Utah County Birders Newsletter
February 2009

    February Meeting
Upcoming Field Trips
    Note from Ned

    Utah’s New Checklist
    Provo 2008 CBC
    Bird of the Month
January Hotline Highlights


Thursday, February 12th.

Ned Hill will report, with pictures, on his recent birding trip to Ecuador.

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



February 21. 2009

We'll go to Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area to look for Bald Eagles. This date misses DWR's eagle day, so hopefully it will be less congested than last year. We'll leave from the East Bay Sam's Club at 8:00 am.

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.

February 13 – 16, 2009

12th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count  - For more information, go to www.birdcount.org 

Notes from Ned
By Ned Hill, UCB President

I’m excited to be once again actively involved with Utah County Birders. My professional responsibilities in the past few years have made active participation difficult. I missed the opportunity to attend the evening meetings, go on the field trips and participate in the other activities of UCB. It left a void in my life. I now look forward to making up for lost time.

We have some great people working with us at UCB. I very much appreciate all our volunteer staff members who give of their time and talents to make the organization work. These are generous people! I hope that together we will be able to expand our UCB activity, draw in new members and build on the excellent leadership we have enjoyed in the past.

I see the role of UCB as helping birders to enhance their enjoyment of the birding experience. Birding can, of course, be a solo activity. However, like you, I have found that birding is much more fun, meaningful, educational, and enjoyable when shared with others. We can learn from each other and from invited experts. We can enjoy field experiences together. And perhaps we can plan an adventure or two for those who want to search for birds in far away places.

I also see our role as giving others the opportunity to enjoy birding. I suspect there are hundreds, even thousands, of people in Utah County who would enjoy the birding experience if they only knew about it. Nearly 20 years ago in the early spring I asked a fellow faculty member if he’d like to go to lunch with me—and if he didn’t mind stopping by a marsh on the way. He seemed mildly interested. We picked up a sandwich and then drove to the marshy area near what is now the Mountain Spring exit to I-15—unfortunately it’s now a trailer park.. As we ate our sandwich, we shared my binoculars and saw Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Double-crested Cormorant, American White Pelicans, Yellowlegs, Sandpipers, Avocets, Stilts, Phalaropes, etc. He was amazed. He had not seen any of these birds before and had no idea they were just a few miles from Provo. He later told me that was the most expensive lunch he’s ever had—counting, of course, all of the optical equipment and birding trips he’s invested in since that day. I hope we can all give our friends and family members the opportunity to experience the discovery Professor Ivan Call made at that lunch.

This is your organization. I promise to listen carefully to your suggestions—and even your complaints. I look forward to some wonderful birding times with all of you.

Utah's New Checklist
By Milt Moody

Photo by Jack Binch

The Utah Bird Records Committee has published a new state checklist. Seventeen new species have been added to the last official checklist that came out in 2004 bringing the total to 443 species for the state of Utah. According to the new codes, fifteen species are more abundant and nineteen species have become less common. A new designation of “provisional species” has been added to indicate birds that were placed on the checklist from sight records alone.

Starting from the most recent, the new species added since 2004 are: Whip-poor-will (with a nice audio recording), Baird's Sparrow, Purple Finch and Pine Warbler all three found at Lytle Ranch, a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at Antelope Island Causeway, a Cape May Warbler at the Red Hill Golf Course in St. George, the Painted Bunting found at Fish Springs by Matt Mills, a Neotropic Cormorant at Quichapa Lake in Iron County, the Western Gull at Lee Kay Ponds, a surprising Gray Hawk at Gunlock Reservoir, the Pacific Golden-Plover that Keith Evans found at Antelope Island Causeway, Glossy Ibis first seen at Benson in Cache County then else where in northern Utah, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in Larry Tripp's yard in the small town of Central, Cackling Goose which has been split from Canada Goose as a new species, the Rufous-backed Robin which came as a Christmas present in 2004 at Springdale, the White Ibis a lot of us were able to see north of Spanish Fork, and finally the first one that was added was a Blue-headed Vireo which was another “golf-course bird” in St. George. (With several sight records of first state birds pending with the Records Committee, there could be more additions coming in the near future).

Of the fifteen birds that are listed as more common, the Eurasian Collared-Dove has be far shown the most dramatic increase, followed by the Great Egret and then maybe the Broad-winged Hawk which may not have increased at all but we’ve learned how to see it better. The rest of the birds in this group has shown only minor increases in abundance.

Of the nineteen birds that are listed as less common, the Yellow-billed Cuckoo and the Northern Mockingbird are the ones that show the most significant change, the rest are pretty minor.

Check out the new Utah state checklist and a write-up “about the checklist” on our web site (utahbirds.org) to see the “specifics” of our newly updated state bird list.

Provo 2008 CBC

Below is the partial results and highlights for the 2008 Provo CBC.
Total Species: 94
Participants: 43 paying observers
Number of parties: 17
Total Hours: 137.25
Total car miles: 546

I have added the to the totals from the compiling the
results of three feeder watchers.

We counted 16 species of waterfowl; highest numbers of ducks were Mallards (1418) followed by Pintails (455)and
American Wigeon (194). No rare species of waterfowl were observed.
We counted eleven species of raptors with Kestrel the highest (71) followed by Red-tails (58). One Northern Goshawk, two Prairie Falcons and four Merlins were also observed.
Three species of owls were found: Barn Owls (2), W. Screech (6) and Gt.Horned (2).
Six species of finch were totaled with Gray-crowned (175) and Black Rosy (8) being the most unusual. Other "good" birds observed included Sandhill Crane (108), Ruffed Grouse (1), Mourning Dove (302, quite high for this time of the year), Bushtit (12), Bewick's Wren (1), Clark's Nutcracker (1), and Savannah Sparrow (1).

Thanks to all who participated on a very cold day. I don't believe the temperature ever went above freezing. This completes my 37th and final year of being the compiler. I have appreciated all of you who have consistently gone out and covered your area(s). Now its time to turn it over to a younger and more energetic organizer.

Thank you.

Merrill Webb



Mountain Bluebird - photo by Lu Giddings

Bird of the Month

Mountain Bluebird
Scialia currucoides
Order: Passeriformes Family: Turdidae
By Junece Markham

Mountain Bluebirds are characterized by an overall blue wash. They lack the bold rufous coloring of Western Bluebirds. Males are a striking sky-blue color. Females are predominantly gray with a bluish tint, especially on the wings and tail. Females have a white eye-ring, which males lack, and some females may have some light rufous on their throats and breasts.

It’s that flash of brilliant sky blue that catches my eye, whether it is a Jay, a Bunting, a Kingfisher, a Bluethroat or a Bluebird. This week it was Mountain Bluebirds. When Matt Miles posted Mt. Bluebirds at Warm Springs Wildlife Management area, I had to go there. Each year they are a personal goal for me to see.

At Warm Springs Matt reported a group of 15 Mt. Bluebirds. When I went over a couple of days later I only saw 6-8 birds. To see only one Mt. Bluebird means it’s a wonderful day. Like the song, Zip-a dee-doo-dah, zip-a dee-ay. My, oh, my, what a wonderful day. Mister Bluebird on my shoulder, It’s the truth, it’s actch’ll (I wish). Everything is satisfactch’ll. Zip-a-dee-doo-dah,zip-a-dee-ay, Wonderful feeling, wonderful day!

I remember the first time I saw a flock of Mt. Bluebirds. It was near Ken’s Lake in Moab, Ut. Birds were flying across the road, flashes of blue caught my eye. STOP! They’re Mt. Bluebirds. I’ve seen the same phenomenon near Gunlock Reservoir, flashing Bluebirds flying across the road and then feeding on the ground. And again in Cedar City on the road to Kolob Reservoir. The flocks consisted of 50-100 birds. The internet says Mt. Bluebirds are the most migratory of the bluebirds, leaving their nesting grounds in September or October for their wintering grounds in the southwestern US & Mexico, returning to their nesting grounds in March. They migrate short distances, sometimes forming large flocks in the winter at low elevations.

In their behavior I’ve seen Mt Bluebirds hover low over the grass in open fields, and drop to the ground to pounce on prey. They also catch food in mid-air by darting out from a perch. Their diet consists of a combination of insects and berries. Insects make up a larger percentage of their diet than is the case with other thrushes.

I don’t remember ever seeing a Mt Bluebird nesting. No, I take that back. I have seen them around bluebird nest boxes attached to fence posts. They are cavity-nesters. They rely on natural holes in trees, old woodpecker holes, and man-made cavities such as the bluebird boxes. On the way home from visiting Deseret Ranch, (you often see Mt. Bluebirds at the ranch) the road from Woodruff to Evanston, has a mile or two of bluebird nest boxes. I have almost always seen nesting Mt. Bluebirds along that road. Bluebird nest boxes are GREAT! Both male & female build a loose cup-shaped nest with stem, grass, and twigs, lined with softer material. The female lays and incubates 5-6 eggs. Both parents feed the young, which fledge in 3 weeks of hatching . The parents continue to tend the young for another 3-4 weeks after which they lay a second brood and start over again. What a busy life. They should be appreciated.