Utah County Birders Newsletter
June 2009

Contents   
    June Meeting
   
Upcoming Field Trips
    Ned's Notes
    Utah County Big Month
    Bird of the Month
    Backyard Bird of the Month
   
May Hotline Highlights
 


JUNE MEETING:

Thursday, June 11th.

"Differentiating Confusing Pairs" by Dennis Shirley

Many birds pose tricky identification problems because they look so similar to other species. Dennis will show how to differentiate about 20 pairs of these "look alike" birds. In the process, he will help us all become better, more observant birders. He recently gave this same presentation with great effect to attendees of the Great Salt Lake Birding Festival.

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


FIELD TRIPS:

See Utah County Big Month article below.

June 6, 2009 - Utah Lake Environs - Waterfowl, Waders, Water birds, Blue Grosbeak, Eastern Kingbird, Bobolink. The Utah Lake Fest starts at 10:00am and we need to support these activities, so we will be back a little earlier for this.  Meet at 6:00am at the Payson/I-15 commuter parking lot located off the I-15 Payson exit. Go right at the off ramp bottom, then a left in 100 yards, then another left into the parking area. It's across the street from the bowling alley.

June 13, 2009 - West Desert/ Tintics - Flycatchers, Sparrows, Wrens, Juniper Titmouse.  Meet at 6:00am at the Payson/I-15 commuter parking lot located off the I-15 Payson exit. Go right at the off ramp bottom, then a left in 100 yards, then another left into the parking area. It's across the street from the bowling alley.

June 20, 2009 - Oak/Maple Foothill Chaparral - Warblers, Vireos, Grosbeaks, Finches.  Meet at 6:00am at the Payson/I-15 commuter parking lot located off the I-15 Payson exit. Go right at the off ramp bottom, then a left in 100 yards, then another left into the parking area. It's across the street from the bowling alley.

June 25, 2009 - Payson Canyon owling - we may begin by looking for burrowing owls, great-horned owls, and barn owls between Payson and Elberta, or we can bird our way up Payson canyon until dark, depending on group interests. 6:00 pm - 12 am. Leave Payson Walmart at 6 pm. Please plan on carpooling with others.

June 27, 2009 - High Elevations - Aspen/Spruce/Fir - Woodpeckers, Blue Grouse, Pine Grosbeak, Evening Grosbeak, Purple Martin.  Meet at 6:00am at the Payson/I-15 commuter parking lot located off the I-15 Payson exit. Go right at the off ramp bottom, then a left in 100 yards, then another left into the parking area. It's across the street from the bowling alley.

July 10, 2009 - Oquirrh mountains with Ann Neville - This is a rare opportunity to visit Kennecott Copper property in the Oquirrh mountains. Space is limited to 20 people. You must pre-register by email in advance with Lu Giddings if you wish to attend, first come first served. We need two drivers with 4wd vehicles capable of seating 5 people (including driver) each. The trip will leave East Bay Sam’s Club at 7:00 am, although this may change to an earlier time (6 am), depending on Ann’s schedule. Please plan on carpooling with others.

August 2009:

September 2009: In Search of Hungarian Partridge - Box Elder county. 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 - [email protected].
 



Ned’s Notes

By Ned Hill – President, Utah County Birders

“Owls: Birds of Mystery and Adventure”

Like me, if you are attracted to birding largely because of the adventure, then owls have got to be among your favorite birds, too. They’re usually not easy to find since most of them only come out after dark. And that means you can’t generally see them too well. For me there is always some mystery surrounding any owl, so it’s always an adventure to find an owl—any owl. Here are some of my owl memories.

One night just this week my wife and daughter-in-law came home after sunset and reported hearing an owl in our backyard. We quietly went out on our deck and, sure enough, we could hear the “yipping” of young Western Screech Owls and some stronger calls—probably from their parent(s). While we couldn’t see them, we sometimes saw a shadow pass from one tree to the other—flight lessons? I heard the owls calling whenever I checked on them during the night. The next night they had moved to a different tree but we could hear them calling again—at least four individuals, probably more. I dared not shine a light on them for fear of interrupting the family. What a thrill to have these mystery creatures in our own yard.

The first Elf Owl I ever saw was in Madera Canyon in Southeastern Arizona. People at the Santa Rita Lodge told us if we waited near a certain picnic table in the parking lot and looked up at the wooden utility pole a few yards away, we could see an Elf Owl peek out at us at 8:10 pm sharp! How many birds are so punctual? We did as instructed and, on schedule, a tiny head poked out. It watched the assembled crowd for a few minutes and the sparrow-sized owl flew off into the night. As we fell asleep in our tent, we could hear the owl’s chuckling call as it flew back and forth over the campground.

Some of us will remember the excursion Utah County Birders took down to the Blanding/Monticello area a few years ago. One night we drove up a canyon and, in the still of that dark night, were excited to hear and then see a dark Flammulated Owl with his “Toot, toot, toot!” and his black eyes.

A couple of years ago, on the Provo Christmas Bird Count, a few hearty souls joined me in our annual owling excursion. We even enticed a vice president of BYU to try owling for the first time—at 4:00 am no less. We tried calling in a Great Horned Owl along the Provo River. At first, no success. Then we heard that signature “who’s-awake-me-too” cadence across the river. Just as we tried to put the owl in our flashlight beam, the bird swooped across river and flew within a few inches of our heads. We could feel the downdraft from its wings!

One of my most unforgettable owl experiences occurred in 2001 with other Utah County Birders in eastern Australia near Kingfisher Park.. A local expert took us to try to find Lesser Sooty Owl—a rare species with a very small range. He didn’t use a recording, but his voice could perfectly mimic the owl’s call. We were on the edge of a large field next to some tall trees—at night, of course. For quite some time, there was no response. But finally he excitedly motioned for us to join him as he pointed high up into the trees—there was the owl, softly responding to his call. He told us that when Phoebe Snetsinger came to the park a year preceding us, they were unable to locate the owl. [She subsequently found it.]

Not all owls, of course, are nocturnal. In 1995, Ivan Call and I were on the Alaskan island of St. Paul in the Bering Sea.. Our small bus was headed out to the seabird colonies where we found hundreds of thousands of murres, puffins, auklets, fulmars, kittiwakes, etc. Our leader suddenly hollered for the driver to stop. On the crest of a nearby hill sat two beautiful Snowy Owls. They immediately flew at the sound of our vehicle, but we scrambled out in time to watch the pair recede into the distance.

And some owls are expensive! A few winters ago Northern Pygmy Owls were reportedly calling during the day near a mountain road just above Nephi. I took several people with me and we drove up to find them. After listening at several stops, we finally heard the “Toot, toot” and got out to look. There in the pine trees was one and then two of these tiny owls with the large, false eyes on the backs of their heads. As there appeared to be no turnaround in sight, I backed my Ford Explorer slowly down the snowy road until I heard a slight crunching sound and the vehicle stopped. I had to turn around on that narrow road after all. We drove home safely but a few weeks and several hundred miles later (interestingly, on our way to find Short-eared Owl and Gray Partridge north of Tremonton) the Explorer’s transmission literally fell out onto the freeway! That cost several hundred dollars—fortunately most of it covered by warranty. Yes, expensive owls!

And some owls you just miss. When BYU played Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl, my son and I flew down to Dallas but went a few days early to bird in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Arriving in McAllen late at night, we checked the always interesting hotline. It contained the report of a Stygian Owl that had just been seen at Bentsen State Park! I had seen all of the regularly occurring owls in North America so this would be a new one for me. I don’t think this species had ever been seen in the U.S. prior to that report. We arose early, drove directly to Bentsen, and went to the area the owl had been seen.. Along with many other disappointed birders, this rare owl was a one-day wonder and no one reported seeing it again. Oh, well. That’s what birding is about, isn’t it? Surprises. And surprises come in both forms—the positive and the negative.

If you want to increase your sense of adventure and awe in birding, try adding owls to your target list of birds this year. Utah hosts 11 (possibly 12) of the 19 regularly occurring owls in North America. How many of these mysterious birds have you seen?

 



Utah County Big Month
By Dennis Shirley

 

I had a discussion with Ned Hill the other evening and among other things we decided the club needed to do more short half-day local field trips to bring our members together more often. I volunteered and after some thought decided it would be fun to do a UTAH COUNTY BIG MONTH in June. I have put together four Saturday morning field trips to four prime county habitats. Additionally Lou has an owling trip scheduled on the 25th. I will also have spontaneous early AM or evening trips to get specialty birds such as Greater Sage Grouse, Williamson's Sapsucker, Black Swift, Ruffed Grouse, Poorwill, Short-eared Owl and others.

Here's the field trip schedule. Lets meet each Saturday at 6:00am at the Payson/I-15 commuter parking lot, since most of the time we will be in south Utah County. It's located off the I-15 Payson exit. Go right at the off ramp bottom, then a left in 100 yards, then another left into the parking area. It's across the street from the bowling alley. We will return by 10:00am each day so people can get other things done on their Saturday.

     June 6, 2009 - Utah Lake Environs - Waterfowl, Waders, Water birds, Blue Grosbeak, Eastern Kingbird, Bobolink
The Utah Lake Bird Fest starts at 10:00am and we need to support these activities, so we will be back a little earlier for this.
     June 13, 2009 - West Desert/ Tintics - Flycatchers, Sparrows, Wrens, Juniper Titmouse
     June 20, 2009 - Oak/Maple Foothill Chaparral - Warblers, Vireos, Grosbeaks, Finches
     June 27, 2009 - High Elevations - Aspen/Spruce/Fir - Woodpeckers, Blue Grouse, Pine Grosbeak, Evening Grosbeak, Purple Martin

I made a wish list of those birds possible to find in Utah County in June and it is about 216. That's with a few stretches of course, but 200 may be possible.
Merrill Webb currently has the highest number for Utah County in June at 164, so there's room at the top. Let's get everyone excited and have some fun.

Any questions, give me a call - 423-1108. I won't be home for the next 30 days between 6:00am and 10:00am.
 

 


 

Bald Eagle

Bird of the Month

Bald Eagle
Haliaeetus leucocephalus (Linnaeus, 1766)
Julia B. Tuck

The Bald Eagle is the only eagle endemic to North America. It is a sea or fish eagle. The Bald Eagle's scientific name means a sea (halo) eagle (aeetos) with a white (leukos) head (cephalus). There are two sub-species. The "southern" bald eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus leucocephalus, is found in the southern United States and Baja California.. The "northern" bald eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus alascanus, is found in the northern United States, Canada and Alaska. The "northern" bald eagle is slightly larger than the "southern" bald eagle.


The range of the Bald Eagle includes most of Canada and Alaska, all of the lower 48 states and northern Mexico. About half of the world's bald eagles live in Alaska. Bald Eagles are a member of the Accipitridae (diurnal birds of prey); which also includes hawks, kites, other eagles, harriers and Old World vultures.


The Bald Eagle is a large raptor, with a body length of 2’4”–3½ feet, a wingspan of 6-8 feet, and a weight of 5–16.5+ lb. Males and females are identical in plumage coloration (females are larger). The size of the bird varies by location: the smallest are from Florida (males about 5 lb, wingspan 6 ft), the largest are from Alaska (females 16.5+ lb, wingspan of 8 ft+). Adults have a dark brown body and wings, white head and tail, yellow irises and a yellow beak. Juveniles have a dark beak, dark brown eyes, and are mostly brown with white mottling on the body, tail, and undersides of wings. Adult plumage usually is obtained by the 6th year. Both adults and juveniles have yellow feet and lower legs. Eagles have about 7,000 feathers. Bald Eagles in the wild can live up to 30 years. In captivity, they often live longer. One Bald Eagle in New York lived in captivity for nearly 50 years. The Bald Eagle call consists of weak chirping whistles- not at all impressive. In the old Jeep-Eagle ads they used the call of the Red-tailed Hawk instead of the Bald Eagle.


The Bald Eagle's preferred diet is fish. They also eat small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, and carrion. The Bald Eagle snatches fish out of the water with its talons. If the fish is too heavy to lift, the eagle may be dragged into the water, where it may swim to safety, drown, or die from hypothermia.


The Bald Eagle is a powerful flier. It has been recorded flying with a 15-pound Mule Deer fawn. It can reach speeds of 35–44 miles per hour; 30 miles per hour while carrying fish; and between 75-100 miles per hour when diving.


The Bald Eagle is found near large bodies of open water with fish and mature stands of coniferous or hardwood trees. If a nest tree is not large enough to support the weight of the nest, the nest may crash to the ground. Their nest is the largest of any bird in North America. The nest is used for many years with new material added each year. One nest in Florida was 20 ft deep, 9.5 ft across, and weighed 3 tons! One ton is more common.


When old enough to breed, the birds often return to the area where they were born. It is thought that Bald Eagles mate for life, but if one member of a pair dies, the other will choose a new mate. Eagles produce one to three eggs per year, with both the male and female taking turns incubating the eggs.


In the early 1700s the Bald Eagle population was 300,000–500,000. By the 1950s there were only 412 nesting pairs left in the lower 48 states. The die off was due to variety of factors. Thinning of egg shells and limited ability to reproduce was caused from the use of the pesticide DDT. Other factors included loss of habitat, shootings, power line electrocution, and collisions in flight. It was put on the U.S. federal government's list of “Endangered” species in 1978. By 1992 the population was up to 110,000–115,000. The Bald Eagle was reclassified to "Threatened" in 1995. It was de-listed in 2007. Now it is now at classified in the “Least Concern” category.


The Bald Eagle was made the national bird of the United States of America on June 20, 1782 (Benjamin Franklin wanted the national bird to be the Wild Turkey, but was overruled).


If you look at a list of national birds, you will find that we are not the only country to choose an eagle as their national bird. Mexico chose the Golden Eagle, Panama, the Harpy Eagle, Zambia, the African Fish Eagle and Zimbabwe, the African Fish Eagle.


The Bald eagle is known to occur statewide in Utah, including at Utah Lake during the winter, Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge, and at the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge. Scott Root, DWR Conservation Outreach Manager, says there are 11 nesting pair of Bald Eagles in the State. If you have seen nesting Bald Eagles, give him a call at (801) 491-5678. I have included a picture of myself holding an immature Bald Eagle for you to get an idea of the size of this bird.

 



Backyard Bird of the Month

May 2009

Dennis Shirley - Elk Ridge
House Wren - Has been singing and using a nest box we put up.

Steve Carr - Holladay
White-winged Crossbill - New and unexpected yard bird.

Milt Moody - Provo
My backyard bird of the month is a Hermit Thrush that liked my branch pile.

Yvonne Carter - Highland
We have had Black-headed Grosbeaks singing away along with Spotted Towhees and Scrub Jays fighting for turns at the feeders for the last couple of weeks! Quite a noisy crowd.

Tuula Rose - Provo
Number 74 for my yard - the inevitable Eurasian Collared-Dove. First new yard bird this year. I don't know if I should rejoice or not.

Alton Thygerson - Provo
Western Tanager - one of the most colorful birds.

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Western Screech-Owl - The owlets fledged out of the nest box this month.

Bonnie Williams – Mapleton
A Yellow Warbler was the first bird I saw in May in my yard. I had a total of 32 birds for the month.

Cheryl Peterson - Provo
This wasn't in my yard, but that is where I was standing when I saw an Osprey fly towards the lake. Not sure why it was coming from the Slate Canyon area.


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 Cheryl Peterson at 375-1914 (home) or 787-6492 (cell).

 


We are accepting 2009 dues for membership in Utah County Birders throughout the 2009 season.  If you would like to be an official member of our group and receive a handheld copy of the newsletter, do the following:

Make a check out to Utah County Birders for $15.00.  Put it in an envelope addressed to:
Carol Nelson
2831 Marrcrest West
Provo, Utah 84604

Then, drop it in the mail.  And as always, thanks for your support and a special thanks to those we never see, but who still show their support by their dues donations!