Utah County Birders Newsletter
Thursday, March 12th.
“An Update on Birds of
Prey and Utah’s Mountain Plovers” by the world’s leading raptor
expert, Professor Clayton White, recently
retired faculty member from BYU.
Meet at 7:00 PM in the Bean Museum Auditorium on the BYU Campus.
April 25 2009: Fish Spring & Callao -
Day trip; leave Springville Walmart at 5:30 a.m.
May 14-18 2009: Great Salt Lake Bird Festival - make your own arrangements.
June 5 & 6 2009: Brown’s Park National Wildlife Refuge - looking for an opportunity to work on your Daggett county bird list? Here’s the trip for you. Details TBA
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 -
By Ned Hill – President, Utah County Birders
“Enrich Your Birding Experience through Bird Sounds”
One morning in early May my wife and I were walking through our Provo foothills neighborhood. Just a few houses down our street I heard a loud, ringing tone coming from the hillside. After a brief silence—another ringing tone on a different pitch. I knew that was not a sound usually heard in our neighborhood; but I had heard it often in the wet forests of the Northwest. Without my binoculars, I couldn’t locate the bird as it was against the sun in dense oak; but the sound was diagnostic. Nevertheless, I put it on the Birdtalk and soon interested birders came into the neighborhood and many were able to see their first Varied Thrush, a Utah rarity.
While the public frequently refers to our avocation as “bird watching” we refer to ourselves as “birders”. Why? Birding is so much more than simply watching birds. We study them, feed them, go on strenuous adventures to find them, and very often listen to them. In some cases, we even smell them (e.g., Hoatzin’s in South America)! For anyone who knows bird vocalizations, birding takes on an exciting added dimension. If you have ever birded with someone who is experienced in bird sounds, you learn that you can find many more birds than you otherwise could. One of my early experiences in Utah was birding with Merrill Webb. As we hiked up a canyon in winter, Merrill said, “Hear that high-pitched call? That’s a Townsend Solitaire. And those are Chukar’s chucking. And I hear Horned Larks flying over…” all of this without seeing one of those birds—at least at first.
Bird sounds are often important in differentiating closely related species. Empidonax flycatchers, for example, look almost identical and some species can only reliably be identified by sound.
How does one make sense of all those different bird sounds? While it can be overwhelming initially, many birds are quite consistent in their calls and songs. And, fortunately, people have recorded many of these sounds and made them available on CDs (or even tapes). I started learning bird sounds by listening to such tapes in my car as I drove to work or around town (much better than the news). I played the songs of our more common birds and listened to them over and over until they began to become familiar. One very helpful series of CD’s (“Birding by Ear—Western”) groups birds by those that sound similar. The commentator points out what differences to listen for. Other CD’s (including those by our own Dr. Kevin Colver) have no commentary but include many of the sounds from the more common field guides. You can also find recordings of birds of other countries to help you prepare for birding adventures abroad.
Of course, one always has to be cautious about bird sounds. A few years ago I was in the Anhuac NWR in Texas looking for rails in wet grasslands. We had just found half a dozen Yellow Rails but we all hoped for a look at the very rare Black Rail. As we returned to our cars, I heard the distinct call of a Black Rail! But the habitat around the cars just wasn’t what one would expect for a rail. As we all searched for the rail, we found perched in the top of a tree a Northern Mockingbird, happily mimicking the call of a Black Rail! I still haven’t seen one of those “mythical” birds.
To enrich your birding experience this year, why not challenge yourself to learning the sounds of the birds around your neighborhood and then expanding to birds that migrate into or through our state. You’ll be glad you did.
Field Trip Report
Farmington Bay - 21 February 2009
By Lu Giddings
Brittany, Amy and Milt
Stephanie and Matt
Photos by Lu Giddings
Utah County birders visited Farmington Bay on Saturday February 21st. The weather was warm, beautiful, and perfect for birding. While we managed to avoid the large crowds one typically sees on February weekends, there were still plenty of people traveling the muddy roads viewing the remaining eagles. Northern Harriers were abundant, and Tundra Swans were seen in substantial numbers. Perhaps the best bird of the day was a Glaucous Gull seen at the south end of the road, in the company of numerous Herring and Ring-billed Gulls.
Around noon we drove to Kaysville Ponds to enjoy the hooded mergansers and other waterfowl. A Sharp-shinned Hawk prowling the area disturbed the Great-tailed Grackles on the west side of the pond.
Trip participants were Bart Carter, Yvonne Carter, Brittany Gale, Lu Giddings, Eric Huish, Amy Johnson, Kathy Knaus, Matt Mills, Milt Moody, Stephanie Nolasco, Leena Rogers, Tuula Rose and Bonnie Williams.
A partial trip list: 38 species.
Canada Goose, Tundra Swan, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Canvasback, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, American Kestrel, American Coot, Ring-billed Gull, Glaucous Gull, Rock Pigeon, Northern Flicker, Black-billed Magpie, American Crow, Common Raven, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, Great-tailed Grackle, House Sparrow
photo by Cheryl Peterson
Bonnie Williams – Mapleton
Eurasian Collared-Dove on the last day of the month.
Milt Moody - Provo
Two Cedar Waxwings observing the Pine Siskin feeding frenzy.
Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Bushtit - A flock of 21. Yard lifer #92.
Reed Stone -Provo
Cassin's Finch at feeder.
Lynn Garner - Provo
A juvenile Sharp-Shinned Hawk taking his pick from the flock of Pine Siskins at my feeders.
Cheryl Peterson – Provo
Pine Siskins (25+) were going to be my backyard bird of the month choice until a Townsend's Solitaire showed up.
We would like you to share your favorite backyard bird each month. Please send your favorite bird at the end of the month to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Cheryl Peterson at 375-1914 (home) or 787-6492 (cell).