Utah County Birders Newsletter
October 2010

    October Meeting
Upcoming Field Trips
    Ned's Notes
    Bird of the Month
Backyard Bird of the Month
    September Hotline Highlights


Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Grant Jense and Alton Thygerson will present "Birding on Gambel ."

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


October 10 (Sun), 2010: The Big Sit, Provo Airport Dike - This will be our 9th year participating in the annual Big Sit! - We will sit in one spot out on the Provo Airport Dike all day and watch birds. We will be sitting on the southeast corner, on the dike just past the pump house, where you first see the lake when driving the dike clockwise. We will start at 6 a.m. come anytime you like but there may or may not be anyone out there between Noon and 5:00 pm, we take a break during the slow time of the day. You can call us at 801-360-8777.

October 16, 2010: San Pete county. 7:00 a.m. - 12 p.m. Meet at Springville Walmart. We’ll drive south from Springville to Nephi and then through Nephi Canyon to Fountain Green. We’ll spend the morning working our way through various stops in San Pete Valley. This will hopefully be a good opportunity to add to your San Pete county list.

November 13, 2010: Antelope Island and Garr Ranch. 7:00 a.m. - 12 p.m. Meet at Sam’s Club parking lot, 1313 S. University Ave., Provo.

December 2010: Provo CBC. 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 - seldom74@xmission.com.

Ned’s Notes

By Ned Hill – President, Utah County Birders

“Birding In Ecuador—Part 9: Sani Lodge: the Tower, Forest and Islands

Note: This is the ninth 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.

 There is nothing to equal the sounds of a tropical rainforest at night. When the lodge generator goes off around 9 pm, there is complete darkness and profound silence other than sounds made by creatures of the night. Since only thin screens separated our mosquito-netted beds from the rainforest, nothing inhibited our ability to hear nature’ night chorus: the haunting, mournful, descending call of the Common Potoo, the rapid, groaning, hollow notes of the Rufescent Tiger-Heron, the monotonous “tu, tu, tu, tu….” of the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, the variety of chirps, plunks and squeaks from the nearby lake where 100 frog species reside. What a way to drift off to sleep! In the early morning the loudest animal in the world would sometimes wake us—the Howler Monkey with its raspy voice that carries for miles and sounds like a high-powered water hose spraying against a large aluminum sheet. Sleep is impossible if one is within a few hundred yards.

The rain from yesterday was gone but the forest floor was muddy in places requiring us to wear our lodge-provided rubber boots. We met our local Kichwa Indian guide, Oscar, who joined Rudy during our stay at Sani Lodge. Oscar’s people own the land around Sani and have lived here for many, many years. He is an excellent birder and very knowledgeable about the trails and wildlife in the area. After a hearty breakfast, Rudy and Oscar led us on a quarter mile hike into the forest to a 150-foot wooden canopy tower built around a huge Kapok tree. From its several observation levels, we could get a view of the forest canopy from within and above instead of from below where we had to strain our necks looking up. Fortunately, there were several fruiting trees not far from the tower so we were treated to a parade of colorful tanagers: Opal-rumped, Opal-crowned, Masked, Paradise, Flame-crested, as well as Purple Honeycreeper, Blue, Black-faced and Yellow-bellied Dacnis (they’re tanagers) and Orange-bellied, White-tufted, Rufous-bellied and White-lored Euphonia (also classified as tanagers until recently). They were spectacular but also very fast, requiring some effort to see them well. As Rudy and Oscar tried to point out a new tanager, a different new one would pop into view. From our perch atop the tower we could clearly hear Lawrence’s Thrush calling from the bushes down below. It’s a talented mimic; but, try as we might, we could not locate the bird for a visual sighting. We also heard an occasional CRASH in the forest. With so many trees, several times a day, one would fall down. We just hoped we weren’t too close by when a really big one decided to take a tumble.

Several odd-looking Bare-necked Fruitcrows were feasting on the fruit of a tall neighboring tree. They aren’t crows at all but are classified as Cotingas, a family of unusual tropical birds. A few minutes later we spotted a Purple-throated Fruitcrow and a Plumb-throated Cotinga, two more beautiful birds of that family. In a distant tree we also found a perching Spix’s Guan and a Common Piping-Guan. Rudy helped us identify a perched Slate-colored Hawk. Oscar could find and identify a distant bird with his naked eyes that I could barely make out with my 10x Leica binoculars!

Rudy broke off a Kapok tree twig with blossoms to show us some of the wildlife on it: a few Assassin Insects, and several Thorn Bugs. The latter, had they not crawled a bit, would have passed for thorns sticking out of the stem. He also showed us a Gliding Ant. He caught one and dropped it off the tower. The ant fell a few feet but then steered back into the tree. It had the ability to flatten its head into a sail and steer its fall. This nice little adaptation helps it avoid long climbs back up into its habitat in the canopy if it is ever blown, knocked or dropped off a high branch.

During our morning on the tower, several species of macaws flew over: Blue-and-yellow, Chestnut fronted, and Red-bellied. We also saw two species of large parrots: Mealy and Orange-winged Amazons. We had stunning looks at perched Ivory-billed (no, not woodpecker!), and Lettered Aracaris (small toucans) and the large Channel-billed Toucan. We also saw the tiny Pygmy Antwren—one of that family that lives in the canopy instead of near the ground like so many of its other relatives. On the walk back to the lodge, Rudy showed us a one-inch long Bullet Ant. If one gets on exposed human skin, it can both sting and bite causing pain equal to a gunshot! We also found a trail of Leaf-cutter Ants that are fascinating to watch as they carry leaf cuttings many times the size of the ant in single file along a well-scented trail back to their huge colony under the ground. They actually don’t eat the leaves, Oscar said; they use them to grow fungi which they do eat.  Great farmers!

I love hiking through rainforest. While the sun was shining brightly above the canopy, we were in semi-darkness down a hundred feet below. It was humid but not too warm. In our northern temperate forests we might find half a dozen tree species in one acre; but, there might be as many as a hundred tree species in an acre of tropical rainforest. Some of the trees have large buttresses—tall, flat, strong “shoulders” at the base of the tree that support it against wind and rain. We heard the sounds of several Tinamou species but could not see one of them!

In the afternoon, we took a motorized boat, to some of the low islands in the middle of the very wide Napo River. In this more open habitat live birds that are not found in the dense rainforest. A few are island specialists such as the Spotted Tody Flycatcher, Olive-spotted Hummingbird, Lesser Kiskadee and River Tyrannulet. On the trail back to the lodge we diverted into the rainforest to look for antbirds. There are over 200 species of ant-type birds from antpittas to antwrens, antthrushes, antshrikes, etc. Most are quite secretive, dark-colored and require some patience to find. They acquired the name “ant” because many of the species tend to follow marauding army ants to feast on the insects the ants kick up. We were successful in locating and even photographing a few of them (well, Rich was): Mouse-colored Antshrike, Dusky-throated Antshrike, and Plumbeous Antbird. It helped that Oscar had a good idea where to look for them. In the same area we also found Little Woodpecker and Red-stained Woodpecker. I am constantly amazed at the large variety of species in the tropical forests. While there are not many of a given species (with some exceptions like Great Kiskidee, House Wren and Tropical Kingbird), the rich variety makes birding in this habitat an exhilarating experience with new birds possible every few minutes.

Next— The Last Chapter—Final Days in Sani Lodge.

Bird of the Month

No article this month.

If you would like to write an article for the Bird of the Month, please contact Junece Markham -- 373-2487.

Writing an article for the newsletter is part of the 2010 Birding Challenge -  http://www.utahbirds.org/ucb/specialreports/2010BirdingChallenge.pdf

Click here for past 'Birds of the Month'.


Backyard Bird of the Month

September 2010

Glenn Barlow - Fruit Heights
There was a Red-breasted Nuthatch at my peanut feeder on Saturday afternoon, the 18th, and again this morning--Sunday, September 19th.

 Dennis Shirley - Elk Ridge
- new yard bird

Bonnie Williams  -  Mapleton
Red-breasted Nuthatch

Eric Huish  -  Pleasant Grove
- flew over

Mark Stackhouse  -  San Blas, Mexico
Northern Waterthrush,
that forages along the trickle of rain water draining from the back patio each morning, right outside my bedroom window, species number 120 for the yard list in San Blas.

Steve Carr - Holladay
Downy Woodpecker
- pair of them all month

Milt Moody  -  Provo
A Green-tailed Towhee showed up to bid farewell until next year.

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