Utah County Birders Newsletter
July 2007

    July Meeting
    Upcoming Field Trips
    Merrill's Musings
    Bird of the Month
    Field Trip Report - Goshen and Mona Reservoir - 13 June 2007
    Backyard Bird of the Month
    June Hotline Highlights


Wed, July 11th.

We are replacing this months meetings with another Evening Field Trip. This month Eric Huish will lead a trip up Payson Canyon. We had a similar trip last year and had a great time. Please join us. We had a similar trip two years ago and had a great time - Field Trip Report.  Please join us. All are welcome.

Meet at 6:00 PM at the Payson Park & Ride off I-15. Take the Northern Payson exit, turn west at the bottom of the off-ramp then turn south to the park & ride lot.



Wed, Aug 8th.

Annual Summer Social Potluck - We will meet at 6:30 p.m. at Cascade Park - 950 East 200 North, Orem, where we have reserved a pavilion in case of afternoon showers. 

Meat (Chicken) and Drinks will be provided.  Please bring a potluck dish to share. See you there.


Wed, July 11th
See July Meeting Above.

Fri-Sat, July 13th & 14th
Escalante and Bryce Canyon National Park
- No activities scheduled on Friday 7/13; a small block of rooms has been reserved for UCB at the Prospector Inn in Escalante (phone: 435.826.4653; $61.74 double occupancy including tax; mention you're with the UCB group) or make your own arrangements.  Saturday 7:00 a.m. leave the Grand Staircase N.M. headquarters parking lot at the west end of town. Bird in and around Escalante during the morning, then make our way toward the national park by late morning and spend the afternoon in the park. Bring water and a lunch.


UCB Field Trips 2007

We are actively recruiting people to lead local half-day field trips, any time, any place.  Call Lu Giddings if you would like to help.

departure place and time
July 11 Payson Canyon - no UCB meeting at 7 p.m. Meet at 6:00 p.m. at the Payon Park & Ride off I-15. Take the northern Payson exit, turn west at the bottom of the off-ramp, then turn south to the Park & Ride lot. Details Above
July 13 & 14 Escalante and Bryce Canyon National Park

Saturday 7:00 a.m. leave the Grand Staircase N.M. headquarters parking lot at the west end of town. Details Above

August UOS meeting: Provo, UT Dates & field trips associated with the conference to be announced.
August Uintah Mountains Cancelled until September.
September Brown's Park National Wildlife Refuge, NE Utah Cancelled until 2008.
September Uintah Mountains Day trip, details TBA.
Oct. 13&14 Zion's National Park Cancelled until 2008.
October Grouse Creek mountains, NW Utah Day trip; details TBA


Merrill's Musings
By Merrill Webb

Uncommon Birding Locations in Utah County

Some of you who read this newsletter may not know that I am a summertime employee of the U.S. Forest Service. My official title is "wildlife technician" which means I go into the field and collect biological data for the district biologist(s). Since I have been doing this same job for the last 13 summers I refer to myself as a "permanent seasonal". From the end of May until July 15 I am surveying a different site each day within the Uinta National Forest collecting information on breeding birds, with emphasis on neotropical migrants. "Almost half (170) of Utah's bird species are classified as neotropical migratory birds. And, approximately 75% of those NTMB species are known to occur in riparian habitats of the state....Population and habitat monitoring are major priorities in developing long-term management programs designed to conserve and enhance migratory bird species and their ecosystems. Unmonitored bird populations can decline without detection to a point at which recovery is no longer possible. Declines in monitored populations may be detected and steps taken to recover the populations before they become threatened or endangered." Population Monitoring of Utah Neotropical Migratory Birds in Riparian Habitats: 1995 Final Progress Report, UDWR Publication Number 96-13, prepared by Frank P. Howe, Nongame Avian Program Coordinator, April 1996).

Some of the 48 transects I census are within the boundaries of Utah County, and it is these transects (and a few of the birds I have seen this June) that I want to share with you. I actually conduct three longer Breeding Bird Surveys (BBS) on the Uinta (each of which is 25 miles long)--and three others of the same length off the forest, just six of the approximately 100 Utah BBS routes that are under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Interior whose results are monitored and tabulated by an agency that used to be known as the Fish and Wildlife Service in Laurel, Maryland. But, the results of these surveys are fodder for lager "musings".

These two mile routes are based on 7.5 minute topographic quadrangle maps for their location, but if you don't have a quad map then the directions I give here will have to suffice.

The first site I will describe is on the Birdseye quad map, along a stream called Bennie Creek, a riparian area with conifers on the north facing slope and oak, maple, and mahogany on the south facing slope. To access this road travel up Spanish Fork Canyon, turn right on to Highway 89 just past Billies Mountain, turn right at the Birdseye church and follow the road through private property to the forest service boundary. The road then terminates at a trailhead before the two miles are actually traveled, so if you want a nice walk as well you can hike up the trail which follows the stream through heavily forested vegetation. When I surveyed this transect the second week of June it was the day after the heavy snowstorm at higher elevations, and it was very cold, so the few bird species I saw that day may not be indicative of what is really there. Commonly you can find Western Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeak, Chipping Sparrows, and Orange-crowned Warblers.

The second location is at Page Fork on the Spencer Canyon quad map. Drive up Spanish Fork Canyon and turn right at the junction with Highway 89 towards Thistle and Birdseye. After the Birdseye church take the third right (Nebo Creek) and drive 1.5 miles past the forest boundary fence and cattle guard to Page Fork. Turn left (south), ford the stream and go approximately 100 meters to the cattle guard. The first mile can be covered by driving a vehicle; the road terminates at a trailhead which can be walked for as long as you want to go. On the way up to Page Fork turn-of a forest fire a couple of years ago left a lot of dead cottonwoods in the stream bottom. I found a Lewis' Woodpecker working those dead trees about three weeks ago. Vegetation is typical riparian with large cottonwoods, willows, and on the hillside just typical oak-maple habitat. Birds you can expect are: Plumbeous Vireo. Song Sparrow, Orange-crowned Warbler, and MacGillivray's Warbler.

In Diamond Fork Canyon (Billies Mountain quad map) about two miles up from the campground the forest service has recently constructed a new group picnic site just across the stream at a location known as "Monk's Hollow". A walking trail heads east from this picnic site, and after a steep climb goes south through a broad meadow surrounded by oak, maple and
scattered junipers. Along the stream you can find Gray Catbirds, Fox Sparrows and Yellow-breasted Chats. Up in the meadows along the forest edge you can find Black-throated Gray Warblers, Spotted Towhee, and Vesper Sparrows.

One of my favorite hikes is along a tributary to Hobble Creek called Wardsworth Creek (Granger Mountain quad map). Access is by a paved road which goes up the right hand fork of Hobble Creek Canyon about ten miles east of Kelly's Grove and then just a short distance past Balsam Campground. The trail starts at a green gate just as the road veers south across the stream and becomes a gravel road. The trail is mostly a gentle rise without a lot of steep parts; vegetation is mainly riparian with stately cottonwoods and lots of willow and river birch. I have found Dippers, Dusky Flycatcher, and lots of Yellow Warblers along this stream.

The last trail I will mention is Dry Creek Canyon east of the town of Alpine. The stream is anything but dry, at least during the years I have been conducting this survey. Last week I found a Winter Wren, which shouldn't have been a surprise since I found one over the mountain to the east in Mineral Basin four years ago and then two years ago one along the stream north of Tibble Fork Reservoir. These locations are not that far apart (at least for a bird), so perhaps there are Winter Wrens breeding in Utah in the summer, at least in Utah County. Down south Jerome Gifford (before he died) suspected they were nesting in the Weeping Rock area of Zion National Park a number of years ago. Anyhow, the directions to this trailhead are as follows: take State Highway 92 west from the mouth of American Fork Canyon. At 5300 west in the town of Highland turn north and follow the main road into the town of Alpine. Continue north at the round-about to 200 North, and then turn East. At 200 East turn north. This road eventually becomes Grove Drive. Follow it all the way to the parking area at the mouth of the canyon where the trail begins. The trail is very rocky, steep and beat to pieces by horse traffic. However, if you want to test your ability to identify birds by sound above the roar of the stream, or to test your physical condition, go for it. Take along plenty of water. About two miles east of the trailhead there are a couple of beautiful waterfalls. The vegetation is box elder, oak-maple and up the trial becomes white and Douglas fir. MacGillivray's Warblers are common.

I have found that the most common bird on all these transects, especially where there are deciduous trees, is the Warbling Vireo, and of course the American Robin which is ubiquitous.

I do all these transects solo; sometimes I wish I had someone along just to share these beautiful areas with because even though they are quite remote, and not quite so well known they are none-the-less birdy and beautiful. Hope you can take advantage of one or two of these locations.

photo by Brian Currie

Bird of the Month

Common Poorwill
Phalaenoptilis Nuttallii
by Eric Huish

The Genus name Phalaenoptitis is a compound of Greek phalaina, moth and ptilon, feather and refers to the "powdery, velvety plumage". The species name nuttallii honors ornithologist Thomas Nuttall.

Poorwill is an echoic name that mimics the whistled call, a monotonous 'poor-will' given from dusk to dawn. At close range a third syllable of the call may be heard, resulting in a poor-will-low.

At 7 3/4 inches long with about a 17 inch wingspan and weighing about 1.8 ounces, the Common Poorwill is the Smallest North American nightjar. The plumage is speckled gray and brown with no distinct pattern. The outer tail-feathers are tipped with white (more prominent in the males).

It is Nocturnal and feeds on night-flying insects. Poorwills are most active at twilight. If there are plenty of insect around they will fill up quickly and spend most of the night at their roost, then hunt again at dawn. A poorwill may forage from the ground by jumping up or flying after passing insects or may also hunt on the wing.

The poorwill breeds form May to September and winters mainly in central and Western Mexico. Both parents incubate the eggs. Usually two eggs in a slight scrape on the ground, on bare soil, rock, or gravel. Often shaded by a shrub or an overhanging rock. Both parents feed the young by regurgitating insects. If the nest site is disturbed the adults can move either the eggs or the young to a new site. They may raise two broods per year.

The poorwill inhabits various kinds of open dry terrain in the west, including rocky mesas with scattered shrubs, desert washes and scrubby open areas of foothills, usually around rocky outcrops. In Utah County you can find them almost anywhere there is a lot of open, wild, rugged habitat. My favorite spot to listen for Poorwills is just a few block from my house, Battle Creek Canyon in Pleasant Grove, where you can hear their calls echoing off the hillsides at dusk in the spring and summer. I have also seen them up Hobble Creek Canyon and Spanish Fork Canyon. I've heard them at dawn in Payson canyon at a fairly high elevation and they can be down right abundant in the Tintic Mountains where I had to dodge several poorwills while I was driving into Broad Canyon early one morning.

Spend some time in the right habitat at Dusk or Dawn (when most of us are in bed or sitting on the couch) and you may here the distant calling of a poorwill.

Utah County Birders in Goshen Valley - 13June 2007
photo by Eric Huish

Sunset on Mona Reservoir  - 13 June 2007
photo by Eric Huish


Field Trip Report
Goshen and Mona Reservoir
- 13 June 2007

submitted by Merrill Webb, fieldtrip leader

A fieldtrip to the southern part of Utah County substituted for the regular June meeting. Most of our time was spent in the Goshen area. Twenty-seven participants helped compile a group list of approximately 50 species. We left Payson about 6:15
P.M. and ended at dark at Mona Reservoir in Juab County where we were treated to a gorgeous sunset with Common Nighthawks flying low against the orange colored sky.

Bird trip list included: Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, Ring-necked Pheasant, Pied-billed and Clark's Grebes, American White Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Snowy and Cattle Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White-faced Ibis, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Golden Eagle (two eaglets in a nest north of Goshen, plus an adult at Goshen Canyon) American Kestrel, Sandhill Crane, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Willet, Spotted Sandpiper, Long-billed Curlew, Wilson's Snipe, California Gull, Eurasian Collared-Dove (4-5 in the town of Goshen), Mourning Dove, Short-eared Owl (three north of Goshen and one west of Mona Reservoir), Common Nighthawk, Western Kingbird, Black-billed Magpie, Horned Lark, No. Rough-winged, Cliff, and Barn Swallows, American Robin, Sage Thrasher, European Starling, Yellow Warbler, (Yellow-breasted Chat was heard, but not seen in Goshen Canyon), Lark, Savannah Sparrow, and Song Sparrows, Bobolink, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, Yellow-headed, and Brewer's Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbird, Bullock's Oriole and House Sparrow.

Favorite mammal was a striped skunk seen hurrying along a fence line below the juvenile eagles.

Fieldtrip participants included: Ned Bixler, Yvonne Carter, Bert and Sylvia Cundick, Larry and Mary Jean Draper with daughter Jeanie, Harold Clayson, Lynn Garner, Alona Huffaker, Eric Huish, Karen Manning, Gayla Muir, Milton Moody, LeIla Ogden, Bob Parsons, Judy Robertson and her two sons, James and Jay, Julia and Robin Tuck, brothers Kay and Reed Stone, Bonnie Williams and Tom Williams.

Instead of a regular meeting in July we will again meet at the Payson park and ride just off I-15 at 6:00 P.M. and drive up Payson Canyon. Eric Huish has volunteered to be our leader for this trip.


The following is on BYU's website describing the Lytle Preserve. It was mainly written by Dr. Stanley Welsh, a BYU plant taxonomist. I was asked to update the information on the birds that could be found on the preserve. I think the information contained here is valuable for our members because many of us have looked for birds at the Lytle Preserve site, and also because we are able to meet in the museum auditorium free of charge. So I have received permission from Dr. Larry St. Clair, Bean Museum Director, to include it in our newsletter. Merrill Webb

Lytle Preserve

Thirty-six miles west of St. George, Utah, across the Beaver Dam Mountains, is a natural oasis known as the Lytle Preserve. This remarkable area of beauty and biological diversity--one of Utah's most delicate and unique ecosystems--is preserved for study and enjoyment. The Lytle Preserve is in the southwest corner of Utah where the Basin and Range Province of the Mojave Desert is juxtaposed to the Colorado River Plateau. The Preserve is at an unusual place in North America where unique geological formations and ecosystems overlap.

The Preserve, consisting of more than 600 acres, is situated along the Beaver Dam Wash drainage at an approximate elevation of 2800 feet, one of the lowest points in Utah. Beaver Dam Wash drains south into Arizona, where it joins the Virgin River, a Colorado River tributary, at Beaver Dam, Arizona.

Plant and animal diversity offers an ironic contrast in what seems, at first, to be an inhospitable environment. The low elevation course of the entrenched Beaver Dam Creek has provided a pathway for plants, animals, and humans into the Beaver Dam Wash vicinity. A year-round water source on the Lytle Preserve is an unusual feature in the margin of the Mohave Desert, which extends into Utah in this area. The unusual combination of geology, climate, elevation and water supply supports many trees, shrubs, and wildlife, most of which are unique to this part of Utah.

Liberally clothing the uplands around the Preserve is a warm-desert shrub mixture, mainly Joshua tree, datil yucca, creosote bush, black bush, and cholla cactus. Lowlands along the creek support velvet ash, Fremont cottonwood, black willow, and desert willow. Catclaw acacia grows on the stream terraces and up the drainages into the dry lands. Fruit of the California mistletoe, a parasite of the catclaw, is eaten by several birds, especially the Phainopepla, which transfers the sticky seeds from one plant to another.

Desert birds usually associated with arid regions south of Utah which nest on the Preserve are the Common Black Hawk, White-winged Dove, Costa's Hummingbird, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Bell's Vireo, Verdin, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Phainopepla, Lucy's Warbler, Summer Tanager, and Hooded Oriole. Roadrunners nest and thrive on the property by eating
reptiles of all kinds including poisonous ones.

Desert tortoises on the property are native and survive the summer heat and winter cold in protective dens. Coyotes stalk cottontail, California jackrabbit; and even mule deer. The Virgin River spinedace, a small, rare desert minnow, is a year-round resident in the stream, and is under review for federal protection. The Gila monster, a beautiful poisonous lizard with bead-like scales, is a rarely seen resident of the Preserve.

Educators, students, teachers, researchers, scouts, school children, and the public are welcome. The Preserve is considered a "must see" site by bird watchers wanting to add species to their Utah lists, and is visited by birders from all around Utah and surrounding states.

The Preserve is served by a full-time operator who is usually available to greet visitors. A campground is maintained and available for use and camping at a nominal fee. Use of these facilities can be arranged by scheduling your visit through the Lytle Preserve Coordinator in Provo, Utah: 290 MLBM Brigham Young University Provo, UT 84602, or by calling (801) 422-5052. We welcome all inquiries regarding the current use and research being conducted at the Preserve.

Old U.S. Highway 91 connects St. George with Santa Clara and continues to Littlefield, Arizona. West of the summit the old highway turns south and passes a rock outcropping called "castle cliff" which is topped by a wooden flagpole. A scenic gravel road intersects the paved road immediately beyond "castle cliff"; the Lytle reserve is eleven miles west along this gravel road. Yellow and black road signs along the way guide the visitor to the Preserve.

The region now included within the Lytle Preserve was settled by pioneer Dudley Leavitt sometime during the 1870's. Dudley's daughter, Hannah Louisa, married Thomas Sirls Terry as his third polygamous wife and moved to the Beaver Dam site of her father's property in 1889. Hannah and her six children were hidden in this remote site from federal authorities, who were prosecuting those engaged in cohabitation. In addition to raising hay and cattle, Hannah and her children planted fruit trees and other crops. Today near Hannah Terry's meager homestead is a grove of persimmon trees that offer shade to the person who hikes upstream from the present visitor area. Hannah reared her family at the cabin site, and left the wash in 1912. Her sons Ed and Jed Terry continued to farm downstream from the original home site. In 1928 a portion of the Terry property was purchased by John Eardley, whose wife and six children cleared the fields and built a ranch house, reservoir, fences, and ditches. They raised alfalfa, sorghum, melons, and fruit of various kinds.

Talmage and Eleanor (Marie) Lytle purchased the ranch from the Eardleys in 1952. In 1985 the Nature Conservancy obtained the property to preserve its natural and unique features and wildlife. Brigham Young University is the present owner having acquired the property in August of 1986.

When the Lytle Preserve was purchased from the Nature Conservancy, Brigham Young University promised the land would be held in perpetuity as a nature preserve for education and for research. In order to fulfill this promise, we need your help. Our goal is to raise one million dollars in a perpetual endowment fund for continued Preserve operation. We invite you to become a part of Lytle Preserve's bright future with your donations, however large or small. Please make checks payable to: Lytle Preserve Endowment Fund, Monte L Bean Life Science Museum, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602.

Backyard Bird of the Month
June 2007

Steve Carr - Holladay
Black-headed Grosbeak - 37 consecutive years of this summer breeder in my yard.

Harold Clayson- Salem
Eurasian Collared Dove

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
As I was thinking to myself "what kind of bird sounds like a cockatiel", the bird flew into view.  A Cockatiel sounds like a cockatiel.

Milt Moody - Provo
Western Screech-Owl - hooting in the morning and at night.

LeIla Ogden - Orem
At my cabin above Midway, I have a cute bird house that I thought was only decorative. To my delight, two House Wrens have taken up residence inside. Built their nest and are on their second batch of young. Very entertaining to watch and they have a beautiful song which they sing loudly.

Bruce Robinson - West Jordan
Western Scrub Jay - Not in the house this year (yet!!)

Alton Thygerson - Provo
Black-headed Grosbeaks - male and female.

Bonnie Williams - Mapleton
California Quail - I like to listen to them calling.

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.