Utah County Birders Newsletter
July 2006

    July Meeting
    Upcoming Field Trips
    Feather Talk
    Field Trip Report - Big Sit at the Airport Dike - June 3rd, 2006
    Field Trip Report - American Fork Canyon - June 17th, 2006
    Backyard Bird of the Month
    June Hotline Highlights


Wednesday, July 12th

Dennis Shirley will lead an evening field trip to the West side of Mona Reservoir. Our target species will be the areas Short-eared and Burrowing Owls. We will also bird the reservoir. Bring a finger food snack to share.

Meet at 7:00 PM at the Payson Park & Ride off I-15. Take the Payson exit, turn right at the bottom of the off-ramp then turn left to the park & ride lot.


Wednesday, July 12th

We are going to replace this month’s meeting with an evening field trip. See July Meeting above.

Saturday, July 22nd

Merrill Webb will lead a field trip to the Soapstone Basin in the Uintas.  Meet at 6:00 a.m. at the Orem 800 North Park & Ride at the mouth of Provo Canyon. 

Feather Talk
By Alton Thygerson

Birding for Children

Linda Butler’s request for birding activities that families can do together sparked this month’s Feather Talk. Linda will write a series of articles for the new Utah weekly newspapers (Pleasant Grove Review, American Fork Citizen, Lehi Free Press, Orem-Geneva) and will feature birds and children. Some newspapers around the country carry a regular feature on birds. Linda reported that her children have some fond memories of their grandmother taking them on short hikes and pointing out local birds.

A birder can have a profound impact on young people if he or she is willing to spend some time with them and encourage their interest in the natural world. Most often it’s a school class activity or a scout outing igniting an interest in birds. I sometimes ask other birders about what got them into birding, and they often reply that it was from their Boy Scout experiences. That was my case and while growing up in Texas I wanted to be a forest or park ranger and knew that they should know something about birds. At an evening campfire, the camp director announced that an early morning bird watching hike was to be held. I showed up with my Boy Scout binoculars (a power of 3), and saw a Mississippi Kite during the hike. That really wasn’t my “hook” bird, but the bird watching hike did form a strong memory of deliberately seeking, watching, and identifying a bird.

A parent does not have to be an official (whatever that means) birder or bird watcher to spark a child’s interest in birds. The main thing is to get outdoors to look and listen. Nature will take care of the rest when things never before noticed pop up. For example, a former Orem High School teacher and BYU football assistant coach, Hal Davis, once described to me his first look through binoculars at a bird and said, “Wow, what a beautiful bird!” Later he learned that it was a House Sparrow. Yes, even the ordinary and sometimes undesirable House Sparrow looks good through binoculars.

Children are fascinated with birds. It’s usually best to wait until a child is around the age of 10 for doing more than the casual bird watching since younger children don’t have a long attention span. For casual bird watching in children younger than 10, you can introduce birds by pointing out easy-to-see birds. Canada geese and Mallards are usually present in the East Bay Golf Course ponds or Utah Lake State Park. Almost any road going west out of the Utah Valley cities can produce Turkey Vultures and large hawks. American Robins and House Finches abound in residential yards and city parks. During the summer, the white birds commonly called “sea gulls” are actually California Gulls which miraculously saved the Mormon Pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley.

Once a child sees a bird, you can add a bit of information about it. Show the bird in a field guide to reinforce what the child saw—the red on the head of a House Finch or the greenish head on a Mallard. As the child is looking at the bird, have them tell you what they see. You may have to demonstrate this first. Keep things simple.

Bird field guides designed for children are available at bookstores, a library, or Amazon.com. I like and have given a copy to grandchildren, Peterson First Guide to Birds of North America. Other books to consider are: Backyard Birds by Jonathan Latimer, Birds in Your Backyard by Barbara Herkert, the The Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess, and Bird Calls by Frank Gallo.

Spend a few minutes showing a child how to use binoculars. I took a group of Cub Scouts to Skipper Bay trail near Utah Lake State Park and scrounged up every pair of binoculars I could. Because each eye can be focused separately, one of the scouts in his attempt to focus, twisted the eyepiece so hard that he broke the $50 binoculars I carry in my car. Then I replaced it with another inexpensive pair, so I was out over $100 because I failed to take a moment to show the scout how to adjust and use the binoculars. Also, small children’s hands need small binoculars.

If you have a spotting scope, it can greatly enhance not only a distant bird’s image but also the child’s WOW response. Spotting scopes are most useful for waterfowl which will stay in the same place to allow focusing and many minutes for viewing a bird. Binoculars serve best when birds are moving about. Binoculars are essential for bird watching while spotting scopes can be acquired later.

Before venturing out to see birds, show yard birds to children. You will have several species to point out if you attract birds by feeding them in your backyard. Encourage list keeping; each time the child identifies a new bird, have him or her check it off the list or write it down. Have them add the date and location.

Squeeze some bird watching in during trips around the Utah Valley and on vacations. My in-laws once lived in Sanpete County, and rather than sit around the house visiting which for me was interesting yet can become tedious, I would take any of my children who wanted to go on a drive around Sanpete County with the intent of seeing birds, other wildlife, and the scenery. My children welcomed the break as much as I did. While traveling you can play a game of who can see and name the most birds—much like playing the popular who can be the first to complete the alphabet from car license plates while traveling. Today’s iPods and in-car DVD players can hold children’s attention, but why not teach them to seek and find, to get away from being passive and become actively involved in the world around them.

A trip to BYU’s Bean Museum can provoke an interest in birds and wildlife. The museum has almost every species of duck and goose in the world. This makes the collection one of best in the world—yes, the world! They also have Utah County Bird Checklists listing all of the birds which have appeared in the county and bird field guides.

Some of the Utah County Birders programs held every second Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. in the Bean Museum and the field trips around the county may appeal to parents and children. On field trips etiquette is expected--no yelling, screaming, crying, horseplay, or running around, and you stay with the leader.

A family can gain a lot of information about birding in Utah by going to utahbirds.org. This website is one of the best in the world—once again, yes, the world! You can find locations in all 29 Utah counties considered as being good for birding. You can also locate a photograph and description of almost every bird ever seen in Utah. The website has a link to Utah County Birders which can provide information about programs and field trips.

For birders who enjoy the fascination of bird watching, we need to pass along our enthusiasm and appreciation for the natural beauties around us. We can do that by introducing birding to our children and grandchildren and then spread out to youth groups and others showing an interest. Never refuse to advance the cause of birding for if in nine out of 10 do not become involved, the one in 10 can have an impact.

Field Trip Report
Big Sit at the Airport Dike
- June 3rd, 2006

by Eric Huish

A Killdeer nested right where we were going to sit so we had to move down the road
photo by Milt Moody

On June 3rd the Utah County Birders held a Big Sit on the Provo Airport Dike. We had much more participation than in past years with people coming and going throughout the day. We started at 6 a.m. and sat to noon when we took a break. Some of the group manned a booth at the Utah Lake Festival and didn’t get a break (I went home). Then we sat again from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. I was going to put the circle in the same spot we had it last fall but when I showed up in the morning there was a Killdeer nest in the spot I was planning to sit so we moved the circle up the road a little. This Killdeer, the pair of Eastern Kingbirds and a beautiful male Bullock’s Oriole entertained us during the slower parts of the day.

We finished with 52 species! Only 4 species short of our record 56 we saw last year. The last few species of the day were; 3 Snowy Egrets that flew over (We thought these would be easier to find), a small group of Cedar Waxwings (again just a fly over), some Canada Geese finally showed up and the last species added were 2 Sandhill Cranes spotted by Milt out in the fields East of our circle. Thanks to all who participated.

Big Sit species in the order they were added to our list - 1. American White Pelican, 2. Song Sparrow, 3. Ring-necked Pheasant, 4. Mourning Dove, 5. Brown-headed Cowbird, 6. Yellow-headed Blackbird, 7. Killdeer, 8. Red-winged Blackbird, 9. European Starling, 10. American Robin, 11. American Coot, 12. Bullock’s Oriole, 13. Mallard, 14. Eastern Kingbird, 15. Tree Swallow, 16. Yellow Warbler, 17. American Goldfinch, 18. Western Meadowlark, 19. Western Kingbird, 20. Black-capped Chickadee, 21. Forester’s Tern, 22. Black-billed Magpie, 23. Black-crowned Night-Heron, 24. Barn Swallow, 25. Caspian Tern, 26. Gadwall, 27. Redhead, 28. Western Grebe, 29. Great Blue Heron, 30. Cinnamon Teal, 31. Clark’s Grebe, 32. California Gull, 33. House Finch, 34. Northern Harrier, 35. White-faced Ibis, 36. American Avocet, 37. Northern Rough-winged Swallow, 38. Osprey, 39. American Kestrel, 40. Brewer’s Sparrow, 41. California Quail, 42. House Sparrow, 43. Red-tailed Hawk, 44. Franklins Gull, 45. Turkey Vulture, 46. Northern Pintail, 47. Rock Pigeon, 48. Cliff Swallow, 49. Snowy Egret, 50. Cedar Waxwing, 51. Canada Goose, 52. Sandhill Crane.

The Utah County Birders on the Timpooneke Trail - June 17th, 2006
photo by Eric Huish

Field Trip Report
American Fork Canyon
- June 17th, 2006

by KC Childs

On Saturday, June 17th, about ten Utah County birders headed up American Fork Canyon to the Timpooneke campground and trailhead. It was a gorgeous day with stunning scenery. Add to that the wonderful company and the day was completely worth it. The bird numbers were not great, but everyone had a fantastic time. Many people saw first-for-the- year birds, including a beautiful singing Swainson’s Thrush. A secretive MacG ilvary's Warbler flew up in an aspen for all to see in the spotting scope. We also went down to Cascade Springs along the Alpine Loop road and were rewarded with another gorgeous setting which included some singing Yellow Warblers and Lazuli Buntings. All and all, it was a wonderful day to be out. Thanks to everyone who came along!

Backyard Bird of the Month
June 2006

Steve Carr - Holladay
Black-capped Chickadee - 4 individuals taking a bath in the watering pan at the same time.

Alona Huffaker - Springville
All the young Downey Woodpeckers flying all over my yard.

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Western Screech-Owl - accompanied by a large, noisy mob of Robins.

Milt Moody - Provo
A pair of California Quail with one heavily guarded chick.

Bruce Robinson - West Jordan
California Quail and a herd of lil' ones!!

Alton Thygerson - Provo
Mom and Pop California Quail with 9 chicks (seen only twice).

Bonnie Williams - Mapleton
2 Eurasian Collared-Doves - often sitting on our power pole.

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.