Utah County Birders Newsletter
June 2010

    June Meeting
Upcoming Field Trips
    Ned's Notes
    Bird of the Month
    Trip Report
by Flora M. Duncan

    Backyard Bird of the Month
    May Hotline Highlights


Thursday, June 10, 2010


Bill will tell about his introduction into birding as a youth. He is very entertaining and will spin birding yarns in his presentation. He is the 2008 recipient of ABA's Ludlow Griscom Award for his contribution to birding and ornithology. He will also cover some of the current issues facing habitat conservation. Don't miss this one! This is the same presentation he gave as the key note speaker on the Friday night GSL Bird Festival dinner.

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


Upcoming meetings 

July - Anthony Wright - DWR Biologist in South-eastern Utah. Has worked on Peregrine Falcons at Lake Powell and Burrowing Owls in the Carbon/Emery County areas. Will give an informative presentation on his findings.

August - Summer Picnic - Details coming.


Beginning birders and nonmembers are welcome.

June 12, 2010: Antelope Island - in search of Grasshopper Sparrows and other specialties. Leave Provo East Bay Sam’s Club at 7:00 a.m. Field trip will run from 7:00 a.m. to 1 p.m. Bring a lunch and something to drink.

June 26, 2010: Great Basin Nat’l Park Birding 9:30 am – 2:00 pm PDT.  Bring a lunch. Meet 9:30 am Pacific Daylight time at the Visitor’s Center. Come camping for the weekend and enjoy the “Other Nat’l Park”. Day Trippers meet at Payson Walmart at 7:00 am to carpool over. It takes @ 3 hours to drive to Baker Nev. There is a time change at the border.  Directions: From the east: From U.S. Highway 6 & 50, turn south on Nevada State Highway 487 and travel 5 miles to Baker, NV. In Baker turn west on Highway 488 and travel 5 miles to the park. Flora Duncan will lead the trip.  Contact Flora Duncan at fmduncan@hotmail.com for further information.
Camping Information at: http://www.nps.gov/grba/planyourvisit/camping.htm    Information about cave tours can be found at: http://www.nps.gov/grba/planyourvisit/lehman-caves-tours.htm

July 10, 2010Mirror Lake and the Mirror Lake Highway. Leave Provo East Bay Sam’s Club at 7:00 a.m.  Field trip will run from 7:00 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Bring a lunch and something to drink.

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 5: Birding in the High Andes”

Note: This is the fifth 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.

 Sometimes getting there is half the “fun”.  Rich Vial made it in from Oregon very late on Day 4 but Robert Parsons’ plane from Washington, DC, was diverted last night to Guayaquil because of the storm we had in Quito.  But he is a very resourceful guy and found a way to fly up here in the morning even though all flights were booked solid.  We left our Quito hotel, drove out to the airport and somehow found Robert among a huge mix of passengers.  Now the four of us were finally together with our guide Rudy and our driver.  With six of us, we needed a larger van than Daniel, Rudy and I required during the first four days.  Rich and Robert brought a lot of enthusiasm with them as we drove out of Quito and headed up into the eastern foothills of the Andes.

 Our first stop was in a rural area at about 10,000’ elevation.  We stopped near a rural school where there were lots of trees and shrubs.  One of the first amazing birds we saw was the Black-tailed Trainbearer—a hummingbird with an exceptionally long tail.  Over 10 inches long, we wondered how it managed to fly.  Then another hummer came into view—this time the world’s largest—the Giant Hummingbird.  It looked at first like a large sparrow but when it flew, its wings were just like any other hummingbird—maybe not quite as fast.  Rudy called us over to see if we could find the Azara’s Spinetail he could hear—one of those elusive “ovenbirds”.  With patience, we were able to locate it as it moved deep in the foliage, coming up for breath only occasionally.  By the schoolhouse, we found two perching seedeaters—sparrows with short, stubby bills: Plain-colored and Band-tailed Seedeaters.  The Plain-colored was, well, very drab in contrast to the striking Blue-and-yellow Tanager we located next.  Stopping again at around 12,000’ we scanned the skies in vain for Andean Condor.  A soaring raptor that looked like a possible condor turned out to be the almost equally impressive Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle.

 Still higher, at over 13,000’ we were literally up in the clouds.  The mists swirled around us and visibility was only a few dozen yards.  This was disappointing since Rudy wanted to show us Tawny Antpitta—which we could clearly hear on several stops—and a few other species.  We did manage to get a glimpse of a Bar-winged Cinclodes, another of the ovenbirds and a common resident of the high Andes.  With some imagination, we could see it going in and out of its foggy nest on the steep slope above us.   Crossing the Papallacta Pass we descended out of the cold clouds and made a stop at the Papallacta Hot Springs—a comfortable resort with a very welcome pool surrounded by flowering shrubs.  Ahhhh, this was birding at its finest—lounging in the warm water looking at Black Flowerpiercer, Cinereous Conebill, Booted Racket-tail, Andean Thrush, Tyrian Metaltail (a hummingbird) and Chestnut-breasted Coronet (another hummer) while sipping pineapple juice.  After this brief relaxation, we continued our journey down the eastern side of the pass on the Interoceanica Highway where we found off in the distance a Carunculated Caracara, a high altitude raptor with a white breast and black streaking.  Where do they get such names?  The road in these high elevations was no longer paved but very rocky and uneven.  Road crews had to work constantly to keep small landslides on the side of the road from becoming very large as the rain and steep slopes kept attacking the surface.  Our driver skillfully made it through the challenging twists, turns, washouts and potholes.  I don’t know how those large trucks negotiated the tight curves and steep grades.  Rudy had the driver pull over so we could find an unusual flycatcher that nests high on Andean cliffs—Cliff Flycatcher.  It constantly amazes me how birds and other animals can adapt to so many different niches and specialize their nesting, feeding and other behaviors.  From this elevation it was breathtaking to look down on the cascading Andes mountains spread out below us.

 By late afternoon we reached our destination, Guango Lodge, one of the higher altitude birding lodges at just over 8,000’.  Rich and I shared a comfortable cabin as did Robert and Dan.  The main building of the lodge was well designed—a rustic, welcoming large cabin complete with fireplace and a dining room that served the best food of the trip.  But before dinner, we had an hour or so of daylight left to relax in the lawn chairs set up around a dozen or so hummingbird feeders and fruit logs that attracted a circus of activity.  Masked Flowerpiercer came frequently onto the fruit log.  As its name implies, its beak is structured so it can pierce the base of flowers and drink the nectar.  The variety of hummingbirds was truly amazing and Rudy had a challenging time pointing out the individual species to us as they were coming and going so rapidly: Speckled Hummingbird, Shining Sunbeam, Mountain Velvetbreast, Collared Inca, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Buff-tailed Coronet, Velvet-purple Coronet, Tourmaline Sunangel, Long-tailed Sylph, and White-bellied Woodstar.  The display of sight and sound was dazzling!  Hummingbirds, being warm-blooded, can withstand the cold nights of the high Andes that would kill off other pollinators like bees.  In fact, many of these high-altitude hummers on frigid nights go into a torpid state that is equivalent to short-term hibernation.  When morning comes, they fully recover to feed again on nectar and do their duty as pollinators.

 After a sumptuous meal in the cozy dining room we reviewed our bird sightings for the day, listened in vain for an owl, and went to bed in our comfortable, warm cabins wondering what new discoveries tomorrow would bring.

 Next: San Isidro Lodge and the Mystery Owl

Bird of the Month

photo by Kendall Brown

Cedar Waxwing
Bombycilla cedrorum
by Oliver Hansen

 Let us go back a few hundred years, to a time when family signet rings were pressed into bold colored waxes dripped onto the folds of important letters and documents. A teenager during that time (or a biologist) seeing a waxwing probably thought the bird’s wings had been dipped into hot sealing wax. Fast-forward to the early 90’s. While living in Oklahoma as a teenager I saw the strangest bird. I ran inside the house and quickly found our family’s bird expert (Mom) and told her, “Come quick, there is this little bird outside that looks like it fell into a can of neon paint!” Since that first glimpse, the Cedar waxwing has been one of my favorite birds. Imagine if the bird had been first named in the early 90’s – we could have had a “neon-bird” on our Utah State Checklist instead of a waxwing.

There are three species of waxwings: Cedar (North America only), Bohemian (throughout Europe, Asia, and North America), and Japanese (North-East Asia only). These three species make up the Genus Bombycilla. According to the Dictionary of Birds of the United States by Joel Ellis Holloway, the German common name for waxwings is seidenschwanz, or silk-tail. Bombycilla was an attempt by Louis Pierre Vieillot (1748-1831) to Latinize the words silk-tail He took the suffix in the Latin name for wagtail (-cilla) and attached it to the Latin root for silk (-bomby). It turns out, however, that the Latin name for wagtail translates to “little-mover” and doesn’t even use the Latin word for tail at all!

I have often seen Cedar waxwings in huge flocks while living in Provo. They stick around my neighborhood in late spring for a few days before heading on to devour the fruits of trees in other neighborhoods. Their silky brown crested head plumes, bold face markings, bright yellow/scarlet wingtips and tails, and buzzy/whistly sounds make the Cedar waxwing hard to miss. Cedars can be distinguished from their Bohemian cousins by looking at the under-tail coverts. Cedars have pale under-tail coverts while Bohemians have a darker brown.

While pouring over books, articles, and online references, I came upon this beautiful passage from Life histories of North American wagtails, shrikes, vireos, and their Allies by Arthur C. Bent:  “To most of us, these [waxwings] are birds of mystery; we never know when or where we may see these roving bands of gypsies. They come and they go, we know not whence or whither, in the never-ending search for a bounteous food supply on which to gorge themselves."

Click here for past 'Birds of the Month'.


Trip Report
by Flora M. Duncan

At 2:00 in the afternoon on Thursday 27 May, LeILa Ogden and I started on to find the Bobolink. On the way south we went down Swede Lane where we found the first Eastern Kingbird of the year. At the end of Swede Lane there was a damsel in distress. She had her car stuck in a muddy rut and said that we should not go down the road. We continued to River Lane with no new birds. On our way back, there comes a white pickup carrying the girl with her father. I thought it was especially nice that they took the time to find us and let us know that she had been found.

Our next stop was Lincoln Beach with about 10 spotted sandpipers and single Great tailed Grackle. We continued traveling to Elberta hoping for a Curlew--none. We found the Secret Pond. North out of Goshen. On the left of the road just before the pond we located three Red-necked Phalaropes--new for the year.

The next part of the trip took us past the trees with the Golden Eagle nest--no birds. Traveling still north for a little distance we came to a stand of Silver-leaf poplar trees which held more than ten nests of Great Blue Heron. This place is one we had never been to before and had never heard of. So I believe it may qualify as a new birding site in Utah County. At this site there was a solitary Great Egret.

It was a remarkable afternoon in that we helped by knowing that we were on Swede Lane and by coming upon a new birding site. No Bobolink.


Backyard Bird of the Month

May 2010

Flora Duncan  - Orem
Lazuli Bunting must be coming back enmass--had five at my feeder today  (May 5) with a new yard bird cleaning up the ground--a White-crowned Sparrow.

Carol Nelson - Provo
The month is only 1/3 gone (May 11) and I already have my favorite yard bird of the month.  A Lewis's Woodpecker pecking away on the top of the telephone pole in my back yard.  What a shock!

Alan & Selena Keller - Orem
2 Hermit Thrushes, 2 White-crowned Sparrows and a Lazuli Bunting have been hanging around our yard.

Yvonne Carter - Highland
This is a crazy month. 12 - 14 Lazuli Buntings here since May 3. Black-headed Grosbeaks and Bullock Orioles being hogs, and 4 new yard birds: Brown-headed Cowbirds, Yellow Warblers, Virginia's Warbler and Western Tanagers.

Herb Clayson - Salem
Lazuli Bunting

Steve Carr - Holladay
Lazuli Bunting - 6 males, 4 females. Never before so many at one time.

Bruce Robinson - West Jordan
Black Headed Grosbeak--- first of the year

KC Childs - Orem
It has been a stellar month for birds this month. So many new birds in the yard that I have never seen. So of course tough to pick. But my favorite was:  White-throated Swifts, Several nights flying overhead catching insects.

Bonnie Williams - Mapleton
Lazuli Buntings - every day since April 25.  Sometimes a few and sometimes too many to count.

Milt Moody - Provo
Both a Brewer's and a Lincoln's Sparrow came to my yard this month.

LeIla Ogden - Orem
My backyard bird of the month did not show up.  After seeing Eric's pictures on the Web site, I got some oranges and grape jelly and fixed them just like the picture.  No Orioles showed.  Put fresh oranges out and watched and waited.  Still no Orioles.  Today, I tried more oranges and am still watching and waiting.  I did get some Western Tanagers which had not been to my yard before.

Tuula Rose - Provo
Five-six orioles going from one hummingbird feeder to the next. At least four Western Tanagers including an unusually red-headed male. A Green-tailed Towhee hanging around for a few days. What a spring this is!

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Western Tanagers - Over 20 in the yard each day the last couple weeks of May, 35 one day!  I also had 6 species of warbler in the yard this month.

Cheryl Peterson - Provo
Orange-crowned Warbler
, Willow Flycatcher and Warbling Vireo

Glenn Barlow - Fruit Heights
On May 25th I saw the following birds in my yard.  It was such a great birding day, that I included all the birds seen that day.
  Chukar - I was walking my dog from the back yard to the front (west to east, on the south side of the yard), at about 6:30 in the morning, when I saw a Chukar standing in my front yard.  Then I heard the garbage truck coming and knew it would scare the bird, so I retreated back the way I had come.  I went to the front yard by the north side of the house.  After the noisy truck passed I was back in front yard, but the bird was not where I first saw it.  As I went to the south side of the front yard and looked west, it was standing where I had been standing when I first saw it.
  Yellow-rumped Warbler - At about 10 a.m., while looking out of my second story bedroom, at the back of the house, I saw a small flock of these warblers gleaning insects from the pine needles of my pine tree.
  Chipping Sparrow - After I could no longer see the warblers, I noticed a small bird still pecking at the pine needles, very close to my window.  I could only see the male, but it was beautiful in its rust-colored cap!
  Western Tanager - A short time later my wife asked me about a yellow bird with a red head. Sure enough it was a Western Tanager.  We saw two males and some females again feeding on the pine needles.
This was a great backyard birding day!

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

2010 Dues

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.