Utah County Birders Newsletter
Wednesday, September 10th.
"Birding Adventure in
Peru: the Amazon, the High Andes and the Coast"
Ned Hill reports on his trip this June where the group saw nearly 500 species.
Meet at 7:00 PM in the Bean Museum Auditorium on the BYU Campus.
September 12 (Sat), 2009: River Lane and Swede’s
Lane - it’s time to check for unusual migrants. 7:00 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Meet at Springville Walmart, NE corner of lot.
September 26 (Sat), 2009: DWR Raptor Watch Day; Squaw Peak Road - This year’s Raptor Watch Day will be held September 26, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Orem overlook along Squaw Peak Road, east of Orem. To reach Squaw Peak Road, travel east on 800 N. in Orem to the Provo Canyon Road and then to Squaw Peak Road. Bob Walters, Watchable Wildlife coordinator, says, “If the skies are clear, you’ll be treated to up-close glimpses of harriers, vultures, eagles, hawks and falcons as they continue their annual migration to the south. For more information about this free event, call Walters at (801) 538-4771.
October 11 (Sun), 2009: The Big Sit, Provo Airport Dike - This will be our 8th year participating in the annual Big Sit! - We will sit in one spot out on the Provo Airport Dike all day and watch birds (exact location TBA). Our record is 53 species. Last year we were able to see 45 species including Stilt Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper and Merlin. Come out and sit as little or as long as you like. Details TBA.
October 24 (Sat), 2009: Provo Canyon, Sundance, and Aspen Grove - a last look for summer birds and a first look for incoming winter birds. 7:00 a.m.-12 p.m., meet at Sam’s Club parking lot, 1313 S. University Ave., Provo.
November 14 (Sat), 2009: Loon Loop - 7:00 a.m.-12 p.m., meet at Sam’s Club parking lot, 1313 S. University Ave., Provo: Deer Creek and Jordanelle reservoirs, East canyon reservoir, and the Antelope Island Causeway if time and the birds permit.
December 19 (Sat) 2009: Provo Christmas Bird Count - Please mark you calendars. This year's Provo Christmas Bird Count will take place on Saturday, December 19th. We will gather to report our findings that evening at 6:00 pm. We'll let you know where as the time approaches. Contact Ned Hill if you are interested in participating.
December 29, 2009 : Bluff Christmas Bird Count; date tentative, 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
Pelagic Birding (Part 2)
My first real pelagic birding adventure was in Monterey Bay, CA, in late October of about 1990. Ivan Call and I flew into the San Francisco airport, rented a car and drove through picturesque farm land to Monterey. We found our motel and got an early night’s sleep to prepare for a very early start the next morning. Since the trip was billed as a “Storm-Petrel Study Tour” we had studied diligently to get some idea how to separate out those butterflies of the sea. The advertising had reported the possibility of encountering “clouds” of Storm-Petrels on such a trip. We took our sea-sickness medication before heading down to the dock where Debbie Shearwater was going to meet us and guide the trip. About 30 other birders joined us from all around the country. “Shearwater Journeys” even back then was quite well-known. The captain was an experienced one very used to birders and other nature enthusiasts. His boat was something like a 35-footer and it had a bathroom downstairs and a galley for food. We stowed our gear beneath the deck and everyone stood near a railing ready to find our first pelagic lifers.
As the boat slowly made its way out of the crowded harbor we saw many other boats filled with fishermen heading out for the day—some commercial but most were amateurs. California Sea Lions did acrobatics along the way hoping someone would throw them a fish. Gulls, mainly Western and California, were wheeling and screaming everywhere. Just a short way out we began to see Pigeon Guillemot, Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants—they nest under and around the piers. But our leaders told us to not spend too much energy until we got at least five to ten miles off the coast. At about that distance, we began to see our first shearwaters—mostly Sooty. Shearwaters can be recognized from quite a distance. With their long wings they gracefully soar just inches above the water, sometimes in long lines. Upwards of a million Sooty Shearwater migrate each fall and spring along the California coast. They harness the micro-air currents above the waves just the way a hawk harnesses updrafts on a warm day. We eventually saw some perched on the water. Then some smaller shearwaters flew in—strikingly black and white, Townsend’s Shearwater. Then a bulkier “shearwater-like” bird with white wing patches flew by, a Northern Fulmar. When we came across a group of feeding shearwaters and fulmars, Debbie was able to point out the unusual beaks of these ocean-going birds. The extra tube above the beak is for the extrusion of salt—that’s what gives many of these birds and name “tube noses.” The mechanism, however it works, enables such birds to subsist on a diet of fish and salt water—something that would do in most animals.
We took turns cranking the food
grinder attached to the stern of the boat. We ground up small fish and let the
effluent drop into the sea. Pelagic birds have an acute sense of smell and can
detect fish odor from miles away. When the grinder was in action, a constant
cloud of birds circled the boat hoping for a tidbit. We saw several “flying
footballs”—Cassins’s Auklet speeding by and several larger Rhinoceros
Auklet, too. One of the birders was from Australia or New Zealand. He
suddenly cried out, “Wedge-tailed, wedge-tailed!” jabbing a finger toward a bird
in the circling flock. Sure enough, one of the birds was a medium-sized, dark
shearwater with a longer, wedge-shaped tail. They are common in waters around
Australia/NZ but we were all excited to see perhaps only the third or fourth
record of Wedge-tailed Shearwater in North American waters. I think this
was Debbie’s first time seeing that species in Monterey Bay.
Several times dolphins would come along the boat and frolic in the water very near us. They would often jump completely out of the water in graceful arcs. Towards afternoon we saw up ahead that the ocean was boiling. As we approached the area, we found ourselves surrounded by hundreds and hundreds (Debbie estimated 3,000) Common Dolphin. For a while they were jumping and twisting all around us as far as the eye could see. I have never before or since seen so many dolphins in one location. It must have been quite a huge school of fish that drew them to the area. Seabirds were abundant in the area, too—Pink-footed and Short-tailed Shearwater, Ashy Storm-Petrel, Long-tailed Jaeger, and others mentioned above.
Unfortunately, the promised flocks of Storm-Petrels did not materialize. Sometimes they are there, sometimes they are not. It was an exciting day for all—especially to be able to see an unexpected shearwater.
Since that first adventure in Monterey Bay, I’ve been back four or five times. Different times of year present different birds. One year the el Nino conditions caused the water to be much warmer than usual and the food sources died out—we saw relatively few birds then—but the ones we did see were rarer like Parakeet Auklet. Another year, we went out of Bodega Bay, up shore from Monterey Bay. This trip went further out where we found the rarer Flesh-footed Shearwater, Black-footed Albatross, Sabine’s Gull, and Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel. On some of these Northern California trips we have seen many Hump-backed Whales and even seven Blue Whales, the largest mammals on the planet.
Of course, not all pelagic trips work out. I was so excited one Saturday morning to be going on a pelagic off the coast of Maryland with Brian Patteson. He leads tours out of several East Coast locations. The weather seemed perfect and I was so excited to see an anticipated 5-7 “lifers.” However, when I arrived at the dock and found a large group of waiting birders, I was disappointed to learn that the weather 40-50 miles off the coast (you have to go at least that far to reach the Continental Shelf) was very windy with high waves. The trip was cancelled. I’ve never been able to get back to a second try at a pelagic in that area.
However, my son Aaron and I did take a pelagic out of Key West, Florida, on our way to the Dry Tortugas one April. The trip leader was none other than the quiet but brilliant David Sibley who went on to write what is perhaps the finest field guide in North America. It took us just a few hours to reach our destination but we found wonderful birds on the way and around the islands: Roseate Tern, Audubon’s Shearwater, Bridled and Sooty Terns, Masked and Brown Boobies, Magnificent Frigatebird, as well as both Brown and Black Noddies. Of course, the real treat was the large number of warblers and other passerines that stopped on the island on their way to the mainland. We were able to lounge around a drip tube and get within a few feet of some otherwise very difficult to find warblers.
One last pelagic trip I must mention. One summer we took the whole family on a trip up the East Coast to, eventually, Maine. A highlight was a boat trip our of Jonesport into Canadian waters and around some islands where we saw Greater and Manx Shearwaters, Razorbill, and many comically colorful Atlantic Puffin. We were also attacked by a furious Arctic Term that had built its nest on the trail we were walking on. This is the bird that has probably the longest migration path in the world (nearly 24,000 miles round trip). It was a short but rewarding trip and the family and I enjoyed it very much. Lobster dinner afterwards topped off the day.
Pelagic birding adds a dimension to birding enjoyment that is not attainable on land. If you haven’t already, you must try it for a totally different kind of birding adventure.
Alan & Selena Keller - Orem
Western Wood-Pewee. Also, 4 California Quail chicks come every day with 4 guardians.
Tuula Rose – Provo
A female Calliope Hummingbird showed up for two days and then most likely gave up the fight with the rufous.
Alton Thygerson - Provo
Rufous Hummingbird — aggressive at the feeder, but a sign that the fall migration is on.
Steve Carr - Holladay
Pine Siskin - Several pairs stayed all summer and raised some young.
Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Swainson's Hawk - soaring in circles high in the sky.
Milt Moody – Provo
Female Western Tanager
Bonnie Williams – Mapleton
Hummingbirds! I have had more this year (since about August 15) than at any other time.
Reed Stone – Provo
My Bird of the Month is the Cedar Waxwing. Many came to my Hawthorne tree for the berries. With the help of the Black-headed Grosbeaks, they stripped it clean.
Cheryl Peterson – Provo
Please send an email at the end of the month with your favorite yard bird to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Cheryl Peterson at 375-1914
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@example.com 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:
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!