Utah County Birders Newsletter
March 2010

    March Meeting
Upcoming Field Trips
    Ned's Notes
    Field Trip Report
- Delta Snow Goose Festival - 20 February, 2010
    Bird of the Month
    Backyard Bird of the Month


Thursday, March 11th, 2010

California Condors of Southern Utah - by DWR Biologist, Jimmy Parrish.
A presentation on the current population of the Utah condors, their management and cooperative research programs with Arizona and public involvement programs. Should be very educational.

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


Beginning birders and nonmembers are welcome.

March 27, 2010: River Lane & Lincoln Beach. It’s time to look for early migrants and to say good-bye to lingering winter birds. Leave Springville WalMart at 8:00 a.m.. Field trip will run from 8:00 a.m. to 12 p.m.

April 17, 2010: Ophir Canyon and Rush Valley. We’ll begin by visiting Ophir and the south end of the Oquirrh mountains, and then loop south through Rush Valley through Vernon to Eureka and Goshen. Leave Provo East Bay Sam’s Club at 7:00 a.m. Field trip will run from 7:00 a.m. to1 p.m. Bring a lunch and something to drink.

May 8, 2010
: Fish Springs, Callao, and Delta. Leave Payson WalMart at5:30 a.m. This will be an all-day trip. Bring a lunch and something to drink.

May 13-17, 2010: GSL Bird Festival.  Details TBA but preliminary information may be found at http://www.greatsaltlakebirdfest.com/.

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 2:  Septimo Paraiso and the Mindo Cloud Forest Preserve”

This is the second installment of the report of a birding adventure Ned Hill and three others took with guide Rudy Gelis to northern Ecuador, November 2008, where they saw 500 species.  This is only a sampling of the species and places the group experienced.

 After getting off to a great start on our first morning and afternoon of birding in Ecuador, we descended the slopes of the Pichincha Volcano to our lodgings for the next three nights, the comfortable Septimo Paraiso Lodge.  Nestled in the lush Andean foothills at about 4-5,000’ elevation, the lodge is famous for its excellent food and large list of birds.  With a few hours of sunlight left on our first day, we explored the hummingbird garden just 10 yards from the lodge.  One can spend hours observing the rich variety of hummers that dart in and out—but, thankfully, frequently perch to allow us good views.  We saw some of the same hummers we encountered up higher but also added such species as the spectacular Violet-tailed Sylph (with a very long purple tail) and Booted Racket-tail (with two wire-tails with flags at the ends), White-necked Jacobin, Mountain Velvetbreast, Andean Emerald, Green-crowned Brilliant, Brown Inca and Andean Emerald.  The display was fascinating to watch.  Before dinner we spent a few minutes by the pool and saw a perched Cinnamon Becard.  A few minutes later, a Choco Toucan flew over the pool.  After a wonderful dinner, we sat around a table and went over our checklist for the day, mentally tasting the delicious feeling of discovery.  That is a ritual every birding adventure honors to cement the images and the experiences in the minds of participants.

 On any birding trip, you want to take maximum advantage of daylight.  So, you retire early and then arise 4:30 or 5:00 am each morning so you can grab something to eat and get to the place you’d like to begin birding just as it starts to get light.  So, on day two we were up eating breakfast at 5 so we could arrive at the famous “Lamppost” at the intersection of the Mindo road and the highway just before sunrise.  The light attracts insects which, in turn, attract birds.  Unfortunately, we failed to find an often present owl, but as the sun gradually illuminated the scene, the hillside beyond the lamppost produced many other interesting birds.  A very large Strong-billed Woodcreeper was silhouetted on the lamp pole and then flew over to a nearby tree to catch a tree frog.  I frantically pulled out my camera and finally caught a photo of the bird with a frog leg hanging out of its beak. Then two other woodcreepers appeared: Montane and Wedge-billed.  Low in the bushes, a skulking Red-faced Spinetail (one of the difficult to see Funariids or ovenbirds) moved in and out.  Then a couple of loud and colorful Toucan Barbets appeared to give us great views.  High in a tree, another colorful species, a Pale-mandibled Aracari appeared.  Aracaris are the smallest of the toucans but often the most colorful.  In the brush beside the trees we found a Yellow-bellied Seedeater.  Then a small hummingbird appeared—one of the most unusual.  It never comes to feeders because it has a different method of feeding from most other hummers.  The Wedge-billed Hummingbird uses its short but strong bill to bore into the base of flowers rather than sip from the opening of the flower like most of its relatives. 

Our next stop was the Mindo Cloud Forest Preserve.  Located just a few miles from our lodge, the preserve is about 3,300-3,500 ft. in elevation and about 144 acres.  It boasts some of the more difficult to find birds of Ecuador.  We were fortunate to quickly locate a Broad-billed Motmot high in the trees.  Then a dark-colored, small bird darted into a thicket and began singing.  It finally appeared for a fraction of a second at the top of a bush—a Slaty Spinetail one of those elusive Funariids (or ovenbirds).  A while later, we located two more Funariids: a Western Woodhaunter and a Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner.  We searched in vain for the rare Club-winged Manakin.  We could hear their electric calls all around us, but they were not nesting so they did not display for us to see them.  Ecuador is rich with flycatchers.  We found some unusual ones: Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Scaly-crested Pygmy-Tyrant (in a nest), Yellow-bellied Elaenia, and White-throated Spadebill.  The latter has a much broader bill than most flycatchers. We also saw the familiar Western Wood-Pewee and the curiously named One-colored Becard.  The Cloud Forest, so named because it is frequently engulfed in moist, foggy weather, is home to many colorful tanagers.  Here we saw the colorful Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Lemon-rumped Tanager, Fawn-breasted Tanager, and Beryl-spangled Tanager.  One of the best finds of the day was a Barred Forest-Falcon, a rare bird anywhere in its range. 

We broke for lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Rio Blanco.  As we ate, a fruit feeder outside our window was visited by several tanagers: Thick-billed and Orange-bellied Euphonias and Golden and Silver-throated Tanagers and a gorgeous Green Honeycreeper.

In the later afternoon, we drove to the town of Mindo.  In a residential yard we located a Pacific Antwren.  Most ant-type birds are found in lowland jungles but this one lives in the middle altitudes and is even happy in residential yards.  As the sun faded, we looked for one of the most unusual nightjars in the world—the Lyre-tailed Nightjar.  The male of this species has two long, curling tail feathers that appear to be a lyre (or harp).  We scanned the place they are usually found—no luck.  So we drove along some low hills where they had been seen before.  We finally located several of the birds soaring overhead and one even perched.  Alas, we only saw the shorter-tailed females and didn’t see the unusual lyre tail on the male. 

At the end of a long day, we enjoyed a wonderful meal at the lodge and were joined by another group of very tired birders who had spent the day driving to a much lower elevation in the foothills.  It is always fascinating to hear the experiences of other birders and compare notes.  The common bond of birding is a powerful one.

 Next: Angel Paz’s Remarkable Story and the Antpittas  


Field Trip Report

photo by Lu Giddings

photo by Lu Giddings

Delta Snow Goose Festival - 20 February, 2010
by Lu Giddings

Eight Utah County birders made the drive to Delta on Saturday, February 20th to participate in this year’s Snow Goose Festival.  Gunnison Bend reservoir was almost completely frozen, with most of the open water some distance from the parking lot in which festival exhibits were displayed. A few snow geese were present, along with Canada geese and a variety of other waterfowl, but it seemed that the majority of the birds were not to be hurried from the fields to the lake. At about 10:45 a.m. we left for the west side of the reservoir which would have given us closer access to open water and those birds present, but 5k and 10k races were being running in the area and all access to this portion of the reservoir was blocked during these events. It struck us as ironic: please, come to Delta to see the snow geese but stay out of those places providing the best views while runners - who aren’t paying any attention to the birds - are given first priority to the area. We then made a short but very worthwhile visit to Clear Lake Wildlife Management Area, about ten miles south of Delta. There were no snow geese visible, but there was a great deal of open water and thousands of other birds were present. We returned to Delta a little after 1 p.m. In our absence thousands of snow geese had come to the reservoir. We got very good, close looks as a flock of roughly 800 birds fed in a field north of the park on the reservoir’s west side. When we returned to the area of the festival display roughly 6-8,000 snow geese were present (my best guess), relaxing on the ice. We were able to enjoy some very close looks, especially as the birds flew over us. Best birds of the day, besides the snow geese, include:

- six tundra swans, 10 American avocets, and three bald eagles (2 adults, one juvenile) at Clear Lake
- a prairie falcon and a ferruginous hawk atop poles long the road between Delta and Clear Lake, and also what may have been a rough-legged hawk (but at 65 mph my view of the bird was a bit blurred and brief)

Many thanks to those who supported this field trip and to the town of Delta and Utah DWR for sponsoring this event. A few photos of the event may be seen at:

Trip participants:  Ned Bixler, Cliff Gallagher, Daniel Giddings, Doug Giddings, Lu Giddings, Jesse Lee, Jonah Lee, Dave Walton

 A partial list of species seen: 46
Snow Goose, Canada Goose, Tundra Swan, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Ring-necked Pheasant, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, American Kestrel, Prairie Falcon, American Coot, Killdeer, American Avocet, Ring-billed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Black-billed Magpie, Common Raven, Horned Lark, American Robin, European Starling, American Pipit, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, Great-tailed Grackle, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow

Bird of the Month

Is a bird in a cage better than two in a bush?
by Tuula Rose

European Goldfinch by Gudgeon


We just had Valentines Day last month and everyone at work changed their computer wallpaper to reflect the sentiment. I have always had bird pictures, so instead of finding hearts, I was looking for romance in the bird world. I typed “lovebirds” into Google Images and found two Black-faced Lovebirds snuggling together on a branch, the very picture of love for Valentines. I was staring at them trying to decide what bird to write about for Bird of the Month and started wondering where all the different cage birds come from. Then a few encounters with exotic species over the years came to mind so here is a variation of our monthly theme. 

A Lovebird is one of nine species of the genus Agapornis (Greek: αγάπη agape 'love'; όρνις ornis 'bird'). They are a social and affectionate small parrot. Eight species are native to the African continent, while the Grey-headed Lovebird is native to Madagascar. Their name stems from the parrots' strong, monogamous pair bonding and the long periods in which paired birds will spend sitting together.  These small African parrots are very popular cage birds all over the world for that reason. They are bred in captivity and sold for the pet trade. You can buy a pair for under a hundred dollars.

When the kids were little we went through “all the possible pets in the world” phase and ended up with two avian species besides all the varieties of rodents, reptiles and fish. The pair of Zebra finches that my six year old daughter kept ended up breeding and raising a few offspring right there in that little cage after we put appropriate nesting materials in there. This was before I was a birder and still believed the old notion that the parents have to teach the baby birds to fly. I did not witness any flying lessons going on in there and was amazed to see the babies fluttering around anyway as soon as their flight feathers were long enough.  The finches were active and entertaining, a bit noisy but altogether tolerable. 

The Zebra Finch, Taeniopygia guttata, is the most common and familiar estrildid finch of Central Australia and ranges over most of the continent. It also can be   found natively in Indonesia . The bird has been introduced to Puerto Rico, Portugal and the U.S.

Next she kept two Ringed Turtle Doves in a bigger cage. They were beautiful to look at, did not breed or entertain, and we all got quite tired of their constant cooing. My daughter finally decided that she did not want them anymore and after a futile search for adoptive bird lovers we ended up letting them fly free somewhere close to Utah Lake. I know, I know! 

The Ringed Turtle-Dove has been domesticated for so long that its wild origins are not known for certain. Currently it is believed to be a domesticated form of the African Collared-Dove (Streptopelia roseogrisea), which is found across northern Africa and western Arabia.

Soon after I was introduced to the great hobby of birdwatching I kept my binoculars and field guide in my car at all times. Still do. I was having a tiring busy week at work and one day decided to go driving around in southwest Springville after work. I was hoping to find a new exiting bird to add to my life list. I spotted a bunch of red-winged blackbirds in a corn field and among them a spectacular new one I had never seen before. It was like a smaller version of a yellow-headed blackbird, but instead of yellow the head was a bright blazing red-orange against the black body. The back was a duller reddish brown. I looked and looked through the field guide but could not find anything to match.  The next day it occurred to me that maybe it is not native. I found a bird in a cage in the pet store and a book that told me it was an Orange Bishop Weaver male. The female in the pictures looked very much like the female red-winged blackbirds it was hanging out with in the corn. The one in the cage was a sorry looking pale version of the brilliant bird in the wild. Whoever let it go free may have given this captive-bred bird his only opportunity to enjoy life. I like to think so.

The Orange Bishop is a small weaver finch with bright orange-red body and black belly. The head has a black crown, face, and bill and the wings are brown. Orange-red uppertail coverts are very long and extend over the short, brown tail. Native to sub-Saharan Africa to northwest and eastern Africa and introduced to and established in Puerto Rico and Bermuda. It inhabits open savanna with tall shrubs and trees.

When I told Milton about my bird in the corn he told me about a strange visitor to his feeders that turned out to be an Orange-Cheeked Waxbill. He also found the caged cousins in a local pet store.

Orange-cheeked Waxbill (Estrilda melpoda) is a native of western and central tropical Africa. In the wild these small birds live in small flocks, except in the mating season, and can be found in grassland areas close to water. They are common in their natural habitat and have been introduced successfully in the American continent to Puerto Rico.

 A couple of summers ago I was sitting in my back yard reading a book, listening to my yard birds, when a frantic neighbor appeared over the fence asking if I had seen a green parakeet in my yard. It had escaped from a cage its owner, an elderly lady, had been trying to clean on the back porch. Its mate was still in the cage and the lady was very worried about the unfortunate break-up of this long time pair relationship of her loved birds.  I don’t know if the parakeet was ever found or who was more heartbroken, my neighbor or the lonely mate. 

The term 'parakeet' is almost a catch-all name given to many smaller parrot species, usually slim birds with long pointed tails. There are lots of names for this beautiful little bird from central Australia. Its scientific name is Melopsittacus undulatus meaning "song parrot with wavy lines". The Aborigine term for the bird was something close to "budgerigar", their phrase meaning "good to eat". They would eat budgies for snacks. The English explorers who met the aborigines and saw the birds shortened this to "budgies". Since they looked like little parrots, they're also called "parakeets" or "keets" for short.

 Escapes like this happen and as a result some feral colonies of doves and parrots have been established in the southern states. The most famous of these is probably the colony of Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill in San Francisco. Some of you might have seen the documentary about Mark Bittner who started feeding and studying the birds by his house. They are Cherry-Headed Conures who are flourishing and breeding in a sizeable flock in the hills of San Francisco. He wrote a book and a young lady named Judy Irving decided to film a documentary. This co-operation resulted in romance and the two ended up marrying. (Had to throw that in for Valentines.)

Most of the birds in the flock are of a species known variously as the Cherry-headed conure, red-masked conure, and red-headed conure - all pet trade names. Ornithologists call them red-masked parakeets. In the summer of 1995, a female mitred conure (or mitred parakeet) showed up. She began to breed with the cherry heads, and continued to do so until at least 2006.  In the past there have been two blue-crowned conures (blue-crowned parakeet). The cherry-headed conure is from a small territory on the west side of the Andes in southern Ecuador and the extreme north of Peru.

The only cage bird that I have ever seen in its native habitat is the European Goldfinch. I saw a flock of them when last visiting my native habitat in Finland, in a fabulous nature preserve in the middle of Helsinki. They are beautiful with their red, white and black markings on the face and a yellow patch on black wings.

The European Goldfinch  (Carduelis carduelis) is a relative of our American and Lesser Goldfinches and breeds across Europe, North Africa, and western and central Asia, in open, partially wooded lowlands. It is resident in the milder west of its range, but migrates  from colder regions.  It has been introduced to many areas of the world.

This was a target bird on that day and the only one I ever saw in a pet store that was countable on my life list. And yes, I prefer even one in the bush to any in a cage.


Backyard Bird of the Month

February 2010

Alton Thygerson - Provo
Spotted Towhee - fun to watch it scratch amongst the fallen leaves.

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
My wintering Bullock's Oriole was last seen on Feb 11th.

Leila Odgen - Orem
I had a flyover of a Bald Eagle from my yard February 27.

Yvonne Carter - Highland
A Hairy Woodpecker made its appearance near the suet feeder.

Steve Carr - Holladay
Spotted Towhees - Two of them brightening up the yard.

Cheryl Peterson - Provo
3 Pine Siskins

 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.