Utah County Birders Newsletter
October 2006

    October Meeting
    Upcoming Field Trips
    Feather Talk
    Memorable Utah Birds
    A Fish Story
    Random Observations
    Field Trip Report - River Lane - September 9th, 2006
    Field Trip Report - UCB Impromptu Field Trip - September 30th, 2006
    Backyard Bird of the Month
    September Hotline Highlights


Wed, October 11th.
The Birds of San Juan County: What We Know and What We Don't - Presented by Lu Giddings

San Juan county in the southeast corner of the state is not only Utah's largest county but also arguably its most geographically diverse. However, at present a list of the birds one might reasonably expect to see in San Juan county does not exist. After 10 trips to San Juan county in the last 12 months, along with a review of some of the available literature, we can begin to draw some preliminary conclusions as to what one might see when birding in the county, along with an idea of the work that remains to be done.

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


Sunday, October 8th

The Big Sit - Provo Airport Dike - Come to the Southwest corner of the Provo Airport Dike anytime between 6:30 a.m. and Noon to join in this years Big Sit.

Saturday, October 21st

Provo Airport Dike and Skipper Bay Trail - Meet at the Sam's Club parking lot in East Bay in Provo at 8:00 am.

Feather Talk
By Alton Thygerson

Great Places to Find Birds

Here’s a self-test about some Utah bird locations:

1. Where would you have a good chance of seeing a Vermilion Flycatcher?

2. Where was a Heermann’s Gull reported a couple of years ago?

3. Where did Milt Moody, Junice Markham, and KC Childs see a Bronzed Cowbird?

4. Where were Eurasian Wigeons seen in Provo during the recent past years?

5. Where could a Common Moorhen be reliably seen until the last couple of years?

6. Where can a Roadrunner be located—sometimes?

7. Where can Black-crowned Night-Herons be seen in south Provo?

8. Where were Red-breasted Mergansers located during a major earth-moving development in Orem.

1. Dixie Red Hills Golf Course; St. George.
2. South Gate Golf Course; St. George.
3. Dixie Red Hills Golf Course; St. George.
4. Carol Jean Nelson’s backyard looking onto the Riverside Country Club and East Bay Golf Course both in Provo.
5. Dixie Red Hills Golf Course; St. George.
6. St. George Golf Club.
7. East Bay Golf Course; Provo.
8. During the development of the new Shadow Hills Golf Course; Orem.

Did you notice the commonality of the locations in the answers? They were golf courses. Reason and logic indicates why birds can be found on golf courses:
(a) Water to drink
(b) Food to eat
(b) Ponds sometimes found which attract waterfowl
(c) Places to hide from predators
(d) Trees and shrubs in which to nest

The elimination of wildlife habitat through urbanization has increased the importance of urban green space for birds. Golf courses are a form of urban green space, and should be recognized for their potential of providing good bird habitat. Golf courses are not all grass.

During the past decade or so in the United States, golf courses have been opening at the astonishing rate of one per day except during the last couple of years when many courses were sold for housing developments. If all of the golf course acreage were combined from throughout the country, they would cover an area bigger than some states.

Should you decide to go birding on a golf course, go to the clubhouse and ask for permission. Tell what you would like to do, and that you will not interfere with golfers. Stay off the fairways and greens or should you need to cross a fairway be very observant about golfers hitting toward you. Be quiet since golfers get very annoyed about noise when they are about to hit a ball. After all, they have paid for the opportunity to golf, and if you have gained permission to walk along the edges of the course, you haven’t paid anything.

If you do not gain permission or may be reluctant to ask for it, consider using the roads and trails along the boundaries of a course. For example, from the parking lot on the east side of the East Bay Golf Course Black-crowned Night-Herons and the Eurasian Wigeons have been seen.

Some golfers are fortunate or perhaps I should say good enough to experience seeing a birdie and an eagle on a golf course. Golfers get excited about them (for the non-golfer a birdie is one shot below the par for a hole and an eagle is two shots below par for a hole).

Golf is a great game for some just as birding is for others. Both can be enjoyed on a golf course. Presently, golfers are preferred on courses because they are the paying customer, but with good etiquette, birders could be welcomed on more courses.

Memorable Utah Birds
by Bonnie Williams

I thought about making a top-ten list of my most memorable bird sightings but couldn’t decide which was my favorite. So here are some of them in random order.

Hermit Warbler - It flew into a tree where several of us were eating lunch at Lytle Ranch.

Bohemian Waxwing - A flock of at least 50 at the Fish Hatchery in Springville.

Hooded Merganser - A pair in a small pond north of Salem, so close I didn’t even need my binocular.

Peregrine Falcon - The fluffy little babies peaking out of the nest box at the Joseph Smith Building this past summer.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak - I had been wishing for this bird to come to my yard. It was beautiful and I enjoyed the 28 people that came to see it.

Long-eared Owl - My daughter-in-law looked in our back yard and said, there is a hawk out there, no its an owl. I could hardly believe my eyes.

Pine Grosbeak - A pair in a small tree near Crystal Lake Trial Head, looked just like a picture in a book.

Harris’s Sparrow - In my back yard late one winter, it was many years ago. I didn’t know how rare they were at the time.

Orange-crowned Warbler - In Hobble Creek Canyon taking turns taking a bath with several other small birds in a puddle. The only time I have seen the orange crown on its head.

Blue Grosbeak - It was sitting on a chain link fence by Utah Lake State Park. It posed for us and then turned around and posed again.

Golden Eagle, Raven, Magpie - They were near Goshen Canyon, sitting on a fence, all three in one binocular view.

Great Horned Owl - At the cemetery in Springville, I looked up in a tree and the owl was looking down at me. It is fun to see a surprise when you are looking for something else.

A Fish Story
by Larry Draper

One of the great joys of birding is getting out into nature away from the hustle and bustle of our predictable mechanistic world. Away from cars, parking-lot freeways, asphalt, telephones, tele-marketers, televisions, commercials, salesmen, radios; the constant noise of civilization. The calming benefits of the quiet mountains, deserts, rivers and streams are simply beyond measure for me. These places are refreshingly invigorating, where the only sounds are the wind blowing through the tress, the trickle of water over slippery rocks, or the buzz of silver-winged insects (not including west-Nile mosquitoes) and of course the sweet music of birds. Ahhhhhh! Mental health. We all need to get away more.

There are of course other benefits of birding besides getting away from life; learning to stretch your mind by memorizing the details of field marks, studying the calls of vireos, sparrows, and warblers, or simply enjoying the surprising colors of the avian world. Exercising the mind with these activities is indeed an added health benefit of birding. The things you can learn are endless. One thing I learned while birding at the Bear River Bird Refuge a few years ago can only be described as bizarre.

Between the ponds at the refuge there are small “canals” where the water flows from one pond to the next over a small “spillway.” At the down-stream end of these short canals the water is calm and even creates a back-water where it is a little deeper than elsewhere. There are usually birds at either end of these canals, gulls, grebes, ducks, the usual water fowl.

One Spring morning in 2002 (April 13th to be exact) at one of these canals I was taught a remarkable biology lesson. As my birding companion and I approached one of the canal bridges between two ponds, I noticed a large white bird standing on the shore just a few feet south of the bridge. It tuned out to be nothing unusual, a full grown Snowy Egret. We stopped to get out of the car and as I put my binos on the elegant bird all hell broke loose. There was a great explosion of churning and splashing water as a thirty inch long whitish-yellow carp jumped out of the water onto the shore, its mouth wide open and snapping as he attempted to feast on “Egretta thula au vin” for lunch. I wish I had had a video camera rolling. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I would have had a hard time believing it. If someone had told me this fish story I would have said: “Naaaaw, no way.” But I had a witness.

The Snowy had obviously experienced this bizarre behavior from his fish friend before. He simply, with complete nonchalance, picked up his yellow slippered feet and stepped to the side only a couple of inches, just outside the reach of the vicious jaws of our mini Moby Dick. Moby flopped around on the shore for a few seconds trying to reach the bored bird, then he slipped back into the calm, supposedly safe waters.

It was no big deal to Snowy. Nothing unusual. Just another day in the animal kingdom. He demonstrated his “fitness” that day by surviving this life and death attack with confidence and skill. It was me who was unfit that day. I was the shocked animal. But I did learn a valuable lesson: when out in the “wild,” expect the unexpected. Who knows how often Moby had chased bird prey nearly equal his own size? Perhaps it is a common occurrence. My companion that day told me that duck and grebe chicks do on occasion become meals for large fish. That seems reasonable, but a pond fish taking a twenty-four inch Egret? Amazing! I am accustomed to Egrets spearing fish for dinner but not the other way around! It was a surprising lesson to me of the sometimes astonishing natural world we live in which I suppose is one reason we are enticed to go birding in the first place.

I am sure you who are reading this have had your own surprises in the field. Perhaps the newsletter could have a regular or irregular column where these kinds of incidents might be reported.

Random Observations

Dinner Guests
by Alona Huffaker

Early in September as I ran out to the garden to grab a green pepper to put into my omelet for dinner, I saw 5 California Quail, 2 Western Scrub Jays, a Downey Woodpecker, and an American Goldfinch. I wondered what else I could see, so I took my omelet outside by the garden to eat and in those few minutes, saw more American Goldfinches (eating berries in my Mountain Ash tree), Rufous Hummingbirds fussing at each other, a House Finch, American Robins, a Mourning Dove, Black Capped Chickadees, and an Olive-sided Flycatcher flying in and out of view.

A few nights later I had dinner with American Robins, Goldfinches, House Finches, a Western Tanager, some Common Nighthawks, A Rufous Hummingbird, some Starlings and a Scrub Jay!

I had quite pleasant dinner company, wouldn't you agree??


Sweet Tooth
by Tuula Rose

The joys of backyard birding are definitely worth the price of bird seed, but sometimes I wonder about the nuisance factor that comes with the hoards of house finches.

This year I took special care to preserve the promising apple crop by spraying against worms and setting out traps for the coddling moths. All this worked great and the apples were ripening without too many blemishes until the finches found them. Now half the apples I have been trying to save on the tree till cold weather so they would get nice and sweet, have been pecked half way hallow by the birds that seem to have a sweet beak, to be anatomically correct. And then of course the wasps follow to suck on the sweet juices coming from apples that should be my reward for my work.

Oh well, maybe the joys of backyard birding are also worth the price of apples.

(I did hurry and pick all the plums when they started on those, so there.)

Field Trip Report
River Lane
- September 9th, 2006
by Julia B. Tuck

Utah County Birders at River Lane - September 9th, 2006
photo by Julia Tuck

At 7:30 a.m. we met at the Sam’s Club parking lot and saw our first bird— the Great-tailed Grackle. When we arrived at River Lane we found Lu Giddings already checking out the area. The birding was slow at first, but then picked up. The “best bird” of the day was a Northern Parula. After we finished at River Lane, Alton, Flora, Leila, and I continued our birding at Swede Lane, ending up with 53 species for the day. Others left River Lane and headed to Lincoln Beach. Here are the species that were identified (in taxonomic order):

River Lane (36 species)
Ring-necked Pheasant, Clark’s Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Turkey Vulture, American Kestrel, American Coot, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Franklin’s Gull, Caspian Tern, Mourning Dove, Barn Owl, Common Nighthawk, Northern Flicker, Western Wood-Pewee, Warbling Vireo, Black-billed Magpie, Bank Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, American Robin, European Starling, Orange-crowned Warbler, Northern Parula, Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audobon’s), MacGillivray’s Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Western Tanager, Spotted Towhee, Blue Grosbeak, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, American Goldfinch.

Swede Lane (27 species)
American White Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, White-faced Ibis, Turkey Vulture, American Kestrel, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson’s Snipe, Franklin’s Gull, Bonaparte’s Gull, Ring-billed Gull, California Gull, Herring Gull, Caspian Tern, Mourning Dove, Western Kingbird, Tree Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, European Starling, Vesper Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow.

Field Trip Report
UCB Impromptu Field Trip
- September 30th, 2006
by Tuula Rose

A view from our spot on top of the knoll - September 30th, 2006
photo by Milt Moody

Utah County Birders looking for hawks from 'Hawk Knoll' - Sep 30, 2006
photo by Milt Moody

We could not have asked for more beautiful weather or for a more beautiful place to spend a few hours on a Saturday morning looking for migrating hawks. The view over Utah Valley and the Lake was well worth the quarter mile hike up the hillside from Squaw Peak Road to a knoll where Milt and Eric had seen a Broad-winged hawk a few days before. The hills all around were blazing with fall colors at their peak, the sky was blue and the air clear and crisp. What a morning!

We brought chairs to sit on and settled down to wait for hawks rising up the hillside on thermals in front of us. We waited for quite a while, noticed a few birds in the bushes around us but no hawks. We waited some more, and finally they started coming in. A sharp-shinned came up the gully. A red-tail was soaring further out. Then several Cooper's hawks in steady progression every few minutes came up the thermal circling close and then heading south. Then the sharp-shinned, then the kestrels. We hoped the broad-winged would be next. Didn't happen.

A couple of turkey vultures circled lower down around the Squaw Peak overlook parking area, where the DWR were holding their annual Hawk Watch. We checked with them on the way down but they had not seen a broad-winged either. They reported seeing a goshawk which we did not get on our list. The participants were: Eric Huish, Milton Moody, Leena Rogers, Yvonne Carter, Cheryl Peterson, Bryan Shirley, Steve & Cindy Sommerfeld and Tuula Rose.

Here is a list of species seen: Wild turkey, Steller's jay, Downy woodpecker, Plumbeous vireo, Dark-Eyed junco, Sage thrasher, White-throated swift, Mountain bluebird, Magpie, Raven, Sharp-shinned hawk (9), Cooper's hawk (9), Unidentified accipiters (7), Red-tail hawk (5), Kestrel (4), Merlin, Turkey vulture (2).

Backyard Bird of the Month
September 2006

Steve Carr - Holladay
Warbling Vireo - Don't see, or even hear, them very often in my yard.

KC Childs - Provo
Going to go with another Common Nighthawk.

Alona Huffaker - Springville
A House Wren dropped in for a few minutes--on my birthday! This is only the third one I've ever seen in my yard.

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Wilson’s Warblers - 3 bright males foraging with a kinglet in the cold drizzling rain.

Milt Moody - Provo
A Western Screech-Owl hiding in my owl box.

Bruce Robinson - West Jordan
Olive-sided Flycatcher - With his nice little "tuxedo".

Tuula Rose - Provo
MacGillivray’s Warbler - a pleasant surprise.

Dennis Shirley - Elk Ridge/Tokyo
Jungle Crow - No, I haven't flipped out! I'm in Tokyo, Japan, visiting my daughter, Teresa, and her family. It is a common, raven sized, corvid in Japan, and it's Japanese name is, Hashibuto Garasu.

Bonnie Williams - Mapleton
Townsend’s Warbler - New yard bird.

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.