Utah County Birders Newsletter
November 2008

    November Meeting
Upcoming Field Trips
Merrill's Musings
    Bird of the Month
    Field Trip Report
- The Big Sit
    Field Trip Report
- Mona and Goshen Valleys
Backyard Bird of the Month
October Hotline Highlights


Thursday, November 13th.

Our November program will be Dennis Shirley on “Birds of Europe”.

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


November 15 (Sat): Loon Loop - Led by Lu Giddings - 7:00 a.m., meet at Sam's Club parking lot, 1313 S. University Ave., Provo: we plan to visit various reservoirs and lakes in search of loons and winter waterfowl, depending on bird activity. Last year's stops included Deer Creek and Jordanelle reservoirs, East Canyon Reservoir, and the Antelope Island Causeway.

December 20 (Sat): Provo Christmas Bird Count - Please circle December 20th on your calendars so you can avoid conflicts. Get your Christmas shopping done early.

We are actively recruiting people to lead local half-day field trips, any time, any place.  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


With the 2008 year coming to a close it seems timely to reflect back on the accomplishments and disappointments relating to this year's birding challenge. The Utah County Birders challenge was designed to encourage visits to locations that would expand our knowledge of Utah County birds as well as in other counties throughout the state. It was also to familiarize ourselves with eight different trails in the county. It was to encourage visits to locations where the link between ecological habitats and birds could be observed. Fortunately there are at least eight different ecological communities all within sixty miles driving distance. Another category was for each of us to contribute something tangible to the birding club, i.e., submitting articles to the newsletter, contributing photos and/or directions to new birding locations to the website, inviting others to join in our birding activities, and educating school children about the wonders of birds. There was also an extensive list of miscellaneous items such as adding eight birds to various lists one keeps, i.e., life, lower 48, Utah, yard, etc.

The most challenging category, at least for me, has been finding eight species of six different groups of birds in each of eight different counties. But that is what the challenge was meant to be--challenging. Something that would take longer than five or six months to finish, and at the same time contribute to our basic bird distribution knowledge. A statement attributed to Aristotle goes something like this, "First, have a definite, clear practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end." Unfortunately, an increase in gas prices coincided with the birding challenge, and certainly a lack of money, or necessary materials, limited the distances one could travel. And now that the price of gas has come down to about where it was last year, the birds, especially the songbirds, are gone. So, no gold medal for me. Silver probably. I think it was Ursula Leguin who said, "It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end." So, I can truthfully say I have found the journey challenging, interesting and rewarding. I never thought I would have such a hard time finding a Song Sparrow in Beaver County.

At any rate, finding 65 species in each of eight different counties for the bronze medal wasn't so difficult if one started early in the year. And it took more than one or two trips. I had completed that particular category by the middle of August. In the meantime I had been working on the gold medal categories. I completed the eight bird habitats by May 28; the trails by May 5. Being able to find 8 species of six different groups of birds in each of 8 different Utah counties has been the real challenge, and frustrating as well. I finished the waterfowl category by March 12; shorebirds by September 6; and finally towhees and sparrows by October 10. I have one more county to finish for raptors, namely Washington, which I should finish in the next couple of weeks. But flycatchers and warblers are another story. Those two categories won't be completed at all because those birds have all migrated out of the state. I finished Washington County flycatchers August 30, so whatever flycatchers are lingering in the southern part of the state won't affect that county much--at least for me. With teaching responsibilities every week-day morning and working most of the summer in mainly just three counties, time constraints severely limited my chasing time. I have completed six counties for warblers, and only three for the flycatchers.

A closing nugget of thought from Confucius: "When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps." There is still half of November and all of December to finish some of the other goals. Try it. You will be pleased you persevered.

Now, I would like to know how many of you qualify for one of the three different categories. Please send me a copy of your results in the next three weeks so I can plan on appropriate certificates and prizes. However, if you are still working to complete some of the categories just let me know, and send me what you already have. The amount of information submitted will help in determining the location and subject matter for our January meeting.


California Quail - photo by Paul Higgins

Bird of the Month

California Quial
Callipepla californica - California’s state bird
by Gayla Muir

In one of my first Utah County Birder’s meetings we were asked to share what bird “hooked” us on birding. Mine was the California Quail. I have always had a family of quail live in my bushes and love watching them wander back and forth to their feeding areas with chicks in tow.

The geographic range for the California Quail is the Western United States, British Columbia, Chile and New Zealand and can be found in the Pacific coast region of the United States. Its original range stretched from Baja California to a small portion of Western Nevada and the southern counties of Oregon. The California Quail is kept as a pet and is favored as a game bird. Because of this, it has been successfully introduced to other regions of the United States such as Northern Nevada, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Utah. They do not migrate and tend to spend their entire lives in an area usually two miles in diameter.

California Quail prefer living in open woodlands, bushy foothills, valleys with streams, and suburbs. They can also live in brush land and agricultural land. Their primary diet consists of seeds, grains, and nuts. If available they eat fruits, berries and insects. Maximum movements have been recorded up to 16.8 miles, their timed flight is 38 - 58 miles per hour, and their ground speed has been timed at 12 miles per hour. Predators are hawks, owls, coyotes, bobcats, foxes and feral/domestic cats. They rarely venture more than 50 feet from safety. They are a sedentary bird. After their morning feeding they retreat to a dense cover and rest until evening feeding.

The California Quail are members of the Phasianidae family. These are stout-bodied birds like the turkey, pheasant, grouse and partridge family with strong feet and legs designed for life on the ground. Their average weight is between 5 - 7 ounces. Males are slightly heavier. An adult grows to be 9.8 inches in length. They have a distinctive black and white pattern on the face and the belly has black and brown feather tips which makes it look like it has scaled underparts. The overall color is blue-grey and brown. The crown is chestnut colored with streaking along the sides, they have black bills and grey legs, and sexes are dimorphic. The males have a black throat and the females have more of a greyish colored throat with black streaks. California quail can be identified by their prominent teardrop-shaped plume on the forehead. Immature California Quail have general coloration of mostly greys and browns. Their vocal repertoire includes at least 14 different sounds.

In the fall, they are quite social and travel in small groups (or coveys) typically ranging from 25 to 40 birds, but coveys in excess of 1000 have been reported. In Spring, when mating and nesting season starts, coveys disintegrate as individual birds begin to pair up and males defend territories as well as their monogamous mate. After pairing they find a well hidden area so they can prepare their scrapes.

The most typical time for reproduction is during May, June, and July. If they do not successfully nest on their first attempt, they make a second nesting attempt later in the summer. Their nests are made in shallow scrapes in the ground lined with grass. They can lay from 6 to 28 eggs, with the average being 13 - 17. Eggs are pointed ovals and are creamy white in color with light golden brown spots. Females incubate the eggs 22-23 days with the male close at hand to tend her. In the event of the female’s death, the male may assume incubation duties. Chicks hatch synchronously and begin running about within an hour. The male is considered a model husband and father. He boldly performs the risky role of sentry, flying high to an exposed perch standing guard watching for and alerting his family to danger. Their chicks grow rapidly and after two weeks they are ready to fly short distances. They remain with their parents through the winter where family groups come together once again to form coveys.



Milt, Tuula and Bonnie helped with the morning shift  -  photo by Eric Huish

Field Trip Report

The Big Sit - Provo Airport Dike 12 Oct 2008
by Eric Huish

I brushed an inch of snow off my car early Sunday morning and headed to the Provo Airport Dike. The storm missed the dike. There was no snow on the ground and although there were storm clouds threatening us all day we only saw three or four snowflakes. The sun broke through the clouds late in the afternoon giving us great lighting on the mudflat. It was cold ( in the 30s with a breeze) all day long and we ended the day with one of the lowest species counts we've had on a big sit. It was still great fun.

This year the count circle was occupied by at least one person all day from before dawn to dusk (6:15 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. - 13 hours). We saw 45 species. Most exciting bird was a Stilt Sandpiper mingling with the many dowitchers that spent the day on the mudflat. Other good birds included 5 Mountain Bluebirds, a Merlin, and two Pectoral Sandpipers. Mountain Bluebird, Coopers Hawk and Stilt Sandpiper were all new for our 'Big Sit Life List', which after 7 years is now at 104 species.

Thanks to all the participants - Ned Bixler, Georgiana Deming, Eric Huish, Benji Martineau, Keeli Marvel, Milton Moody, Cheryl Peterson, Susan Powell, Rachel Rollins, Tuula Rose, Bryan Spencer and Bonnie Williams.

Species List - Canada Goose 20, Mallard 6, Green-winged Teal 1, Ring-necked Pheasant 1, Pied-billed Grebe 2, Great Blue Heron 2, White-faced Ibis 1, Northern Harrier 2, Cooper's Hawk 1, Red-tailed Hawk 2, American Kestrel 2, Merlin 1, American Coot 2, Sandhill Crane 2, Killdeer 125, American Avocet 2, Greater Yellowlegs 7, Lesser Yellowlegs 6, Pectoral Sandpiper 2, Stilt Sandpiper 1, Long-billed Dowitcher 230, Wilson's Snipe 3, Ring-billed Gull 45, California Gull 2, Rock Pigeon 50, Belted Kingfisher 1, Downy Woodpecker 1, Northern Flicker 2, Black-billed Magpie 3, Tree Swallow 1, Barn Swallow 28, Black-capped Chickadee 1, Marsh Wren 3, Mountain Bluebird 5, American Robin 26, European Starling 18, American Pipit 30, Yellow-rumped Warbler 4, Spotted Towhee 1, Song Sparrow 1, White-crowned Sparrow 2, Red-winged Blackbird 40, Yellow-headed Blackbird 2, Brewer's Blackbird 25 and House Finch 3.



Field Trip Report

Utah County Birders at Mona Reservoir  - October 18, 2008 -  photo by Eric Huish

Mona and Goshen Valleys - 18 October 2008
by Alona Huffaker

October 18 proved to be a very enjoyable day to birdwatch in Juab and Utah Counties. Yvonne and Burt Carter, Grant Jense, Lynn Gardner, Eric Huish, Ned Bixler, Dave Hanscom, Bonnie Williams and Alona Huffaker were led on this outing by Lu Giddings. We went by way of Santaquin to Mona Reservoir, then through Goshen Canyon and out through the area south of Elberta, north of Goshen and to Warm Springs area. We saw Canada Geese, American Wigeon, Mallard, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Ruddy Duck, Ring-necked Pheasant, Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Western Grebe, American White Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, American Kestrel, Merlin, American Coot, Franklin's Gull, Ring-billed Gull, California Gull, Eurasian Collared Dove, Northern Flicker, Common Raven, Horned Lark, Bewick's Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, European Starling, American Pipit, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Song Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, Brewer's Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, and House Sparrow.

The Pelicans were in a huge flock of about 200 flying away off to the south--pretty neat looking! We did see a Great-horned Owl, but it was dead with no signs of being shot--poor thing. (Although it did give us a chance to look at it closely.) We also saw a fox, some deer (and hunters since it was opening of the deer hunt!) and some duck hunters that thought they were doing a good imitation of a duck call---they weren't!


Backyard Bird of the Month
October 2008

Steve Carr - Holladay
Dark-eyed Junco - Lots of them; I see more in my yard in winter than I ever do in the mountains in summer.

Lynn Garner - Provo
Black-capped Chickadees checking out the nyjer in my stocking feeder.

Alona Huffaker - Springville
Four Evening Grosbeaks flew over my yard.

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Chipping Sparrow - at my platform feeder on my windowsill on Oct 1st. I don't often get chippers in my yard.

LeIla Ogden - Orem
A beautiful American Kestrel looking over my feeders.

Reed Stone - Provo
American Dipper and Canada Goose near my riverside deck.

Bonnie Williams - Mapleton
Spotted Towhees - Two at once.

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.