Utah County Birders Newsletter
April 2008

    April Meeting
Upcoming Field Trips
Merrill's Musings
    Bird of the Month
    Field Trip Report
- Skipper Bay Trail - 22 March 2008
    Thoughts of a "Greenie" Birdwatcher
Backyard Bird of the Month
March Hotline Highlights


Wed, April 9th.

Birds of Belize - Merrill Webb.

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


April 12 (Sat): East Canyon lek - Led by Lu Giddings - rescheduled March field trip; East Bay Sam's Club, 4:45 a.m.

April 26 (Sat): Ouray NWR and Uintah Basin - Led by Lu Giddings - We'll meet at Ouray NWR registration box near Refuge Headquarters at 8:00 a.m.   Click here for Directions to Ouray - note: this map begins in downtown Provo. Ouray birdlist

April 28 (Mon): Provo Airport Dike - Led by Lynn Garner - Meet at 8:00 a.m. at the East end of the Airport Dike road, where it leaves the airport road at the turn.

May 15-19: Great Salt Lake Bird Festival - make your own arrangements. See greatsaltlakebirdfest.com for latest information.

May 23: Utah county owl prowl - Led by Lu Giddings - for those of you Utah County birders who can't make the GSL Bird Festival trips. Meet in the Payson Walmart parking lot at 6:00 p.m.

June 7: Pineview Reservoir,  Snowbasin, and Powder Mountain:  TBA

June 23-29: National ABA meeting, Snowbird, UT - make your own arrangements.

July 12: Diamond Fork Canyon - led by Merrill Webb


September: Park Valley - White's valley for Hungarian partridge; details TBA

October: Zion's National Park; details TBA

October 12: The Big Sit - Provo Airport Dike; details TBA.


December: Provo CBC, details TBA

We are actively recruiting people to lead local half-day field trips, any time, any place. Lead two trips and you fill a category for the 2008 Utah County Birders Challenge.  If you would like to lead a field trip or if you have any ideas for this year’s field trips, please contact Lu Giddings at - seldom74@xmission.com.

Merrill's Musings
By Merrill Webb

"Top Twenty Most Common Birds in Utah"

Black-capped Chickadee

Now that I have written about my favorite "Top twenty locations to go birding in Utah" I've been thinking about the twenty most common birds I have seen in Utah. This would be based on my birding trips over the last seven years throughout the state, not just in Utah County, although Utah County is highly represented by every one of the birds listed below.  These are birds I have seen every month of every year since the beginning of 2001. This information gives us a handle on what we call "resident birds" --not those that are migratory like the Double-crested Cormorant, Cinnamon Teal, or American Wigeon which are here commonly during most of the year. It might be interesting for you to check your lists and see how they compare. Before reading on, or comparing your lists with mine, you might try predicting which twenty birds you think are the most common.

The following birds are listed in taxonomic order--not in order of abundance: Mallard, Gadwall, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, California Quail, American Coot, Rock Pigeon, Northern Flicker, Black-billed Magpie, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Western Meadowlark, House Finch and House Sparrow.

If you took the time to count these birds you correctly noticed there were only eighteen--not twenty. Couldn't honestly come up with twenty. But I counted six other species that I missed seeing only one month out of the last 84 months: Canada Gooose, Northern Harrier, Killdeer, Western Scrub-Jay, Red-winged Blackbird and Brewer's Blackbird.

I realize where one lives influences whether certain species are observed more than others. Also, we all have our favorite places to check out each month (Provo airport dike, Provo cemetery, Rock Canyon, for example), so this also biases our results. The numbers of birding trips we make during the month (time constraints, cost of gasoline, etc.), and also whether we maintain bird feeders during the year influences the kind of birds we see. I know the American Dipper is a year around resident on the Provo River not far from where I live. I just didn't make the effort to go look for one every month even though the canyon is only five minutes away.

It is hoped that this information will be of use to future generations of birders. Who can predict what new bird will move in during the next decade, especially if global warming influences a northerly movement of bird species. Consider the Eurasian Collared Dove, for example. (I'm not using this species as an example of global warming by the way).  I didn't see it at all in 2001, and only in three months in 2002. In 2003 I recorded it in seven months, in nine months during 2004, eight months in 2005 and every month during the last two years in almost every county I visited in Utah.

One can never predict what kind of changes will occur to local habitats in the next five to ten years, or how those changes will impact the numbers of birds we commonly see and take for granted now. The birding competition this year is mostly based on habitats to hopefully encourage all of us to record and compile this data for the use of future generations of birders.

Bird of the Month

American Goldfinch at our Redtwig Dogwood
photo by Julia Tuck

American Goldfinch
Carduelis tristis

Order: Passeriformes Family: Fringillidae
-Julia B. Tuck

I love the American Goldfinch! We are graced by these beauties in our yard. We have several large Bailey Redtwig Dogwoods ( Cornus sericea Baileyii) against the back of our brick home. We have thistle feeders on our deck. The birds love the protection afforded them by the dogwoods as they seek refuge in them between feedings. Sometime these birds are called “the wild canary.”

The breeding male is a brilliant, bright yellow with a black cap or forehead, and black on the wings. He has wing-bars (white or buffy colored), a white rump, white undertail coverts, black eyes and a short, forked black tail. The American Goldfinch is about 4˝-5" long (my, they look so much bigger when I look through my binoculars).

This bird breeds from southern British Columbia east to Newfoundland and south to California, Utah, southern Colorado, central Oklahoma, Arkansas, and the Carolinas. It winters throughout much of U.S. A seed eater, it prefers brushy thickets, weedy grasslands, and nearby trees. Small seeds, especially thistle, make up most of the American Goldfinch's diet. In the summer they also eat some insects, especially aphids. They feed their young entirely on partially digested seed called “canary milk.” The birds naturally feed by hanging upside down on plant stems. To encourage the American Goldfinch to come into your yard, you can plant such flowers as zinnias, cosmos, bee balm, liatris, coreopsis and globe thistle.

Some other species of the goldfinch family (Fringillidae) include the Pine Siskin, the Lesser Goldfinch, the Rosy Finch, the Crossbills, the House Finch and the Evening Grosbeak.

The American Goldfinch changes from winter plumage to breeding plumage by a complete molt of its body feathers. It is the only member of its family to have this second molt in the spring; all the other species have just one molt each year in the fall.

They nest in late June or early July. The nest is placed in a small shrub or tree, lined with plant down, and fastened to the branches with spider silk. They lay 2 to 7 eggs, pale bluish white, and are born helpless. Chicks fledge in 11-17 days. I love this: Brown-headed Cowbirds may lay an egg in a Goldfinch nest, but the hatchling will usually die because the seed-based diet of the American Goldfinch cannot support it. Way to go, American Goldfinch!

Predators of the American Goldfinch include jays, cats, hawks, snakes, squirrels, raccoons, and foxes.

A group of goldfinches can be called "a charm of goldfinches," "a rush of goldfinches," "a treasury of goldfinches," and a "vein of goldfinches."

I hope this year, as you work on the 2008 birding challenge, you will take the time to watch “a charm of goldfinches.”

UCB on Skipper Bay Trail  - 22 Mar 2008
photo by Lynn Garner

UCB on Skipper Bay Trail  - 22 Mar 2008
photo by Eric Huish

Field Trip Report
Skipper Bay Trail
- 22 March 2008

by Lynn Garner

Saturday morning, March 22, seventeen members and guests of the Utah County Birders walked the Skipper Bay Trail looking for birds. The amount of flooding of the pastures had diminished, but the water was not frozen as had been feared. The numbers of birds were not great, but there were many good birds to see. Perhaps the treat of the day was a flock of four Snow Geese and three Ross's Geese that we first saw at great distance, which flew much closer and allowed for sure identification. We were surprised to see no raptors at all.

The complete list of 33 species seen: Tundra Swan, Snow Goose, Ross's Goose, Canada Goose, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, Clark's Grebe, American White Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, American Coot, Sandhill Crane, Killdeer, American Avocet, California Gull, Northern Flicker, Black-billed Magpie, Black-capped Chickadee, Marsh Wren, American Robin, American Pipit, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, and American Goldfinch.

Those who participated were Thaylene Barrett, Andrew Brown, Robert Brown, Kris Chandler, Susan Fales, Lynn Garner (leader), Lara Goldie, Eric Huish, Marsha McLean, Milt Moody, Carol Nelson, Richard Pace, Rod Pace, Deloy Pack, Bob Parson, Tuula Rose, Steve and Cindy Sommerfeld, and Merrill Webb.


Thoughts of a "Greenie" Birdwatcher
by Yvonne Carter

Over the years I have had a few wake up calls to birds. I have walked through Kensington Park in Michigan while swans sat on their huge nests just 5 to 10 feet away with either eggs to hatch or with the new fuzzy ducklings. I saw a Bald Eagle flying through our backyard in Utah right before my eyes as I stood on my deck. I have gazed at the birds at LaJolla Cove as I did morning walks. All the while, I kept saying to myself that I would sure like to know more about birds.

In early May of 2006, I saw a billboard ad for the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival and I said to myself, "OK, Yvonne here's where you put your money where your mouth is." I didn't know what happens at a bird festival, but I had some free time that Saturday and walked in on a class taught by Dennis Shirley and Merrill Webb. It was interesting and informative.

I didn’t know a thing about birding field trips, but one was planned for Farmington Bay after the classes. They had one spot left and that was for me. No sooner was I on the bus than other birders started rushing on with all sorts of equipment, binoculars (I did bring a small pair with me), bird books, scopes and notebooks in hand. As the bus entered the Farmington Bay area, someone to my right said, "A Black-Crowned Night Heron on our right!" Gee, I thought it was just a large bird. All heads swiftly turned to the right, and many saying "I got it." All making notes and rapidly writing as someone else called out, "Red-wing Blackbird at ten o'clock!" Oh, so that is what they called that blackbird with the patch of red. Hmmm, I learned something new as they noted the spotting in their notebooks again. On it went.

As we stopped by Egg Island, everyone moved fast to get out and take a look. Quick as a flash the scopes were set up, their owners generously sharing the pleasure of a closer look. My dumb question revealed that I was inexperienced. People around me were helpful and took their time to explain differences in the birds. By the time the field trip was over, I was hooked on birding! I excitedly called my husband to tell him what I had learned and I quickly signed up for another field trip, the Utah County Big Day, the following Tuesday. Then I learned even more.

Soon after I discovered the Utah County Bird Group, and the same helpful attitude of experienced birders. They were eager to share their knowledge, their field guides, and equipment. They made helpful suggestions and generally made me feel comfortable in this new activity. The monthly meetings were informative as well and helped me to become better acquainted with members of the group.

With effort, time, and with the help of all in the group, I have become more at ease in identifying birds, comfortable in using equipment I have since acquired.

So let me express my appreciation to each of you who have been willing to share your expertise, knowledge and understanding of birds, and patiently enduring my silly questions. I enjoy being a part of the birding family in search for that elusive bird.

by Ned Bixler

We go through life thinking ALL questions have an answer. Then we become birders. We start a list, and find new birds. This seems easy.

Then, it happens at which bird am I looking A or B ?? We think this is a simple problem to solve, just ask the "BIRDING EXPERTS". They will know the answer. Then we are shocked. We find they also may disagree about which bird it is!

Several years ago, an immature swan was seen for months in a pond at Salem. The birding world argued whether it was a trumpeter or a tundra swan. When they finished, it was 50% for a trumpeter swan, and 50% for a tundra swan.  So which was it?

Last year, a Jaeger was seen at Farmington Bay. The same scenario - Pomarine or Parasitic. The same results were 50% each among the birding world.

Year, 2008, is no different. Immature swans have been seen on the Burriston Ponds, and they are falling into the same pattern as previously mentioned: 50% say trumpeter, and 50% say tundra.

Today it is the red-shouldered hawk at Farmington Bay, and the cackling goose at Kaysville Pond. The list goes on and on.....

Will the day come when we have a pocket DNA kit, and solve all these arguments in the field ? Probably not.

Do we give up birding because we cannot agree? NO - keep studying, and trying to learn more about the bird. Then you make YOUR decisions.

In birding, there will always be birds on which we will not agree.

Good Birding.

Backyard Bird of the Month
March 2008

Steve Carr - Holladay
Brown Creeper - Fourth year of the last 5 years; yet only the 5th year of the last 38 at our home in Holladay.

Yvonne Carter - Highland
I set out a woodpecker brick Friday (3/28) and Sat. my first Hairy Woodpecker showed up.

KC Childs - Eugene, Oregon
My best backyard bird here in Eugene was a Bushtit, I live on a busy road, so the birds seem to avoid the area a bit.

Lynn Garner - Provo
A Downy Woodpecker inspecting every inch of our sumac tree.

Alona Huffaker - Springville
My favorite is the Western Screech-Owl I could hear from my yard that was in my backyard neighbors' yard for a few nights. She had called and explained the sound she had heard and we finally figured out what it was that she had heard, so when she heard it again, she called me. Big sound for a little bird!

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Eurasian Collared-Dove - March 1st (finally on my yard list, # 91)

Selena & Alan Keller - Orem
Eurasian Collared-Dove - A pair, out where my flowers are coming up.

Milt Moody - Provo
Western Screech-Owl & White-breasted Nuthatch - Hermit Thrush still here.

Carol Nelson - Provo
Happy to have my first Pine Siskin of the year. I was afraid a Starling was going to get the honor.

Cheryl Peterson - Provo
Red-breasted Nuthatch

Tuula Rose - Provo
My regular pair of Mourning Doves was joined by a whole flock one day. I counted a dozen. They cleaned out the leftover big milo seed no other bird will eat.

Margaret Sanchez - Provo
Cedar Waxwings - Small flock feeding in my crabapple. Also a flock of Juncos.  Cedar Waxwings are my favorite bird and these were the first I've seen this year.

Dennis Shirley - From Tokyo, Japan
One morning in my daughter's neighborhood - Jungle Crow, Tree Sparrow, Brown-eared Bulbul, Pygmy Woodpecker, Pale Thrush, Great Tit.

Reed Stone - Provo
A Cock Ring-necked Pheasant feeding on grass and seeds.

Alton Thygerson - Provo
Downy Woodpecker - two have been coming to a suet feeder but they also have been seen feeding on shelled black oil sunflower kernels out of a tube feeder.

Bonnie Williams - Mapleton
Yellow-rumped Warbler

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.

For you faithful members who have always paid dues, but haven't as yet made the leap this year, the doors to the treasury are still open. For any wannabe members, they are also open.  2008 dues are $15.00.  Make a check to Utah
County Birders and mail it to:

Carol Nelson
2831 Marrcrest West
Provo, Utah  84604