Utah County Birders Newsletter
November 2009

    November Meeting
Upcoming Field Trips
    Ned's Notes
    Field Trip Report
- The Big Sit
    Field Trip Report
- Provo Canyon, Aspen Grove
    Bird of the Month
    Backyard Bird of the Month


Thursday, November 12th.

Merrill Webb - “Birds of Panama"

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


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.

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.

Ned’s Notes

Confessions of a Birder Spouse
Part II
Delusions and Insanity
by Claralyn M. Hill

Before I expound on my worldwide adventures with my birder boy husband, I must tell you that I am neither delusional nor hallucinogenic, as my family has thought from time to time. This appearance of delusion results from the many true encounters I’ve had with Ned’s bird buddies, even in our house, and the assumptions that have been created by these close calls, some of which I described in the last newsletter. So, I confess my ignorance, confusion, and exuberance over birds have led me to this state of vulnerability in which my family must watch over me; but after you have read this I’m sure you’ll agree that my family has some responsibility for my apparent delusions as well!

My first brush with insanity took place over twenty years ago in Venezuela. Ned and I had gone there for meetings and a little R&R. We stayed in a lovely little ancient hotel in Caracas. A caged toucan outside the building enhanced the South American atmosphere. Of course, however colorful and lively the toucan was, he didn’t “count,” as he was caged. So we spent every moment we could away from the pool and the meetings searching for birds. The most ubiquitous bird around the hotel was a small bird that seemed active early in the morning about the time we were waking. He had a high pitched “meep, meep” call, and was always up before us, no matter how early we arose. I was never able to see him, though I searched around the hotel grounds while Ned was in meetings. Apparently, he quieted down by the time I got outside. But I appreciated his early morning cheerful company so far from home. Years later, when I traveled again with Ned, this time to Boston, I heard my little friend again. “How could he be in Boston?” I asked Ned. Could it be that he was migratory and happened to have been in both locations just at the times we traveled there? No, my expert husband observed dryly. My little bird was just his travel alarm.

The second experience happened only a few years ago. One night, when all the children and grandchildren had left for the evening, and Ned was traveling worldwide, I went into the kitchen to finish cleaning up. I was alone in the house, but I heard a distinct sound of a bird singing. In fact, as I listened, the bird song took on the sound of Brahms lullaby. How strange! Could a bird really sing to the tune of “lullaby and good night, la de da da--de da da?” But there it was. I heard it again. Maybe a mockingbird was outside. I knew that magpies and flickers had made their nests in the eves and crevices of the house that year, right under the kitchen window, and I conjectured that some mama bird had learned to copy that tune and was singing it to her baby birdies. I felt a kinship. I had sung to my babies, too. I tried to seek out where the sound was coming from. It was coming from under the kitchen sink. There—it must be the birds in the crevice below. Still, it was eerie.

I called our daughter, Alison, and explained that a bird was singing Brahms lullaby in the eaves of the house somewhere. “Can they really do that?” I asked. Alison is her father’s daughter, and I rely on her to answer such questions when he is out of town. She was clearly alarmed and asked me to stay on the phone with her while she jumped in the car to come right over. “Someone must be in the house with you,” she fretted. No, I could tell this was not a person. Alarmed, she drove closer, still on the phone. The tone in her voice changed to that of a person set to have her mother straitjacketed. She asked me to keep trying to figure out what it really was. She obviously did not believe in Brahms-singing birds. I continued to search for the source of the sound. It was not exactly under the sink. More to the right. As we talked, I pulled out the drawer reserved for children’s toys. There, in the drawer to the right of the sink, was a little electronic singing toy one of the children had dropped in before leaving. Its tone was curiously like that of the Venezuelan bird I had heard years before, only this one could sing. I told Alison what I had found and she returned to her family, relieved that she had not had to rescue me.

Now, I don’t want to blame anyone but myself for these fiascoes, and I continue to maintain that my mind is sound. But I would also like to propose that those of us who live with birder boys may have to fight off insanity more than the average person!


Field Trip Report

Oliver watching Redheads in the moat at sunset on the Big Sit
photo by Eric Huish

Matt, Milt, KC and Tuula at The Big Sit
photo by Eric Huish

The Big Sit - 11 October 2009
By Eric Huish


The Utah Lake Provo Airport Dike Sit Circle was covered from 6:10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and again from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. This was our 8th year participating on the big sit. Matt Mills and I got there just after 6:00 a.m. and KC Childs showed up shortly after. A barn owl was the only bird we got in the dark that we never saw again during daylight hours.

Showing up at a more sensible time were Tuula Rose, Milton Moody, Yvonne Carter, Keeli Marvel, a couple of nice folks I hadn't meet before now (I forgot your names). Tuula's Daughter and Grandson also joined us for a while. We all left for lunch at 12:30.

At 5:00 p.m. I retuned to the circle. Oliver Hanson had birded the dike and was looking for the Big Sitters when I got there. Ned Bixler joined us a little later and we birded to after sunset. A beautiful sunset.

We didn't have the mudflats we've had in past years so our shorebird list was low but we got a higher than average duck list.

It can be maddening the birds you miss on a big sit. Just 3 days before the sit I saw cormorants from that spot, the afternoon before the sit KC and I had Sandhill Cranes out there and the day of the sit Matt saw a Junco in the brush just 20 yards away but he wasn't in the circle and no one was able to see it from the circle. Just to name a few examples of misses.

We were able to see or hear 54 species from our circle. Our record is 58 species in one day and our 8 year (8 day) Big Sit Life List is now at 105 species. We added one Big Sit Lifer this year - Eurasian Collared-Dove.

Here is our list. Number of species: 54
Canada Goose 15, Gadwall 1, American Wigeon 2, Mallard 4, Northern Shoveler 4, Northern Pintail 1, Redhead 2, Ruddy Duck 1, Ring-necked Pheasant 3, Pied-billed Grebe 5, Western Grebe 1 (Heard Only), Great Blue Heron 2
Snowy Egret 1, Black-crowned Night-Heron 1, White-faced Ibis 2, Northern Harrier 1, Sharp-shinned Hawk 1, Red-tailed Hawk 1, American Kestrel 2, Merlin 1, Virginia Rail 1 (Heard Only), American Coot 2, Killdeer 5, Greater Yellowlegs 1 (Heard Only), Wilson's Snipe 2, Ring-billed Gull 20, California Gull 3, Rock Pigeon 6, Eurasian Collared-Dove 30, Barn Owl 1, Belted Kingfisher 2, Downy Woodpecker 1 (Heard Only), Northern Flicker 2, Black-billed Magpie 1, Northern Rough-winged Swallow 20, Barn Swallow 150, Black-capped Chickadee 2, Marsh Wren 3 (Heard Only), Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1, American Robin 200, European Starling 300, American Pipit 3, Cedar Waxwing 4, Orange-crowned Warbler 1, Yellow-rumped Warbler 5, Spotted Towhee 1, Song Sparrow 1, White-crowned Sparrow 3, Red-winged Blackbird 50, Yellow-headed Blackbird 1, Western Meadowlark 1, Brewer's Blackbird 10, House Finch 8 and American Goldfinch 2


Field Trip Report

Left to right - Junece, Oliver, Ned, Karen, Eric and Keeli.
photo by Lu Giddings

Provo Canyon and Aspen Grove -

24 October 2009
By Lu Giddings

October field trips can be a bit tricky, trying to avoid duck hunters in the wetlands, deer hunters in the mountains, and hoping all the while the weather and the birds cooperate. Seven Utah County birders made stops in Provo Canyon at Canyon Glen Park, Vivian Park, and Aspen Grove this morning. In spite of a bit of rain and a rather cool breeze, the time was well spent. We viewed several winter wrens along the bicycle path through Canyon Glen Park. We counted at least two but there were probably several more. We may have heard yet another winter wren during a brief stay at Vivian Park but the road noise made it very difficult to be certain. We wondered whether these were winter arrivals, or possibly birds that are summer residents that either remain unnoticed during summer or perhaps migrate further up the mountain when it’s warm. We also enjoyed excellent looks at a golden-crowned kinglet while at Aspen Grove and a golden eagle soaring overhead.

Participants: Ned Bixler, Lu Giddings, Karen Hansen, Oliver Hansen, Eric Huish, Junece Markham and Keeli Marvel.

A partial trip list: species: 16
Golden Eagle, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, Steller's Jay, Western Scrub-Jay, Black-billed Magpie, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee Mountain Chickadee, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, American Dipper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Song Sparrow.




photo by Bryan Shirley

Bird of the Month

Himalayan Snowcock
(Tetraogallus himalayensis)
by Grant Jense

There are five subspecies of Himalayan Snowcock that belong to the order Galliformes and the family Phasianidae. Males average 28 inches in length and stand about 14 inches high. Game farm raised hens average 4.3 pounds and males 5.5 pounds. One large male killed by a hunter weighed 10 pounds.

Snowcock resemble a large chucker at a distance. They are large and the plumage is patterned with grey, brown, white and black, but look grey at a distance. The face and throat are white with a brown band below the eye that extends onto the neck forming a collar. Females are similar to males, but lack tarsal spurs and have more buff on the face.

The nest is a scrape on bare ground and typically contains 5-10 eggs. Only the female incubates the eggs, but both parents raise the young. Snowcock eat seeds and vegetable matter such as grasses, sedges and forbs. They occupy high elevation alpine and subalpine habitats that have open areas near rocky, precipitous hillsides with cliffs and edges. On native ranges they summer at elevations near 17,000 feet and spend the winters as low as 7000 feet, depending on the amount of snowfall.

The Himalayan Snowcock is native to Central Asia from central and northern Afghanistan east through Pakistan, northwestern India to Nepal and parts of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and China.

In 1961 a Nevada sheep hunter, Hamilton McCaughey, noted the habitat similarities between some Nevada mountains and India. He made arrangements with the President of Pakistan to obtain snowcock. The first shipment was received in 1963, but suffered 63% loss while in transit. By 1965 Nevada received a total of 107 snowcock from Hunza, Pakistan. Due to heavy losses during transportation the Nevada Department of Wildlife decided to attempt to raise snowcock on a game farm in Mason Valley. From 1965-1979 2,025 snowcock were propagated and released into the wild. They found that propagating snowcock was difficult and their optimistic goal of 1,200 - 1,400 annually was not met.

Snowcock were released into five Nevada ranges. The major release efforts were centered in the Ruby and East Humboldt Mountains of Northeastern Nevada. A total of 1,717 snowcock (17 wild and 1,700 game farm raised birds) were released into the Ruby Mountains, which contains the majority of snowcock habitat in Nevada, about 30 square miles. Snowcock have only established viable populations in the Ruby and East Humboldt ranges. Places where snowcock have been observed in the Ruby Mountains include Thomas Peak, Wines Peak, Ruby Dome, Mount Gilbert, Verdi Peak and Old Man on the Mountain. Most of these peaks are over 11,000 feet. Several winter/spring observations have been across from Camp Lamoille near 8,000 foot elevation in Lamoille Canyon. Probably the majority of sightings have been in the Island Lake and Thomas Peak area. A good trail that is two miles in length leads to Island Lake. Snowcock have been observed on the slopes above the lake and on the nearby slopes of Thomas Peak.

Snowcock usually fly down from their roosts on ridge tops at dawn into open areas containing vegetation to feed. They then walk back up the mountain to their roost sites.

When searching for snowcock it is helpful to know their calls, since they are often heard before they are seen. They are often seen flying from roost sites to feeding areas, but generally walk away from where they land. They often perch on high ledges and rock pillars found in the middle of some chutes. These areas provide great vantage points and a very easy means of escape. Snowcock tend to be very jumpy and easy to flush. A good time to search for snowcock is in late July and August when broods have a tendency to form small coveys. (continued on next page)
The Island Lake / Thomas Peak area is a very beautiful place to be at sunrise on a clear summer morning and seeing snowcock in such a pretty area is a very rewarding experience as experienced by Dennis Shirley, Alton Thygerson and Grant Jense on August 28, 2009.


Backyard Bird of the Month

October 2009

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
A pair of Common Ravens spent a few minutes circling over the yard. I don't often get ravens here.

Bonnie Williams – Mapleton
I had a Rufous Hummingbird in my yard that was last seen on October 15.

Steve Carr - Holladay
All 3 Carduelins are back at the Nyjer feeders.

Alton Thygerson -- Provo
Two Black-capped Chickadees making their quick visits to a feeder

Milt Moody – Provo
Ruby-crowned Kinglet doing its butterfly imitation

Reed Stone - Provo
About 30 CEDAR WAXWINGS stripping berries from Mt. Ash tree. WONDERFUL!

KC Childs – Provo
I just recently moved into a new house in Provo, so things are slow to get going. The best bird thus far is a Cedar Waxwing.

Yvonne Carter – Highland
Returning home from Cape May, NJ I have Juncos and a Northern Flicker. It's a little quiet since the feeders were neglected while I was back East.

Alona Huffaker - Springville
There's very little good to be said about the return of "old man winter". except it also brings back our winter bird friends! This week I've had Oregon Juncos, Western Scrub Jays, Mountain Chickadee, and I heard a Spotted Towhee.

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 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!