Utah County Birders Newsletter
August 2007

    August Meeting
    Upcoming Field Trips
    Merrill's Musings
    Bird of the Month
    Field Trip Report - Payson Canyon - 7th July 2007
    Field Trip Report - Escalante - 13th & 14th July 2007
    Backyard Bird of the Month
    July Hotline Highlights


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. 

Please bring a potluck dish to share. Meat (Chicken) and Drinks will be provided. Bring your own plates, utensils and cups.  See you there.


There will be NO September UCB Meeting due to the UOS Conference which the UCB will be participating in.



Sat, August 25th.
Uintah Mountains - Mirror Lake area
.  Day trip, leave Borders at Riverwood Mall, Provo 6:30 a.m.

September field trips: as per UOS conference schedule, Friday 9/7 and Sunday 9/9. Check the State Calendar for details.

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.


Merrill's Musings
By Merrill Webb

Summer Update

As president of the Utah County Birders I have been asked to participate in some activities/meetings that I think you all should be informed of.

Because the Utah County Birders have been identified as an "Environmental Interest Group" in the valley I was invited to represent our birding organization in what was called a "Stakeholder's Forum." The purpose was to learn about and to give input on a proposed study area which extends for approximately three miles between the Provo City Municipal Airport and the I-15 interchange at University Avenue. Provo City has recognized the need to address current and projected traffic demands, and as such they are investigating three possible routes to meet those needs between those two locations. At this meeting there were representatives from UDOT, Provo City, Bio-West (a consulting company that has been contracted to handle the Environmental Impact Statement), study area residents, Utah Valley Homebuilders Association, Provo Municipal Council and other groups that might be impacted by such construction. Marcia MacLean, a member of our group, was also in attendance as a representative of the Sierra Club and also as an interested realtor.

The day after the meeting I was contacted by a biologist from Bio-West and asked to submit a complete bird list of that proposed study area. I have a very good list of the birds of the Provo Airport Dike that has been generated by Robert Brown over the last ten years. However, that is to the west of the proposed project. I have a pretty good idea of wintering birds from data that has been generated over a thirty year period by Mark Bromley's party who has always covered the airport dike and north Provo Bay areas during the Christmas Bird Count. I also have a list of numbers of waterfowl during the fall migration from the DWR. What I need from you, our members, is a list of breeding birds that you have observed using the wetlands/agricultural habitats in that three mile area anytime during the months of March-July. I especially need information regarding the following birds: Bald Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Yellow-billed Cuckoo (identified by the Utah DWR as Tier I birds); American White Pelican, Bobolink, Burrowing Owl, Lewis' Woodpecker, Long-billed Curlew, Short-eared Owl (Tier II birds); American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Caspian Tern, Osprey, Peregrine Falcon, Sage Sparrow, Sage Thrasher, Snowy Plover, and Virginia's Warbler (Tier III birds). You can bring information with you regarding these birds plus any others you have observed out there to our summer social on the 8th.

My role on this committee, which will meet six times over the course of the next three years, is to enter into discussion with the purpose of finding the best balance of project needs and issues in order to benefit the EIS study.

If you are wondering where the three proposed roads are I can only tell you that I have been informed that one of the possibilities is the widening of Provo's West Center Street from I-15 to the airport road. Our Stakeholders Committee will probably learn of the other two proposed routes at our next meeting. I will keep you informed, but you also need to let me know of your concerns regarding the other two routes which will obviously be somewhere between the north shore of Provo Bay and the residential areas to the south of west center street.

The next item you should know about is that I have committed our birder's group to helping with a project called the Strawberry River Restoration Project out in Strawberry Valley. It is a project proposed by biologists from the Utah DWR and the US Forest Service to improve habitat that was destroyed during the 1970's and early 1980's by overgrazing cattle. There is an eight mile stretch of river north of the Strawberry Visitor's Center that needs to be rerouted in places and then have willows planted to help stabilize the banks. This should reduce stream erosion thus improving fish habitat. Consequently habitat for birds should be improved as well. There is a need to census current bird species and numbers which members of our group will help in gathering next spring. Then there will need to be annual monitoring of that study area for the next five years during the spring to determine if the willows are actually improving the habitat for birds.

The Bean Museum has started a nature program for people interested in studying geology, insects, plants and birds in Utah Valley. I have volunteered our group to help with fieldtrips to study the birds. I have already lead the first one in June. Anyone who wants to volunteer to lead (or co-lead) the next one in September should let me know.

There is an area in Diamond Fork Canyon called the Youth Forest. It has been developed at the Diamond Campground by some elementary and junior high school students from the Nebo School District working in conjunction with a U.S. Forest Service employee who has directed the operation and has generated some funds through conservation and environmental grants. Part of learning about the environment in that area involves knowing what birds are in the canyon. That is where our group fits in. Carol Jean Nelson has already helped with at least three of the different schools, and I have helped with one. There are opportunities this fall for many of you to help students learn what birds are using this canyon area. If you are interested in helping I can give you the name of the person with the forest service to call.

One other item needs mentioning. The Utah Ornithological Society will be holding their meetings here in Provo at the Bean Museum in September probably before the next newsletter goes out. Members of our group have been asked to lead fieldtrips on Friday, September 7 and Sunday, September 9 to selected birding areas in the county including the south Utah Lake area, the Provo airport dike, Diamond Fork, Tintic Mountains and the Alpine Loop. Before the presentations on Saturday, there will also be a short bird walk on the BYU campus starting at the Botany Pond. Then there will be presentations on a wide range of birding topics Saturday from 9:00 AM until 3:00 PM at the Bean Museum Auditorium. Check the internet for a schedule of events. Please plan on participating on fieldtrips and attending the presentations since this event will take the place of our September meeting. And because we need your support.

As you can see there are opportunities all around for us to become involved. If we are going to build our membership and attract younger birders to our organization there will be no better time than the next couple of months.

photo by Ryan Houston

Bird of the Month

Cattle Egret
Bubulcus ibis
by Tom Williams

In his book Wild America, Roger Tory Peterson notes that although the Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) had become common in the U.S. by 1954, only a few years earlier he had gone hundreds of miles out of his way to see one on a trip to Africa.  The first U.S. record is dated 1941 but by 1953 these small herons, native to Africa and Asia, had begun breeding here.  There are now breeding records in almost every state although the birds are most common in the gulf coast states and the southeastern coast states. In Utah, it is a common summer bird.


The Cattle Egret is in one of some 20 genera in the family Ardeidae, which includes bitterns, egrets, and herons.  It is the only species in the genus Bubulcus.


Its name is derived from its practice of following cattle (and sometimes horses or tractors) to forage on insects disturbed by their passage.  Indeed these birds may sometimes be seen perched on the back of grazing cattle.  According to Birds of North America Online in many places


the “common name is Cow Crane, Cow Heron, or Cow Bird or [the bird] is named for the wild grazing animal with which it usually associates – e.g., Elephant Bird, Rhinoceros Egret, or Hippopotamus Egret. . . . Other names involving the word tick, such as Tick Bird refer to the erroneous belief that Cattle Egrets pick attached ticks from grazing animals; most Cattle Egrets’ prey, however, are insects disturbed by the cattle’s grazing.


At 18 to 22 inches tall and with a wingspan of 35 to 38 inches, the Cattle Egret is one of the smaller U.S. herons.   The sexes are similar, with all-white plumage most of the year but with buffy coloring on the head, breast and back when the birds achieve full alternate plumage.


These birds are not difficult to identify but they can be confused with the somewhat larger Snowy Egret. The buffy coloration is a good distinguishing mark but cannot always be relied on since it is present only during the relatively brief period of full alternate plumage.  Other clues include habitat and the size, shape, and color of unfeathered portions of the bird.


While the Snowy Egret is mostly commonly found in or near water, the Cattle Egret is more likely to be seen in open habitat such as fields or pastures.  The Cattle Egret has a sturdy yellow bill which helps distinguish it from the Snowy Egret with its darker, more slender bill.  Also, the legs and feet of the Cattle Egret are uniformly dark, while the Snowy Egret has dark legs with bright yellow feet.


Cattle Egrets are known to nest in large colonies with other Ardeidae, sometimes using abandoned nests.  Thus if you find a large colony of waders, it might be worth your while to scan the entire colony rather than assuming that it is made up of a single species.


Utah County Birders in Payson Canyon - 11 July 2007
photo by Leena Rogers

UCB at the Purple Marten Aspens  - 11 July 2007
photo by Leena Rogers


Field Trip Report
Payson Canyon
- 11th July 2007
by Tuula Rose

Our monthly meeting took the form of an evening field trip, this time to Payson Canyon. Eric Huish was our leader .We had a good sized group showing up at the Payson Park & Drive when the skies to the south turned murky and a strong wind and dust storm was threatening to cancel the plans. However, the canyon turned out to be out of the reach of the storm and very pleasant.

The birds were scarce at first until we got up higher to a small wetland place where several Lincoln sparrows were giving us good looks. Yellow warblers were singing. Mountain and black-capped chickadees and chipping sparrows were also seen. Our target birds were the three-toed woodpecker and the purple martin. Merrill pointed out the tree trunks where the three-toed had been chipping the bark off in search of grubs. No luck on catching the birds in action though. We had better luck with the martins and saw three or four flying around with many tree swallows. One even stopped on top of a dead tree to pose for great looks through the scopes.

The long drive down the canyon in the dark was a bit nerve wrecking because of multitudes of deer browsing on the sides of the road, crossing in front of cars. 

Participants: Eric Huish, Milton Moody, Matt Mills, Leena Rogers, Tuula Rose, Carol-Jean Nelson, Bonnie Williams, Yvonne Carter, Robin Tuck, Merrill Webb, Larry Draper, Bill Slater, Sylvia and Bert Cundick, Leila Ogden and her neighbor Bobby. Ned Bixler unfortunately had to stay behind after he discovered a flat tire in the parking lot in Payson.


Field Trip Report
- 13th & 14th July 2007
by Lu Giddings, fieldtrip leader

A small but enthusiastic group of Utah County Birders traveled to Escalante late yesterday afternoon. Stops were made at Koosharem Reservoir, at several points along Highway 12 from Torrey to Boulder to Escalante, and in Boulder. Yesterday evening's weather was cool and wet as thunderstorms pounded the area both before we arrived and after sunset. This morning was clear, dry, and began warm and wound up hot by noon. We birded in Escalante from 7 a.m. until about 12:30 p.m. After lunch, we decided to make the trek directly home, rather than stop at Bryce Canyon.

Birds looked for but not seen include:
- vermillion flycatcher
- indigo bunting
- painted bunting
- greater roadrunner

Trip highlights include, in no particular order:
- seeing both an acorn woodpecker and a Lewis's woodpecker at the acorn woodpecker tree 5.5 miles north of Boulder on Highway 12
- wild turkeys seemingly everywhere in Escalante. Yesterday evening a flock of 13 hens and two toms approached with 10 yards of our vehicles as we sat quietly at the edge of field, watching them. Once we drove on, another flock of at least a dozen birds was seen disappearing into the brush along the creek in the field immediately to the east of the one we had just been watching. And a third large flock was seen in a field near the sawmill just a few minutes later.
- Wide Hollow Reservoir was alive with black-throated gray warblers this morning. There seemed to be hundreds of them, in the cottonwoods, in the willows, in the junipers and sage. At one point I had six of them in one binocular field of vision at a distance of less than 50'.
- Wide Hollow Reservoir was alive with many other birds as well. An osprey was seen diving at American coots. There were several hundreds of ducks, mostly in the shallows at the far ends of the reservoir. Most seem to have begun the molt into their dreaded, bland standard plumage but a few cinnamon teal were still sporting breeding plumage, as was a wood duck. One distant beach was occupied by 11 turkey vultures and 7 great blue herons, all within about 50' of each other. Chipping sparrows were nearly as numerous as black-throated gray warblers.
- young western scrub jays were seen begging from their parents this morning. And young pinion jays were observed in town, from a very near distance, also begging from their parents.

Also of note: we received a report of a painted bunting sighting. The young lady told us it could be seen in the shrubs and trees around her house in Boulder for several days during the Spring, several years ago. The young lady had not known what the bird was but her father told her he used to see them all the time when he grew up in Texas. She described the bird pretty well for a non-birder; I thumbed through a copy of the National Geographic Field guide with her, looking at various possibilities, and she was confident that the painted bunting was her bird. For what it's worth. . . .

84 trip species; 58 species seen in Escalante
Total Count: 84

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
American Wigeon
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Pintail
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Ruddy Duck
Blue Grouse
Wild Turkey
Pied-billed Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Golden Eagle
American Kestrel
American Coot
Spotted Sandpiper
Long-billed Curlew
Californian Gull
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Western Scrub-Jay
Pinyon Jay
Black-billed Magpie
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Bewick's Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Western Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird
Townsend's Solitaire
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow-breasted Chat
Western Tanager
Spotted Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Blue Grosbeak
Lazuli Bunting
White-throated Swift
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Lewis's Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker
Western Wood-Pewee
Say's Phoebe
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Western Kingbird
Plumbeous Vireo
Steller's Jay
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Bullock's Oriole
Cassin's Finch
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow


Backyard Bird of the Month
July 2007

Steve Carr - Holladay
Bullock's Oriole - Short stop at the watering pan.

Harold Clayson- Salem
Black-headed Grosbeaks - I got a bag of sunflower seeds for Fathers Day and it's kept them around.

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Western Screech-Owl - Saw a couple owlets while I waited for the fireworks to start on the 4th.

Milt Moody - Provo
Rufous Hummingbird - as aggressive as ever.

Cheryl Peterson - Provo
Rufous Hummingbirds

Bruce Robinson - West Jordan
Painted Bunting - (OK, so I cheated by a short little 125 miles!!!)

Alton Thygerson - Provo
Rufous Hummingbird - guarding the feeders.

Bonnie Williams - Mapleton
Bullock's Oriole - I've been hearing it but I finally saw it this month.

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.