Utah County Birders Newsletter
Upcoming Field Trips
Bird of the Month
Field Trip Report - Deer Creek, East Canyon and Antelope Island Causeway
Backyard Bird of the
Wed, Dec 12th.
Christmas Bird Count Preparation -
Merrill has prepared a lecture on the history of our Provo CBC (past
experiences, data collected, exciting birds seen, etc.). The Provo CBC has been
run continuously for 35 years and there is a wealth of fascinating information
that will get us excited for the big day (Dec 22nd).
Bring your field guides with you, we may discuss some 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.
Please contact Merrill as soon as you can if you plan on participating in
this year's CBC (801-224-6113 or
[email protected]) . Come to the meeting prepared for an
assignment if you can't contact Merrill earlier. It would be nice to have all
assignments made by the end of the meeting.
Meet at 7:00 PM in the Bean Museum Auditorium on the BYU Campus.
December 22 (Sat): Provo CBC - Please
contact Merrill Webb as soon as you can if you plan on participating in this
year's CBC (801-224-6113 or
[email protected]) .
December 29 (Sat): Bluff CBC -
contant Lu Giddings at
[email protected] for more information
January 25 - 27, 2008: St. George Winter Bird
Festival - - make your own arrangements and accommodations - see
February 9, 2008: Bald Eagles at Farmington Bay:
By Merrill Webb
Christmas Bird Counts
I realized the other day while thinking about this year's Christmas Bird Count (CBC)
that many of them I have participated in are like some of the girls I dated
before I married: some were memorable and others weren't quite so memorable. The
memorable ones (bird counts, that is) were because of the people I was with, or
because of the birds I saw, or, sometimes a combination of both.
As a lister, one of the things I became aware of early on in my quest for
numbers, is that the more CBC's I participated in the better chance I had of
adding new birds to my state and/or year lists. The reason being, of course, is
that the more birders in an area the better chance there is of finding a rarity.
Hence my reason for participating in many different counts in Utah over the last
thirty-five years. There are other reasons, naturally, for helping with these
counts such as contributing to a scientific data base, competition between local
counts, camaraderie, being out in nature on a cold, usually blustery, wintery
day, etc. But in retrospect, the real reason I have endured these winter counts
over these many years is the hope that either I or someone else in the count
circle will find a really good bird. As a compiler, I used to give chase for two
reasons: one, to document, and one, to find--to add to my list. But now, with
most birders documenting their birds with photos the need to chase in order to
document has become secondary. For example, one year during the Provo CBC Mark
Bromley and his group found a Vermilion Flycatcher in south Provo near
Footprinter's Park. I questioned him even though he was a competent birder,
mainly because the bird was out of range and out of season. Well, he not only
had written it up, but he also produced a photograph of the bird. And sure
enough, that's what it was--a Vermilion Flycatcher. The next day many of us went
out to find it, but during the night a blizzard had blown in and the bird was
nowhere to be found.
During the 1978 Zion National Park's CBC I was assigned the town of Rockville.
While working the Grafton area, a ghost town downstream from Rockville, I heard
a magpie. At the compilation that evening I reported that I had heard a magpie
and even though I hadn't seen it I asked innocently if it could be counted.
Jerome Gifford, who was a long-time resident of the area and had helped with the
Zion bird count since its inception just about came out of his chair. "Are
you sure?" he questioned. I had only lived in Utah County for a short time at
that point, but long enough that I knew what a magpie sounded like. So I
answered, "Yes, I'm certain that's what it was." I described the general
location of where I had heard it. Two days later, I found out that Jerome had
gone to the area the next day and observed not one, but three magpies. To this
day that is the first and only sighting of a Black-billed Magpie in Washington
December 28, 1984 while helping with the St. George CBC, Ray Johnson and I were
working a dry alfalfa patch out in the Washington Fields. A small flock of birds
took flight--and neither Ray nor I knew what they were. They weren't pipits, and
they weren't Horned Larks. As some of you know who have been in a situation like
that, that's when it gets exciting. We chased that small flock all over the
field trying to identify them. They would land--and then disappear among the
alfalfa plants. Finally, we were able to verify the field marks in flight--a
tail pattern with a black, inverted T. The next day this is what I wrote in my
Birder's Life List and Diary, "Actually saw it on the 28th and misidentified it
as a Lapland Longspur. Went out the next day after looking at field guides and
verified it as McCown's Longspur. Tried to collect one, but couldn't bring
myself to shoot it." There are two things that stand out from this experience.
First, that was the first time that particular species had ever been seen on a
St. George CBC, (it was a "lifer" for me as well), and I didn't know if anyone
would believe me when I wrote it up--hence the perceived need to collect it.
Secondly, the importance of writing down the information--to keep a record--of
an unusual sighting. That was twenty-three years ago, and as I read it while
writing this article it still seemed as exciting as when it happened.
In December of 1978 while helping with the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge CBC,
I observed another good bird. Quoting again from my journal. "Observed a single
bird out on the south side of refuge dike. Able to get within 10-15 feet
of bird for a good long look before it flew away. Was with Dennis Shirley, Bob
Parsons, and David Ng." (David was, or had been, one of my students at Provo
High). The bird was a Lapland Longspur, a "lifer". I had seen this species six
years before seeing the McCown's, and I still had problems with identification.
Hence the reason for my trying to assign more than one observer to an area to
help with the identification of any unusual bird. Another memorable set of
experiences--this from two different CBC's in two different states in two
different years, but involving the same species of bird. From my journal:
"Observed the first one during the CBC in Pipe Spring, Arizona on December 29,
1975". (I actually was with Jerome Gifford and J.L. Crawford. They had invited
me to participate with them on that count because they were having a hard time
finding observers. After participating in a couple of Zion CBC's up to this
point, I suppose they figured that I was good enough to help them on this
count). Anyhow, the bird was a White-throated Sparrow. When I called Jerome over
to verify my sighting he looked at it and then looked at me in a way I knew that
I had "arrived" as a birder. "Yep, that's what it is alright." Jerome wasn't
ever very talkative, but was one of the best birders I have ever seen, so I
considered that a real compliment. "Utah sighting was December 22, 1980 during
the Bear River Bird Refuge CBC. Both time (birds were) in heavy underbrush near
water." So, I saw my "life" White-throated Sparrow in Arizone, five years before
I saw the same species in Utah for the first time--and both were while on a CBC.
One of the main reasons I went south every year to help with the Zion CBC was
because they kept reporting Wood Ducks on their count, I had never seen one, and
that was a bird I seriously wanted to add to my life list. So, I volunteered to
walk the Virgin River in Rockville during two to three different years in the
anticipation of finding the duck. Not finding it, I then asked to be assigned
the river within the park boundaries. That was a mistake, too. Year after
year I would go to the compilation that evening having missed the duck, and
every year Jerome would report seeing a couple or more in his area.
Finally, I asked him where he was finding the ducks. "Oh, at the
Springdale Ponds," he answered, like I should automatically know where those
were. But I didn't. And I couldn't get myself assigned to Springdale because
that was Jerome's area. He had covered it forever.
Again, quoting from my journal, "Finally found 2 Wood Ducks on the Grafton
sewage ponds March 6, 1983 with help from Jerome Gifford." So, it wasn't on the
Zion CBC, but it was with, and because of, a birder I had met during my
participation on a winter bird count. One last reminiscence. I have mentioned
that I was the compiler of the St. George CBC. I restarted it after a five year
hiatus and continued for quite a few years as the compiler. One of the local
observers who I depended on in those early years was a man by the name of J.L.
Crawford, whom I have already mentioned. He had known both my parents when
they were all students at Dixie Jr. College in St. George. He was a retired
national park employee living in St. George and was pretty good at identifying
birds. He would always ask to be assigned to an area of the count circle that
included the Red Hills Golf Course, which, as most of you know, has "produced"
some pretty good birds over the years. It wasn't until I had relinquished the
compilership to a resident birder that I found out the reason J.L. always
requested this area. He always combined his bird search with a round of golf.
Kind of like "killing two birds with one stone", or one golf ball.
photo by Kent Keller
Bird of the
by Grant Jense
While taking my almost daily walk through my neighborhood, I was taking note of
the birds that were present and considering several that I had been thinking of
for the bird of the month. I saw 3-4 different flickers noisily feeding in trees
that are now leafless, making bird observations much easier. I thought, why not?
The flicker is my kind of bird: easily identified, noisy, making it easy to
locate and does not skulk in the thick cover.
The flicker is a fairly large woodpecker averaging 12.5 inches long with a 20
inch wingspan. It has a fairly long tail and a long, slightly down-curved bill
and broad wings. Its striking plumage is distinctive.
Two distinct groups occur: 'Yellow-shafted Flicker' in the east and far north,
and 'Red-shafted Flicker' in the west. Both forms have brown backs with black
barring, white rumps, and spotted underparts with black breast crescents. The
Yellow-shafted form shows yellow in wings and undertail in flight; crown is gray
with red nape patch; male has black mustache. The Red-shafted form has salmon in
wings and undertail; crown is brown with no nape patch; male has red mustache.
The Gilded Flicker, Colaptes chrysoides, which has received separate species
status, will hybridize with Northern Flickers and looks much like the
red-shafted form of Northern Flicker but with yellow in its wings.
The yellow-shafted and red-shafted forms were once separated by open plains, but
now overlap in their distribution and interbreed due to extensive tree planting.
Birds combining features of both forms occur well beyond the zone of contact.
The call of the Northern Flicker is quite distinctive with a wick-er heard on
the breeding ground and a loud klee-yer is given year-round. Twice I have been
awakened at daylight in the spring by flickers drumming out their mating call on
cabin stove pipes. That is what you call a rude awakening!
Northern Flickers cover much of North America and are nearly ubiquitous below
tree line where nest sites and open ground for feeding occur together. They
winter within North America. Flickers are largely insect eaters and eat more
ants than any other North American bird, therefore, they are observed feeding on
the ground quite often. They occasionally eat seeds, acorns nuts and grain.
Flickers lay 5-8 eggs and prefer to nest in snags and will use a variety of
cavities in poles, posts, houses, banks, haystacks and boxes. Large clutch sizes
usually represent output from two females. Both sexes brood, but mostly the
Next time you are out enjoying a day of bird watching and spot a Northern
Flicker, don't think or say "oh its just a flicker", watch the bird for a few
minutes and take note of its striking plumage and behaviors.
Field Trip Report
Deer Creek, East Canyon and Antelope Island Causeway - 17th
Trip Report by Eric Huish
Looking for Loons at Jordanelle - 17
photo by Lu Giddings
Long-tailed Ducks, Antelope
Island Causeway - 17 Nov 2007
photo by Lu Giddings
On Saturday November 17th Lu Giddings led a very successful field trip in
search of loons and winter waterfowl. 13 birders met in Provo at 7:30 a.m. Our
first stop was Deer Creek Reservoir where we were able to spot at least a dozen
Common Loons plus some waterfowl, a Western Grebe, a Downy Woodpecker and a
flock of Pipits. We saw a flock of Wild Turkey along the side of the road near
We made a quick stop at a pull-off along the highway overlooking Joranelle
Reservoir but it didn't have much on it. We saw one distant loon and some
distant small groups of waterfowl as well as a Red-tailed Hawk on a nearby
We then headed to East Canyon and made a few stops overlooking the Reservoir.
There were some Western Grebes near the dam, some Black-capped Chickadees
working the brush along the East side of the Reservoir, a couple of Bald Eagles
along the West side of the reservoir and a Great Egret flew over. The best
viewing was at the South end of the reservoir where the stream comes in. Here we
saw lots of waterfowl including a beautiful pair of Barrow's Goldeneye, good
looks at several Hooded Mergansers, lots of Common Goldeneye and Common
Mergansers and an interesting loon we studied for a while before deciding it was
just another Common Loon.
We then headed out of the mountains to check out the Antelope Island Causeway.
There had been lots of great birds reported there and we weren't disappointed.
We went straight to the last bridge before the island and Lu immediately found a
Black Scooter. Well it was just a whirlwind of great birds from then on. More
and more birders were coming along and joining us at the last bridge. Everyone
had to run to the south side of the causeway to look at the many Long-tailed
Ducks then run back to the North side when the White-winged Scoters showed up.
We ran to the South side again when someone spotted the Snow Bunting. We piled
up on the North side again because a couple Surf Scoters came in, then back to
the south to see the Greater Scaup and a closer view (very close) of the Snow
Bunting. Of course all this time there were a thousand Eared Grebes at very
close range and beautiful Bonaparte's Gulls flying by. The best part for me was
seeing all the scoters in their often confusing immature plumages. I have seen
many scoters on both coasts but these were extra close and made for great
comparisons. Juvenile Surf and White-winged Scoters can be hard to differentiate
at times and here we were able to see every detail up close, side by side. It
was a great Grand Finale to a beautiful day.
Backyard Bird of the
Steve Carr - Holladay
Brown Creeper - Only the 4th year in 37 years, but 3 out of the last 4 years;
Lynn Garner - Provo
A Western Scrub-Jay sampling all the feeders, one after another.
Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
A large flock of Morning Doves sometimes more than 30 at once.
Milt Moody - Provo
A pair of Cassin's Finches.
Carol Nelson - Provo
Expecting the arrival of the Bald Eagle for its yearly visit, I have scoped
every big bird which paused in its favorite tree. I was awarded this morning
with an early gift. In almost predawn light, I thought I was looking at a
Northern Goshawk. I called Milt who came within 10 minutes and confirmed my ID.
My best sighting ever of a Goshawk. Surely Santa was responsible.
LeIla Ogden - Orem
A Coopers Hawk eats dinner often in my pine tree. (Located just right of
feeders) I also have had Spotted Towhee and Mountain Chickadee. Many birds at
Cheryl Peterson - Provo
2 Red-breasted Nuthatches.
Bruce Robinson - West Jordan
Red-Tail Hawk - Roosting in the tree every night.
Tuula Rose - Provo
American and lesser goldfinches galore. A black backed male Lesser Goldfinch
comes along with the regular green backed ones. He is bright yellow on the belly
with jet black head, back and wings.
Dennis Shirley - Elk Ridge
Blue Tit - Near Bitburg, Germany [Darren's back yard feeder].
Reed Stone - Provo
"My" White-breasted Nuthatch excites me on an irregular schedule also
Alton Thygerson - Provo
Last month I had one Stellerís Jay; this month Iíve had four at the same time.
Bonnie Williams - Mapleton
American Kestrel - Only bird seen on my Thanksgiving Bird Count and it was
outside the circle.
We would like you to share your favorite backyard bird each month. Please send
your favorite bird at the end of the month to [email protected] or call
Membership Dues: As you contemplate the new year ahead, put on
your list of considerations the 2008 Utah County Birder's dues. A bargain at
$15.00 a year, they will provide you with a hand copy of the newsletter, and
help support the website. Dues may be sent to:
2831 Marrcrest West
Provo, Utah 84604