Utah County Birders Newsletter
September 2006

    September Meeting
    Upcoming Field Trips
    Feather Talk
    Western Birding Symposium Report
    Field Trip Report - Antelope Island - August 26th, 2006
    Backyard Bird of the Month
    August Hotline Highlights


Wed, September 13th.
A Brazilian Birding Adventure

Ned Hill
and Ivan Call present a photographic report on their recent trip to heart of South America where they birded the Pantanal (the largest wetlands in the world), the Mato Grosso Rainforest (on a tributary to the Amazon River) and the Chapada (a drier area much like Southern Utah). They encountered nearly 350 bird species, 10 species of monkeys, other mammals, snakes, reptiles, and, fortunately, very few mosquitoes.

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


Saturday, September 9th

Meet at 7:30 am at Sam's club parking lot in East Bay in Provo. We will go either to River Lane or the Provo River Walkway by the lake, or both, depending on where migrating warblers have been seen.

Feather Talk
By Alton Thygerson

Becoming an Expert

Pete Dunne, one of the better known birding experts, was the featured presenter at the Western Birding Symposium and the Utah Ornithological Society Fall Conference at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge Education Center in Brigham City. It was well worth my time to hear him present "The Art of Pishing" and to have a couple of short one_on_one conversations with him. Incidentally, I highly recommend his recently released book by the same name as his presentation—The Art of Pishing.

However, it’s my opinion that you didn’t have to go to Brigham City to see and hear a birding expert. I believe we have many bird experts within the Utah County Birders’ membership. I won’t start naming names since I might forget someone. However, in one sense every member of the UCB is an expert when compared with the general population.

One dictionary defines an expert as "someone widely recognized as a reliable source of knowledge, technique, or skill whose judgment is accorded authority and status by the public or their peers."

The key to success as a birding expert comes when you develop your passion of birding. Start with what you already know, and then develop a strategic program for enhancing your birding knowledge, techniques, and skills.

Becoming proficient at identifying birds is not all that hard. All you have to do is practice, practice, practice! All you really need to do to improve yourself as a birder is to—watch birds.

Here are suggestions for becoming better at birding:

1. Know how to use a field guide. Spend time looking first at the bird, not at the field guide. The field guide is always there, but the bird isn’t. Most field guides have a quick_reference index which can shorten the time searching in a field guide for the bird you just saw. You must also use the field guide regularly to become familiar with it. Nevertheless, it’s better to be outside looking at real birds rather than merely pouring over a field guide’s illustrations.

2. Know how to use binoculars. Skillful use of binoculars comes from practice. Hunters perfect their aim with target practice. Basketball players shoot warm_up shots before each game. I am re_establishing my golf game after a 10_year lapse, and I’ve seen what practice on a driving range can do for my golf swing. Practice putting your binoculars on an object by: (a) locking your eyes on a distant object (e.g., top of a tree or corner of a house) and (b) slowly bring the binoculars up to your eyes, without moving your neck, head, or eyes. Practicing this can make you faster at getting your binoculars on birds.

3. Know bird songs. Because you may hear a bird before you can see it, listen to bird song recordings—concentrating especially on those species you expect to see on a field trip. Some birders identify many of the birds they record on a field trip by their vocalizations without seeing the birds. In fact, some birds are most readily identified by their vocalizations. One example is the group of drab gray_green birds known as the Empidonax flycatchers. These flycatchers are so similar in appearance that most birders rely on the calls of each for positive identification. When these birds are encountered, birders usually do one of three things: (a) make an educated guess, (b) list the bird only as an Empid, or (c) sit and wait patiently for the bird to make a peep which can be matched with a description in a field guide or by listening to it on a recording.

4. Try pishing. Pishing is named for the sound it makes, a pish, noise made when you hiss through clenched teeth. Pishing is meant to attract the attention of curious birds, and it sometimes does. Pete Dunne demonstrated and we, the audience, practiced duplicating various pishes and other sounds (e.g., basic, variations of the basic pish, pish with a stutter, imitating a Screech Owl, Northern Pygmy Owl and Barred Owl, squeal, simple chip, sequential chip, whisper pish, knockdown pish). There is a limit to how much you should pish, just as there is when using recorded songs to attract birds.

Anyone can become a birding expert if he or she just puts in the time and focuses on becoming such. And it’s never too late to do so. So, there are no excuses for not being an expert at any point of time in your life.

Western Birding Symposium
by Glenn Barlow

The Western Birding Symposium (WBS) was held August 17-19, 2006, at the Wildlife Education Center of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. In conjunction with the symposium, the Utah Ornithological Society held its Fall Conference.

This symposium gave those who attended an excellent opportunity to see and experience this excellent new center that was dedicated and opened this Spring. The principal driving force behind this wonderful event was Betsy Beneke.

One thing about the symposium that intrigued and delighted me from the minute I read the symposium brochure, was that Pete Dunne, a world renowned birder, would be present for two days. He would speak to the attendees on at least two occasions, and participate in a field trip. My plans were suddenly made! It is not often we have an opportunity to bird with someone of his expertise, although I am not diminishing in any way the expertise of our local birders. Pete Dunne, as many of you know, is the vice president for New Jersey Audubon, director of the famous Cape May Observatory, and a contributing editor for Birder’s World magazine, where he writes a monthly column.

When I reviewed the brochure I noticed there were three days I would be able to attend, and thus, there were three field trips in which I could participate. The field trips I attended were: (1) the pre-symposium field trip on Wednesday, August 16th, to the Uintahs, with Mark Stackhouse; (2) the field trip to Bear River Refuge (behind the gates), on Thursday, August 17th; and (3) the field trip to Antelope Island on Friday, August 18th, would include Pete Dunne. All three trips were well-attended.

On the Uintah trip everyone in the three vans had requested to see an American Three-toed Wood-pecker, Gray Jay, Pine Grosbeak, and Clark’s Nutcracker. Those were our target birds and we were not disappointed. It was not only great to see these birds, but being in the Uintahs with the clean air, relatively cool weather, and great scenery, was its own reward. On the Highline Trail, behind the Mirror Lake Campground, we saw Red Crossbills, Three-toed Woodpeckers, Clark’s Nutcrackers and Gray Jays. We found the Pine Grosbeak in the campground where a female and juvenile were busy eating buds on the ground.

There is one important thing to remember, when participating in a field trip when Betsy Beneke is in charge. You will always have GREAT mid-morning snacks and plenty to eat at lunch. These were a wonderful addition to our trips, and helped overcome the fact that each field trip started from the Refuge Headquarters at 5:30 a.m.

On Thursday it was Bear Refuge, behind the gates. We entered the refuge from the City of Willard, and if I remember right, Betsy told us the road we were on was somewhere between 10-13 miles long. Right away we started seeing fantastic birds. The shorebirds were the first of the season for me, and included Marbled Godwits, Long-billed Dowitchers, one Short-billed Dowitcher, Black Terns, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Blue-winged Teal (a female with ducklings), Virginia Rail, and the surprise of the day, spotted by Betsy, a Common Moorhen with two young. I was able to see a total 53 species, but the Sora eluded me, although others were able to see several.

That evening we participated in a social with hors d’oeuvres and beverages. We were able to visit with Pete Dunne and he graciously signed his books for those who wanted. Following the social we went to the auditorium, where Pete spoke about his new book, The Art of Pishing. Alton later told me, after reading the book, that his talk was just like the book, which will make it very interesting and entertain-ing to read. Pete Dunne is a very interesting and knowledgeable speaker. It was very informative and enjoyable. Some things I remember him saying were: pishing is best done in a sequence of three, the angle of the chin is important, and for the call of the Northern Pygmy Owl pitch isn’t important. He then demonstrated various calls such as the squeal call, various chips, whisper pishing. and finally the knock-down pish.

On Friday, August 18th, it was off to Antelope Island, with Lee Shirley as our leader. We had three vans, with Jolene Hatch, DWR Biologist at Antelope Island, in the lead. Pete road with her. I thought that he would be in the first van, so most of the night I carefully planned how I was going to be in the same van with Pete. To no avail! Donna Thorum and some other ladies from Salt Lake were able to enjoy that pleasure. Then I decided I would ride with Lee Shirley, until he asked me to ride in the second van, because I was aware of the layout of Antelope Island.

When we arrived on the causeway we were immediately greeted with many birds. Fortunately the peeps had arrived. We could have spent the entire time on the causeway, but knew better. Among others, we saw Black-bellied Plovers and Baird Sandpipers so close you could easily see the wing extension beyond the tail. We also saw Semi-palmated Plover, Wilson’s and Red-necked Phalaropes, a Lesser Yellowlegs, and the resident Long-billed Curlew. It was very interesting to witness Pete look at a group of flying peeps and announce: “The sixth bird is a Baird’s! We saw Chukar and Burrowing Owls at the Visitors’ Center and along the road to Garr Ranch we saw a circling Swainson’s Hawk.

At Garr Ranch we were greeted by many flycatchers, including Western Wood-Peewee, Cordilleran and a Hammond’s. The surprise at Garr Ranch was a White-winged Dove on the wooden corral fence, just north of the spring area, which was spotted by Lee Shirley. As we were preparing to leave the ranch we stopped by the Spring area for one last look and were able to see the previously reported Northern Waterthrush. The Rufous Hummingbirds at the feeders on the porch of the ranch house were also a pleasant surprise. On this trip I was able to record a total of 42 species, of which several were new for the year. Back at refuge headquarter a few of us were greeted by a Common Yellowthroat in the reeds along the entrance way to the center. At the last minute I decided to participate in the evening’s Dutch Oven Banquet, and was glad I did. The meal was delicious. Pete then gave a very interesting talk on the subject of “Twenty-three Things that Changed Birding. He wrote an article with a similar title (“Twenty Things. . . .”) that appeared in a previous Birder’s World magazine. The 23rd item on his list was “have fun!” We certainly did!

I should also mention that beginning at 1:00 p.m. in afternoons of Friday and Saturday there was a series of speakers and presentations. I only attended on Friday, and found all the presentations to be very informative. Two of our club members, Merrill Webb and Josh Kreitzer made excellent presentations on Friday. Merrill gave his presentation on “Owls of the West - With Emphasis on Utah.” He was assisted with a PowerPoint presentation which Milt helped put together, and by his wife Lynnette, who played the various owl calls at the appropriate time. Josh gave his presentation on the “Birds of Southern Utah.”

This was an excellent symposium and many thanks goes to Betsy Beneke and the staff, including volunteers, at the Bear River Migratory Refuge Education Center. Let’s hope this will become a regular event and we can have more participants from Utah. Birders from California, New Mexico and Idaho were in attendance. I think I can honestly say that all who attended found it to be a very enjoyable and informative experience.

Field Trip Report
Antelope Island - August 26th, 2006

by Glenn Barlow, trip leader.

A view from the Antelope Island visitors' center - Aug 26, 2006
photo by Eric Huish

Utah County Birders at the Antelope Island visitors' center - Aug 26, 2006
photo by Eric Huish

Early this morning 15 UCBers met first at the Orem Park & Ride, then at the Kaysville Park & Ride, where I joined them, for a trip to Antelope Island. After some problems with my directions (the number of the exit had changed from 331 to 328), we set off at about 7:30 am. The first bird was a juv. Swainson’s Hawk just south of the Kaysville Park & Ride.

We were anxious to see the many shorebirds being reported along the causeway, as well as any possible new fall-outs at Garr Ranch. We were not able to see the previously reported (last week) Northern Waterthrush or White-winged Dove. However, we were rewarded with many shorebirds along the causeway and warblers and flycatchers at Garr Ranch. Along the causeway we joined with Cindy and Steve Sommerfeld and benefited from their expertise. This brought out party to 17! The group saw a total of 71 species of birds. (This would have completed Davis County for anyone needing the county.)

The plovers and sandpipers were found on the north side of the causeway prior to and after mile marker #6. Start looking as soon as you see the water on the right side (north) of the causeway. There seemed to be a major gathering of Red-necked Phalaropes along the south side of the causeway, closer to the island. In one group near the last bridge there appeared to be at least a thousand or more, although it was had to obtain an estimate, because whenever we looked there seemed to be more.

At the Visitors’ Center we saw many Chukars and Burrowing Owls in the area west of the Center. Burrowing Owls were also seen on the road to Garr Ranch. There was also a Prong-horn Antelope bedded down west of the Visitors’ Center.

On the road to Garr Ranch the surprise sighting was a Prairie Falcon on a rabbit in the road, and further on a flight of 3 Northern Mockingbird chasing each other. The Prairie Falcon flew to a tree for a few minutes, so all got great looks at it. Upon arriving at Garr Ranch we were greeted by the wonderful sight of a Peregrine Falcon flying to the west and south of the picnic area. Everyone’s target warbler was a Townsend’s, which was spotted right away in the trees on the west side of the picnic area, along with many flycatchers. The Wilson’s Warblers were in abundance, wherever we went around the ranch house and in the spring area. They were in the trees, bushes, and on the ground. Townsend’s were also flying to the ground to eat.

On the return trip from the ranch we were greeted with the sighting of many Bison. Some of the Bison we accompanied by cowbirds. Other sightings are listed below.

The birds seen (in taxonomic order) were:

Before the Island

Canada Goose, Swainson’s Hawk, White-faced Ibis.


Eared Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Snowy Egret (flyover), Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet, Spotted Sandpiper, Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit (flyover), Sanderling (1), Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, Wilson’s Phalarope, Willet, Red-necked Phalarope, Franklin’s Gull (many), Ring-billed Gull (many), California Gull (closer to the island), Loggerhead Shrike, Common Raven, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Savannah Sparrow.

Visitors’ Center

Great Blue Heron (north, along the shore), Chukar, Burrowing Owl, Tree Swallow, Violet-green Swallow, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow.

Road to Garr Ranch

American Kestrel (later chasing the), Prairie Falcon, Rock Wren, Northern Mockingbird, Sage Thrasher, European Starling, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, Brown-headed Cowbird.

Garr Ranch

Ring-necked Pheasant, Peregrine Falcon, Virginia Rail (west of spring area), Mourning Dove, Black-chinned Hummingbird (at feeder on ranch house porch), Rufous Hummingbird (same), Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Wood-Peewee, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Gray Flycatcher, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Cassin’s Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Western Tanager, Chipping Sparrow, Brewer’s Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Black-headed Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, House Finch.

Bison Corral

Barn Owl

Happy Birding to All!

Backyard Bird of the Month
August 2006

Steve Carr - Holladay
California Quail - Parents and lots of chicks, several times a day

KC Childs - Provo
Common Nighthawk - second time ever.

Flora Duncan - Orem
Black-chinned Hummingbird - The neighbors have a large trumpet vine that attracts the birds to my tree.

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Osprey - Flew right over, just above the treetops.

Milt Moody - Provo
California Quail - a late batch of little puff balls.

Tuula Rose - Provo
Warbling Vireo - The only new yard bird so far this year.

Margaret Sanchez - Provo
Male Western Tanager - in full sunlight!

Mark Stackhouse - Salt Lake City
Belted Kingfisher - cruising the creek out back.

Reed Stone - Provo
Belted Kingfisher - An immature glanced off my picture window as a Sharpie in hot persuit zoomed over the house.

Merrill Webb - Orem
Lark Sparrow - first for garden, 49th yard bird.
Bank Swallow - 50th Yard Bird!

Bonnie Williams - Mapleton
California Quail - taking dust baths in my garden.

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.