Utah County Birders Newsletter
February 2010

    February Meeting
Upcoming Field Trips
    Ned's Notes
    What Do Your Dues Do?
    Miscellaneous Information
    Bird of the Month
    Backyard Bird of the Month


Thursday, February 11th.

Behind the Door Tour of The Bean Museum - A private tour of the collection rooms in the BYU Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum. Come see the other animal collections [not just birds] - mammals, herps, insects, plants and others. Should be an informative evening of our own UCB Meeting House.

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


Feb 20, 2010: Delta Snow Goose Festival - Will also visit Clear Lake Waterfowl Management Area if time, weather, and road conditions permit. Leave Payson WalMart at 7 am. Trip will run from 7 am - 12 pm. Please plan on carpooling with others.  see http://www.deltagoosefestival.info/ for Festival info.

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

By Ned Hill – President, Utah County Birders

“Birding In Ecuador—Part 1: Yanacocha Preserve”

Some of you have suggested that I chronicle some of the birding adventures I’ve had in South America these past few years. I’ll start with an excursion four of us plus our guide took into the highlands and rain forest of Ecuador in November 2008. My friend Robert Parsons (some of you might remember his father, Professor Robert Parsons of BYU’s School of Religious Education who was an avid birder in Utah County for many years) found out about a guide named Rudy Gelis of Pluma Verde Tours who conducted birding tours in Ecuador and Peru. Robert had engaged Rudy to guide a few family members after they had taken a trip to the Galapagos Islands the previous year and found him to be excellent. It’s important to go with a guide who not only knows and loves birds but also understands the country and language and knows how to work with birders. Rudy does all of this superbly well. He’s originally from West Virginia and Florida but has lived in Ecuador now for about 13 years. He is 6’7” and is the fastest person I’ve ever seen for getting on a rare bird and then getting the group on the bird before it flies away. And he’s a lot of fun to be with. We trusted Robert’s recommendation and signed Rudy up to guide Robert, his son Daniel (both from Maryland), my friend Rich Vial (from Seattle) and me for a two-week adventure that ended just before Thanksgiving.

Why Ecuador? While it’s only a little larger than the state of Utah, it is home to about 1600 bird species. The towering mountains of the Andes run down the middle with moist foothills on either side. In the west are dry forests and in the east lies the diversity-rich rain forest of the Amazonian Basin. While Peru and Colombia have about 1800 species each, they are many times the size of Ecuador. Plus, Colombia still has some dangerous areas. In contrast, Ecuador is a very safe country to visit with excellent lodges and relatively good roads making for pleasant travel between birding “hot spots.” Ecuador boasts 130 species of hummingbirds, 137 different tanagers, 19 toucans, 3 quetzals, 21 manakins, 142 antbirds, 78 funariids (ovenbirds), and a whopping 210 flycatchers! So, for the biggest “bangs-for-the-buck” in terms of species a birder can likely encounter, Ecuador is the answer.

Day 1—Yanacocha Preserve on the Side of the Pichincha Volcano

After arriving late the night before from the States and finding the unmistakable Rudy towering above everyone else in the Quito airport, we got a short night’s sleep in preparation for an early morning pick-up. We headed west out of Ecuador’s capital city, located almost right on the Equator in the Inter-Andean Plain ringed by high mountains, some with active volcanoes. As we began to rise in elevation, we began to encounter our first Ecuadorean species: Rufous-collared Sparrow (abundant), the striking Golden-bellied Grosbeak, Great Thrush and a fly-by Aplomado Falcon.

But we didn’t stop to look too carefully as our destination was the Jocotoco Foundation’s Yanacocha Preserve on the slop of the 13,000 ft. Pichincha Volcano.  It is a 2,000 acre site for the study of birds of the Western Andean Foothills.  It encompasses the entire range of the endangered Black-Breasted Puffleg (a hummingbird) and other high-altitude specialties. We parked at the research station and began hiking along the wooded slope of the volcano.  Our first birds were Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Rufous Wren, Spectacled Whitestart and White-banded Tyrannulet. Blue-and-white and Brown-bellied Swallows soared overhead.  We heard a bird calling incessantly from a thicket just off the trail.  With patience, Rudy had us stay very still while he played the call of the bird a few times—it finally popped into view—an Ash-colored Tapaculo.  Tapaculos are the true skulkers of tropical birding.  They are easily heard but hardly ever seen.  It was a rare treat to actually see one. We heard two other species of Tapaculos but could not see them at that time.  We also heard several Antpittas calling: Chestnut-crowned, Rufous and Tawny but could not find one. I had never before seen an antpitta so I was very keen to find one on this trip. Overhead we encountered a mixed flock containing the gorgeous Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, plus Hooded Mountain-Tanager and Superciliaried Hemispingus.  What a name that last fellow has!  We also found both Cinereous and Blue-backed  Conebill, both higher-altitude specialists along with Glossy and White-sided Flowerpiercer. Flowerpiercers are interesting birds.  They consume nectar but they don’t go through the opening of the flower as hummingbirds do.  Instead they take a shortcut using their sharp bills to pierce through the base of the flower and sucking out the juices! 

At the end of the two-mile or so trail, we reached a hummingbird feeding station with benches and sugar-water feeders all around.  With great relief, we sat down for a snack and began a visual feast.  Hummingbirds were darting everywhere from flowers to feeders to trees. It was hard to decide what to focus on.  Rudy kept pointing out different species to us and hollering out their names: Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Mountain Velvetbreast, Great Sapphirewing (three together at one feeder), Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Sapphire-vented Puffleg, Golden-breasted Puffleg and Tyrian Metaltail. Such a display of colors, sizes and shapes.  Then, overhead, high in a tree sat the granddaddy of them all: the incredible Swordbilled Hummingbird!  This species boasts the longest bill in the hummingbird world.  It feeds from the deep-throated Brugmansia flowers. Sometimes, a Swordbill came down to a nectar feeder; but it had to hover 5-6 inches above the level of the other hummers in order to get its bill into the shallow opening. I had seen swordbills in the field guide but I didn’t realize we’d be able to get such good looks at them and snap a few photographs, too.  Unfortunately, no Black-Breasted Pufflegs were to be seen.  Rudy has not seen them now for a year or more.

On the way back Rudy became very excited. Overhead we had spotted a couple of large birds soaring—eagles apparently.  As they wheeled, turned and came closer, we could make out the dark bodies patched with cinnamon—Black-and-Chestnut Eagles! They are fairly rare and only one nest has ever been studied of this species.  We learned that Rudy is an expert on bird nests and has participated in 50-60 ornithological papers reporting on bird nests.

We heard a very loud call from the underbrush—an Ocellated Tapaculo, Rudy told us.  THE tapaculo of South America—almost never seen.  He played his tape and got the bird to come closer.  He used his voice, too, mimicking the bird’s loud call.  Dan and I sat carefully on the trail straining our eyes and ears to find the bird.  I finally saw movement in the underbrush and in the shadows saw the red and black bird with white spots on it as it stealthily moved away down the hill.  What fun to have seen two tapaculos in one day.

We ate the lunch Rudy had packed for us and began the drive down towards our home for the next three nights—Septimo Paraiso Lodge.  On the way, we stopped by a small river and found a couple of White-capped Dippers the only dipper in South America.  It’s the one dipper that doesn’t actually “dip” into the water.  It just eats insects near the water’s edge.  A Masked Trogon perched in a tree nearby and very familiar Cattle Egret flew lazily over a small field.  We were anxious to see what we could discover at our new, lower altitude location.

Next: The Mindo Cloud Forest Preserve 


“What Do Your Dues Do?”

(Utah Birds website report)
by Milt Moody

What do your dues do? A male Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus) was brazenly and persistently asking that question the other morning and I thought he deserves an answer .

So, the main things that your dues do are: fund the Utah County Birders newsletter, pay for prizes if we have a contests, sometimes provide for some of the food, plates or utensils for our annual pot luck dinner AND pay the monthly web-site-provider fee (which is where I’m headed with all this). Here’s a little something about the web-site for all of you “share holders.”

Every once in a while I check ask.com to see how our web site is doing – they provide some free web-site info as a hook to get you to buy more, but your dues don’t go for such frivolous things, you’ll be happy to know. Here’s some of the free info I got: For the year 2009, the best month for “unique visitors” (UV’s we’ll call them) was June with 16,300 different computers finding our web site – I would have guessed maybe May would be the biggest month, but maybe everyone’s out in the field. The slowest month was December with 5,214 UV’s – due to Christmas shopping? or Christmas bird counting? A quick calculation comes up with 8,730 average UV’s per month for 2009 (I couldn’t find a state site with more than this). Since there are only 431 e-mail addresses on the birdnet hotline, that leaves 8,299 “unique visitors” unaccounted for (I’m assuming that all birders in Utah are unique and beautiful in their own way). The Photo Gallery is the main destination for our web site users with over 7, 000 “unique photos” (an average of over 17 photos for each of Utah 444 species–since I’ve got my calculator out). These are varied pictures of males, females, juveniles, action shots, etc., from over 160 “unique photographers” who are sending in better and better pictures all the time–it’s no surprise that the bird pictures are the favorite thing on the web site–we’ve got some great ones! Who are these unaccounted-for visitors? Well, about half of them are referrals from Google as might be expected, but the rest could be anybody from anywhere, but if they’re interested in birds, they must be nice (and unique) people as all of us birders are.

Thanks to all who have contributed your sightings, photos, information, etc., to the web site and a special thanks to Eric Huish for all of his behind-the-scenes work that is seldom heard about, AND thanks to all you due payers who support this unique cause.


Miscellaneous Information

Dennis Shirley is the new program director for the club.  Many thanks to him for his willingness to take on this responsibility.

 2010 UCB Birding Challenge   http://www.utahbirds.org/ucb/specialreports/2010BirdingChallenge.pdf

There is also a link on the Utah County Birders Web Page at  http://www.utahbirds.org/ucb/

Great Backyard Bird Count
 February 12 – 15   www.birdcount.org for more info

Membership List
  It has been quite a while since we have sent out a new membership list.  We list your name, phone number, address and email address.  If you have had phone or email changes in the past couple of years, email or call me with the changes (CherylPeterson@gmail.com or 375-1914).  I can list both home and cell numbers.  If you don't want to be listed, please let me know as soon as possible.  I will mail out copies of the list  in the newsletter in the next couple of months.  If you don't want to receive one, let me know.  For those of you who pay dues and don't receive the hard copy of the newsletter, let me know if you want me to send you a list.



photo by Jack Binch

Bird of the Month

Long-eared Owl
(Asio otus)
by Ned Bixler

While birding the Provo Airport dikes, with Eric Huish on January 6th, we saw a Long-eared Owl.  Later that day we also had a chance to show the owl to Reed Stone.  It was sitting in a small tree on the west dike. The same day, we birded the Utah Lake State Park and found a second Long-eared Owl.  A week later (13th) the owl was still at the airport, but the one at Utah Lake SP was gone.  Subsequently, Leena Rogers reported that she and Milt Moody saw the owl at the airport.

The Long-eared Owl is medium-sized.  It is strictly nocturnal and is secretive.  It has a rust-colored facial disk and yellow eyes.  The long feathered ear tusks are closer together than those of the great horned owl.  They are not ears, but do serve to help camouflage by making it appear like a broken tree branch.  While often silent, they can make catlike noises or twitter like a canary when dawn nears.

The owl roosts in woods, thick forests, and shrublands.  It hunts in open areas such as farmlands, prairies, and meadows and marshes near-by. Their nests can be found in abandoned nests of crows, magpies, or herons, or maybe in a tree cavity.  To its nest it may add strips of bark or leaves and feathers from the female’s breast.  The female may lay from three to eight white eggs with an incubation period of three or four weeks.

The diet of the long-eared owl consists of small mammals and rodents. It may sometimes prey on bats or songbirds.

In winter, they may form communal roosts of up to 50 or more birds. This is usually in dense conifers.

There has been a general decline of the long-eared owl population, primarily in the West, due to forest cutting and the loss of riparian habitats.  The life span in North America has reached nine years, but the breeding population in the United States has not been determined.

The above information can be found in Owls of the United States and Canada by Wayne Lynch, published by Johns Hopkins University in 2007, page 29; and on page 243 of Stokes western region field guide, c. 1996.


Backyard Bird of the Month

January 2010

Bruce Robinson – West Jordan
Sharp-shinned  Hawk - Hawk - 1  Starling - 0

Milt Moody – Provo
Sharp-shinned Hawk chasing the other birds

Tuula Rose – Provo
Three Red-winged Blackbirds eating sunflower seeds.  An odd sight next to the House Finches!

Steve Carr - Holladay
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 2 of them enjoying suet, peanuts, sunflower seed chips.

Dennis Shirley – Elk Ridge
As reported last week I had an immature NORTHERN GOSHAWK perched at my backyard feeders. A new yard bird. First new "category" bird of 2010!!

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
A White-throated Sparrow and Bullock's Oriole - same as last month.

Bonnie Williams – Mapleton
Black-capped Chickadee – the first bird in my yard to start the new year.

Cheryl Peterson – Provo
I have enjoyed watching the Eurasian Collared-Doves and Mourning Doves at my feeders.


Report your favorite backyard bird each month to Cheryl Peterson at 801-375-1914 or CherylPeterson@gmail.com


2010 Dues

Hey, the new year is here!! Thanks to all who have supported us in the past. If you are interested in officially joining us this year, make out a check to Utah County Birders for $15.00 and mail it to:

Carol Nelson
2831 Marrcrest West
Provo, Utah 84604

You will be helping to support the web page and we will send you a copy of the newsletter.