year were Western Tanager, Orange-crowned Warbler, Green-tailed Towhee and an Empidonax Flycatcher. Almost first-of-year for me was a beautiful singing male Black-headed Grosbeak (I had seen a female in my yard the day before) and a heard-only Bullocks Oriole (I had seen my first only two days earlier).

There were a couple mountain species still lingering. We saw and heard quite a few White-crowned Sparrows. At one point Robert thought he heard nuthatches and sure enough we latter found a pair of Red-breasted Nuthatches foraging on a dead broken limb on a Cottonwood Tree.

We could tell the resident birds were used to people walking along the pathways on campus because we were able to walk right up to a Downy Woodpecker and a sleeping California Quail.  I counted 32 species and we all had a great time. Thank you Robert for leading a fun bird walk. I never knew there was so much great bird habitat on the BYU Campus.

Field Trip Report
Southern Utah Bird Trip - May 12th - 13th, 2006

by Kay Stone

Green Heron at Stonebridge Golf Course - May 12, 06
photo by Eric Huish

Birding at Zion National Park - May 12th, 2006
photo by Eric Huish

Friday morning at 7:Am found several eager Utah County Birders and two Salt Lake City Birders who met at Carol Jean Nelson's home in St. George, Utah.

Our morning started off nicely with a sighting of a Green Heron and a Black Phoebe off a bridge over the Santa Clara River. At Tonaquint Park we saw some good birds including a Bullocks Oriole, Gambel's Quail, Sora and Say's Phoebe. From there we traveled to the area just south of the Dixie Center. I believe it was Steve Sommerfield that saw a Gray Fox and then Leila Ogden noticed a Roadrunner in the same vicinity; to me a Roadrunner" really makes" a trip to Southern Utah.

We were feeling pretty good about our success then and traveled over to Red Hills Golf Course. We studied the Palm Trees south of the golf course and then appeared in all his regal beauty, a male Hooded Oriole. We all got good looks and excitedly took off to the course itself.

We soon saw a bright red Summer Tanager and then a Summer Tanager and a Western Tanager close together. We proceeded up the hill to the north east corner and were rewarded with gorgeous looks at a male Vermillion Flycatcher. Pictures of this bird just don't seem to do it justice. We also saw a spotted Sandpiper and a Phainopepla while there.

Our next stop was at Sun River Golf Course, I think, and with the help of Scopes we saw Ring Necked Ducks, Yellow Headed Blackbirds, Pied Billed Grebe and Cinnamon Teal.

Snow Canyon became our next stop and at the headquarters we refueled our bodies and watched for birds. We saw a Bewick's Wren and some of us saw a ladder-Back Woodpecker.

As the afternoon wore on and the temperature soared we headed to the Washington Fields where we saw Burrowing Owls. I was surprised to see them so close to farm equipment and a hay barn.

We then traveled east towards Zion's Park and stopped at the sewage pond and saw several species of Ducks and some Phalaropes.

Our next stop was at the Brentwood Trailer Park, where we saw the rare Inca Dove.

We pushed on to Zion's and after riding the shuttle to the end of the line, we started up the trail in hopes of finding the Painted Redstart. After walking farther than we had in past trips, we finally heard that it had been sighted. We all got good looks at it and then headed back to meet the shuttle. On this hike we also saw a Lazuli Bunting, Black Capped Chickadee, Dipper, and Warbling Vireo and a few others. On the shuttle we saw several Wild Turkeys and also deer, and we also saw deer on the trail.

Friday Evening we rode out to a pond to look for Lesser Nighthawks, but were only successful in finding a few bats.

At 6:AM the next day, we were at Carol Jean's again ready to take on Lytle Ranch. On the way we stopped at Welcome Springs and had a good hike. We were looking for Merrill Webb, who had joined us that day, and after a nice hike we found him and Steve Sommerfield as well. They were, if I remember correctly, looking for the Black Tailed Gnatcatcher and the Black Chinned Sparrow and hadn't been successful.

At Lytle, we visited the Humming Bird feeders and saw a male Costa's Humming Bird and a Black Chinned Hummer. Before this report get to long, let me just say, that at Lytle or on the road we saw Cactus Wren, White Winged Dove, Wilson's Warbler, Crissal Thrasher, Lucy's Warbler and Bells Vireo. As we approached the farm house after our trek up the pond, Eric reported on the radio that he had seen and heard the Brown Crested Flycatcher. With that news some tired bodies received an increase of energy and hurried toward "Eagle Eye" Eric, but alas, it had disappeared Eric found it again and a few got fleeting looks at it.

We stopped at Utah Hill on the way back, but with limited success. Eric got a quick look at a Black Tailed Gnatcatcher. The rest of us had to be satisfied with Blue Gray Gnatcatcher's.

All in all it was a very successful trip. To my knowledge we all saw over sixty species and some saw over eighty or ninety. We appreciated Steve and Cindy Sommerfield joining us and they added to our success and enjoyment. Those on the trip, either for both days or one are, Carol Jean Nelson, Bonnie Williams, Flora Duncan, Leila Ogden, Milt Moody, Tuula Rose, Steve and Cindy Sommerfield, Merrill Webb, Cheryl and Stephanie Peterson, Kay Stone, Lana Rogers and her sister whose name I can't spell or would mispronounce, but were glad she came.

If I have forgotten anyone, and I worry about such things, I will apologize to you profusely when we meet.

Backyard Bird of the Month
May 2006

Steve Carr - Holladay
Black-headed Grosbeak - Male and female visiting feeders, have a nest nearby.

Alona Huffaker - Springville
New one for my yard list - the Eurasian Collared Dove!

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Chipping Sparrow - singing.

Milt Moody - Provo
A Pair of Downy Woodpecker - inspecting my trees but moving on.

Cheryl Peterson - Provo
Bullock's Oriole

Bruce Robinson - West Jordan
Western Scrub Jay - In my living room!! (Photographic proof!)

Tuula Rose - Provo
A pair of Bullock's Orioles coming to the hummingbird feeders.

Reed Stone - Provo
Downy Woodpecker - They shuttle back and forth from my suit feeder to their nesting cavity.

Alton Thygerson - Provo
Black-headed Grosbeak - comes to a feeder daily.

Bonnie Williams - Mapleton
Wilson’s Warbler - Saw it a couple different times.

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.