Utah County Birders Newsletter
December 2006

    December Meeting
    Upcoming Field Trips
    Provo CBC
    Dues are Due!
    Feather Talk
    Lists, Lists, Lists
    Field Trip Report - Deer Creek Area - November 11th, 2006
    Backyard Bird of the Month
    November Hotline Highlights


Wed, December 13th.
Christmas Bird Count Preparation
- We will receive instruction and assignments for the Provo CBC.

Please bring your field guides with you, we will discuss birds that might pose an identification problem. Final assignments will be made for areas to cover during the count, and folders will be distributed to area leaders.

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


There will be No Utah County Birders field trips this month.

Participate in a Christmas Bird Count.  You can find the Utah Christmas Bird Count Schedule HERE.


Saturday, December 16th.

Let Merrill know if you can participate and where you would like to be assigned - 224-6113 or merrill_webb@yahoo.com or come to the December UCB Meeting.

Dues are Due!

With the first of the year almost upon us, it is time to remind everyone to pay their 2007 dues. Because we now have to pay for the web page, our dues will be raised to $15.00 for the year. Checks can be sent to:

Carol Nelson
2831 Marrcrest West
Provo, Utah 84604

Thanks for your participation.

Feather Talk
By Alton Thygerson

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

“Everything is something you decide to do, and there is nothing you have to do.” – Denis Waitley

Birders continually make decisions. For example, do I go on the local UCB field trip or stay home and rake leaves? Or, after seeing a Shrike, is it a Loggerhead Shrike or a Northern Shrike? Or, which field guide to carry when there is only room for one—National Geographic, Sibley, Peterson, or Kaufmann? Or, which new binoculars to buy or are new ones even needed? Or, do I go up Provo Canyon to look for a Winter Wren or to Aspen Grove for a possible Northern Pygmy-Owl or maybe try for both?

November 25th, a Saturday, was a beautiful, clear, nippy day. In the morning my wife and I had taken a walk along the Provo River to talk, exercise, walk the dog, and of course, I had my binoculars strapped on should any birds pop up. I must say that 500 birds were seen—Red-wing Blackbirds in a huge flock. There were also the usual birds--Black-capped Chickadees, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a Northern Flicker, Red-tailed Hawk, and others.

On that Saturday I had taken my wife out for breakfast, birded the Provo River, and had returned home to await the 1:30 kick-off starting the annual football rivalry game between BYU and Utah.

Just minutes before the kick-off, a phone call came from Glenn Barlow who excitedly told me that at that very moment he was looking at a Worm-eating Warbler. I felt a little disappointed that Glenn wasn’t watching the Holy War, as the game has become known. I’ll let Glenn tell you, if you ask, who he cheers for.

The warbler was at the southeast corner of Beus Pond in Ogden. When you look at the Worm-eating Warbler’s range map you find that it’s an eastern bird. The new National Geographic field guide says that it’s a casual vagrant to California and the Southwest. Another book said that it winters in eastern Mexico south to Panama and the northern Caribbean. It was clearly out of its range. and who knows when one of his or her species might pay another visit to Utah. Kris Purdy had located and identified the bird earlier and had called Glenn. Glenn has a lot of birders on his cell phone directory and I am fortunate to be one.

So now a decision had to be made: Do I stay and watch the game involving the fourth top football rivalry in the United States or do I drive to Ogden, listen to the game on the radio, and maybe see the bird if it lingers long enough.

One of my birding goals is to see every regularly nesting wood warbler plus the Olive Warbler in North America—a total of 52 in the United States. During one of Bryan Shirley’s birding tours to Ohio, I had seen a Worm-eating Warbler, and therefore the Utah sighting wouldn’t be a lifer for me, but it would be a Utah lifer.

Now if Glenn had reported a Swainson’s or a Connecticut Warbler, I would have dropped everything a made a mad dash for Beus Pond. That decision was made years ago. The Swainson’s and the Connecticut are the only two wood warblers missing from my life list. Of course, Fan-tailed, Golden-crowned, Rufous-capped, Slate-throated Redstart, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, or a Crescent-chest Warbler would be nice on my life list but they are not regular breeders in the United States.

So there I was—decision time, crunch time—what to do—stay and watch the game or drive to Ogden for the warbler. Because of deadlines on one of my books, I had already missed adding a Prothonatory Warbler to my Utah list when it was reported earlier this year.

It’s not like I was a former BYU football player with a strong loyalty for BYU football although I was a four-year letterman on the BYU track team, so I was involved at least in the athletic department. It’s not like I have watched every BYU-Utah football game for the past ump-teen decades—I’ve missed a bunch.

So I made my decision—I stayed home and watched the game. It’s a good thing that in the last 3 seconds with a pass from John Beck to Jonny Harline that the Cougars won. I know that the game’s highlights will be played on TV over and over so I could have gone after the warbler and could have still seen the touchdowns.

I’ll end with a quote from Walt Disney’s brother Roy who said: “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” I value birding, it’s been a life-changing activity for me, as I know it has been for most other birders. However, decisions are made, and hopefully they are mostly the right ones. About today’s decision—after a little Monday morning quarterbacking--maybe I should have gone after the Worm-eating Warbler in Ogden!

End note:

As the outgoing UCB President I want to thank the other officers for their support. Without them, the UCB would not be the organization that it is. I also thank all UCB members for supporting the monthly programs and the field trips. I personally hope that each of you will introduce others to our hobby and bring them to the UCB activities. For 2007-2008 an excellent slate of officers will guide the UCB; we will all gain by supporting them.

Lists, Lists, Lists
by Leena Rogers

As the end of the year approaches I’ve been updating my birding records. This is partly for my own satisfaction, and partly to make Milt Moody happy that I’ve submitted updated records to the topnotch website he so vigilantly maintains for the Utah County birders. Vivid memories of past birding experiences flood my mind with each bird I check off on my lists.

Yes, lists, lists, lists! How many lists can I keep and still remain sane? There’s my Life list, my World list along with the separate Countries lists, my ABA list [several versions of it], my lists for North America, Mexico, South America, Europe, my Utah list, my Utah County list, my list for all 29 counties in Utah, and then my Yard list. The list of lists is endless!

On each UCB birding trip Milton manages to have a stack of checklists for Utah and Utah County which he generously hands out to anyone who wants to keep a list of birds for the day. He even has a few ABA lists tucked away just in case! We all keep lists our own way. I visualize Robin Tuck on many of our birding trips carefully recording on his Palm Pilot any new birds he sees in the county we happen to be in. I also recall Burt Cundick remarking that he does NOT keep a list. He leaves list keeping to his wife Sylvia who is passionate about lists, and in her neat handwriting lovingly records each bird she sees on tidy 3x5 cards. I’m just not that organized!

Recently I stumbled on several notebooks that I kept years ago. I really try to be organized, but often my notebooks turn into a jumble of miscellaneous items. Scrawled on the pages I find to-do lists, grocery lists, lists of items I need to pack for a trip, jottings about places I’ve visited, the odd phone number or address, along with notes on family events and meetings I’ve attended. Among all this plethora of information I find several lists of birds from past birding trips. These notations bring back wonderful memories of times with my Utah County birding buddies with whom I’ve tramped through sunshine, rain and snow to catch a glimpse of our feathered friends. Milt Moody and Tuula Rose seem to be mentioned on almost every list!

My first list of birds was recorded on an outing with Tuula Rose when she coaxed me to go with her one cold February day in 1997. There were 32 birds on the list. That first list was followed the same year by a dozen other lists. As is often the case for beginning birders, most of the birds on my lists that first year were “lifers.” In fact I had around 175 lifers for the year – a record that I’ve never been able to equal. Thanks, Tuula, for introducing me to the joys of birding and for being my buddy on so many birding adventures since that time!

Contests of course prompt careful list keeping. Looking back I find lists for birds recorded in all 29 counties. My Utah County list is the most extensive, with over 220 birds recorded, but I have a long way to go to catch some of the other “listers.” I note Big Day 2000 led by Alton Thygerson and Dennis Shirley where I enthusiastically recorded over 100 birds that day. Other lists have followed: bird lists for Utah National Parks in 2002; another list of birds seen at Jordanelle Dam in 2002 with my sister Sirpa who finally caught the birding. There’s a list in 2003 for our trip with Reed Stone in the dead of winter to Delta to see the Snow Geese fly in, and a list of Big Day birds seen with my Aunt Helvi when she visited from Finland in June 2004. Thanks Milt for immortalizing that day with some of your great photography!

Birding trips within the state are numerous. My first “out of Provo” birding trips were taken in 1997 when the UCB group was led by Ned Hill: there’s my first trip to Antelope Island, then to Ouray. What wonders we saw! An American Bittern stands out as one of the highlights of the Ouray trip. I recall the times when Carol Jean Nelson has led us on marvelous birding trips in the St. George area. How can I ever forget my first Road Runner or Phainopepla! I find a list of birds seen on a UOS fieldtrip with Mark Stackhouse in the fall of 2001, and recall that Mark was there with a group of us to confirm the first Field Sparrow ever recorded in the State of Utah – in Utah County no less! I’ve even made note of the dozen unusual birds Dennis Shirley planned to locate in the State of Utah in 2001 as he was chasing up and down the state to break another record. That in itself places me in the category of a true “list keeping nut.”

Wonderful birding trips to areas outside of the state prompt lists. I have a list of Texas birds on an incredible trip with Dennis Shirley in 2000: Lost Maples, San Ygnacio State Park, Las Palmas, Santa Ana, Anzalduas, Laguna Atascosa and South Padre Island. Each place brings back fond memories such as Eric Huish finding a lovely Black-and-White Warbler skulking in the trees, or seeing my first Green Jay. What an incredible bird! There was another never-to-be-forgotten trip with Dennis and Bryan Shirley to Ohio and Kansas during the Warbler migration. That’s when I fell in love with the incredible Blackburnian Warbler at the Lexington Cemetery!

I’ve come across lists of New Year’s Day birding trips with Milt and Tuula in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. This has become a tradition for us! Eric Huish, who can literally identify a bird a mile away by sight or sound, has joined us the last few years and the four of us have also birded some of the outer fringes of our nearby counties. There are the unforgettable Christmas Bird Counts where I’ve found myself trudging through the snow with Milt Moody and Tuula Rose in places such as the BYU Motion Picture Studios and the Riverside Golf Course counting birds. Who can forget finding a half dozen Brown Creepers noisily foraging in the brush on a freezing cold winter morning!

How difficult it would be to add a rare bird to our life list if it weren’t for the wonderful people in our UCB family? Fortunately we don’t always have to travel far and wide to see a rare bird. I recall sitting in Lois Clark’s comfortable living room looking out across at the feeders in her backyard to spot my first Indigo Bunting. There have been enthralling moments in Reed Stone’s front room as we’ve waited for rarities such as the Rose-breasted Grosbeak to give us an audience. I recall rushing in the car with Tuula Rose in answer to a call from Bonnie Williams and Alona Huffaker for a glimpse of a Northern Parula and on another day the Saw Whet Owl in their yards. Those two ladies seem to attract so many rarities! How do they do it?! My first Common Redpoll was seen in Milt Moody’s back yard.

There is also the continuously growing list of my own Yard birds. I have a respectable 43 species on my list, but how many have I missed noticing?! Still a long way to go, however, to catch up to Reed Stone with his more than 100 species of yard birds. The rarest bird in my yard has probably been the Black-chinned Sparrow which suddenly showed up in my yard one day last summer, only to disappear just as quickly before anyone else but Milt Moody could verify the fact that it had visited my feeders. Thanks Milt!

The lists are endless, the memories unforgettable, the friendships enduring, and the birds continue to enchant!

Field Trip Report
Deer Creek Area
- November 11th, 2006
by Bonnie Williams

A cold, windy day at Deer Creek Reservoir  - November 11th, 2006
photo by Eric Huish

Four cars of birders left the Orem 8th North Park and Ride lot on November 11th for a field trip to Heber Valley. The weather was cold but dry. We were happy it was not snowing. Our first stop was the State Park just above the dam. There were several Common Loons and a fly-by of a Common Merganser. A Golden Eagle was seen in the distance.

We then went to the State Park by Charleston. One White-faced Ibis flew by and one lone Pelican was also there. There was also one Snow/Ross’s Goose depending on which expert you standing by. It was a long way out. The wind really picked up while we were there and we were glad to get back in the cars.

We then headed to the State Park in Midway. The most interesting thing we saw there was a Golden-crowned Kinglet. Don’t you wish they would sit still so you could get a real good look?

One car had to leave and go back to Provo and the rest of us went to Soldier Hollow where I think everyone got a look at Tree Sparrows. There was a Northern Harrier flying and three hunkered down in the grass.

One more car of birders left us to go to Jordanelle and the rest of us headed to Provo. We made a stop when we got back to the highway where a Bald Eagle was seen. One car stopped at Vivian Park so a BYU student could see a Dipper. It was a cold day and a good time was had by all (as always). About 30 species were seen by the group.

Backyard Bird of the Month
November 2006

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Sharp-shinned Hawk - Stealing a meal from another Sharp-shin in mid-air.

Milt Moody - Provo
Townsend's Solitaire - sitting in the top of the oak tree.

LeIla Ogden - Orem
I have dozens of juncos at my feeders, plus lesser goldfinch and chickadees.

Cheryl Peterson - Provo
Flyover by a Cooper's Hawk (new yard bird).

Bruce Robinson - West Jordan
Red-tailed Hawk - Neighbor's tree, sure sign of winter!

Tuula Rose - Provo
Yellow-rumped Warbler - Foraging in the pine trees, checking the ends of the boughs.

Reed Stone - Provo
Cooper’s Hawk - patiently waiting for a warm meal.

Alton Thygerson - Provo
20 California Quail with feathers puffed up and sunbathing.

Bonnie Williams - Mapleton
Cooper’s Hawk - Came on Thanksgiving - new for yard list.

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.