Utah County Birders Newsletter
December 2010

    December Meeting
Upcoming Field Trips
    Ned's Notes
    Bird of the Month
    Field Trip Report - Antelope Island
Backyard Bird of the Month
    November Hotline Highlights


Thursday, December 9th, 2010

We will prepare for the Provo Christmas Bird Count. Ned Hill will show slides of winter birds typically seen on the Provo CBC and assignments will be given out. You may want to bring your field guides.

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


December 18, 2010: Provo CBC. The Provo Christmas Bird Count is set for Saturday, December 18, 2010. Assignments are given out at the Utah County Birders meeting on December 9th. If you can’t attend the meeting, contact Ned Hill - 801-375-2417 (H) - 801-360-2600 (C) - ned_hill@byu.edu

December 19th (Sun):  Payson Christmas Bird Count - Please let me know if you are able to participate again this year. Your help is greatly appreciated and needed. Thanks everyone  Contact: Gary Austin at 801-455-0661 or gary@paysonbirds.com. Visit http://paysonbirds.com/ for more details.

January 1st (Sat):  Jordan River Christmas Bird Count - JORDAN RIVER in SALT LAKE & UTAH COUNTIES - Leaders: Jeanne Le Ber and Ray Smith - Meet at 7am at Johanna’s Kitchen, 9725 South State Street, Sandy (801-566-1762). Assignments will be distributed and groups will start birding at 8am. Team reports and count tally will begin at 6pm at the Sizzler on 9000 So.&State. To sign up, or for more information, call Jeanne or Ray at 801-532-7384, evenings.

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 10: Final Days in Sani Lodge


Note: This is the tenth and final 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.

 We spent a total of 4 nights and parts of five days in and around Sani Lodge. It’s one of the best places to find Neotropical species of birds in South America. On our second and third mornings, we birded some of the trails around the lodge. Fortunately, we had two outstanding bird finders leading us: Rudy (our American guide who lives in Ecuador) and Oscar (a native Kichwa who lives in the area). Oscar knew where we might find a bird in the most difficult to see bird families in the tropics: a tapaculo. He soon heard the call of a Rusty-belted Tapaculo, actually one of the more colorful of the family. He had us stand stone still in absolute silence, focusing on a mossy log in the clearing. Soon, a furtive, rusty-backed bird with a strong eye stripe and a black and rusty belly walked out on the log. We even got pictures of it—exceptionally rare for a tapaculo. It came out twice before disappearing into the undergrowth. 

Oscar can see distant birds that I can hardly make out in binoculars. As we walked the trail, he suddenly called out in a loud whisper “forest-falcon” and pointed at a distant tree in the middle of thousands of other trees. He helped Rudy get it in the scope where the rest of us could barely make out a very rare raptor: the Lined Forest-Falcon. We found a beautiful Cream-colored Woodpecker, a spectacular Scarlet-crowned Barbet, and a very secretive Rufous-tailed Foliage-gleaner, one of the ovenbird family.  Thanks to Oscar’s and Rudy’s patience and knowledge, we found more antbirds in those two days than I have ever seen, including: Ringed Antpipit, and Rufous-tailed, White-flanked, Pygmy, Gray and Plain-throated Antwrens, Great Antshrike, as well as Gray, Scale-backed, and Sooty Antbirds.  Two of our best finds were the large, very dark Black-faced and Striated Antthrushes.  Antthrushes walk about on the forest floor like small-sized chickens, although they are difficult to find.

The surprises were not over. Oscar led us on a short boat trip, through some reeds on the bank of the river and down a short trail where he told us to wait for a few minutes. He came back and told us to be very quiet as we walked further down the trail. In the middle of the trail was a small tree about 4” in diameter with a broken off trunk about 10 feet up. As we focused on the top of the trunk, we could make out something that was not the trunk but a very rusty, owl-like bird, apparently sleeping. It was one of the rarest birds in the tropics: a Rufous Potoo! This one was sitting on a nest on the top of the trunk. Not a place I would have chosen but maybe that’s why they’re so rare. Oscar led us along another trail where he was constantly looking into the trees for something specific. Finally he found what he wanted and helped us all see scope views of a couple of very thickly eye-browed and sleeping Crested Owls.  Later he showed us the

daytime roost of a Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl. Rich took amazing photos of the bird hidden deeply in a tree. He’s becoming an excellent photographer.

Finding hummingbirds in the rainforest is difficult. People usually don’t put out feeders like they do at higher elevations because there are too many insects that would overwhelm the feeders. So, you have to look for hummingbirds as they forage in flower patches. We were fortunate to find a Reddish Hermit feeding right outside the dining area. We also found Great-billed and Straight-billed Hermits.

We took another short river boat trip to the Ańangu Community where they had built a visitors center including a blind that faced out onto some clay licks—that is bare clay earth on a small hillside. Although scientists still debate the possible reasons parrots like or need to consume small amounts of clay, it likely has something to do with their diets. The various fruits they eat apparently have some level of poisons in them. Supposedly the ingested clay counteracts the poisons. On good days, hundreds of parrots, parakeets and macaws come down and land in flocks on the exposed clay licks. Unfortunately, clay didn’t seem to be on their menu that day and we saw only a few perched parrots in the surrounding trees and a few small flocks on the riverbanks: Blue-headed, Mealy, Orange-winged, Yellow-crowned, and Orange-cheeked.  We also got to see a few of the smaller Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet and many Cobalt-winged Parakeets. A King Vulture soared over our heads as our boat headed back to towards the lodge. A Yellow-headed Caracara stood on a small island, eating something in the sand.

Sani Lodge is built near a lake. The water is deep brownish-black from all the tannins that seep into the lake from the decaying trees of the rainforest. They tell us that is what keeps the mosquito population down. Nevertheless, many other insects, fish and reptiles inhabit the lake. On our final day in the Amazon Basin, we took a leisurely boat ride out on the lake in the late afternoon. We spotted a Least Bittern and a Limpkin, both species that come into the U.S. (I saw both in Florida). As the light was fading, a Boat-billed Heron flew over us and landed in a tree at the edge of the lake. These birds are very difficult to find in the daylight but they hunt at night. We also saw a Rufescent Tiger-Heron and a large Cocoi Heron. The sounds of a hundred species of frogs filled the night air with strange and wonderful sounds.

All too soon, our Ecuador adventure was coming to an end. Early on the morning of our 13th day, we packed up, said our farewells to Oscar and our attentive Sani staff, and boarded a motorized boat. We stopped a few times to let off and pick up passengers as we headed up the Napo towards Coca. At one stop we found a very tall tree over our boat a Great Potoo feeding chicks. This very tall, owl-like bird has the strangest, most haunting call. I had come to love the Amazon Basin with its rich variety of plant and animal life and its kind and gentle people. I hope much of this unusual world can be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

Rather than drive over the somewhat dangerous mountain passes we had traveled through by car, we flew from Coca to Quito. We arrived early enough to spend the afternoon in a park and got to observe a few more species for the trip. By the time we concluded our adventure, we had, as a group seen exactly 500 species. I saw 459 of them (no one saw them all). For me, 249 were “lifers”—new birds I’d never seen. We also heard 22 additional species but I just made a note of them. We also saw many unusual species like Night Monkey, Black Howler Monkey, Black Caiman, and Bullet, Army and Leaf-cutter Ants, and the “headlight beetle”. Fortunately, we encountered very few mosquitoes and no snakes—poisonous or otherwise! If one wants to see many, many tropical birds, I don’t believe there is a better place to start than Ecuador.


Editor's note:  Thanks to Ned for sharing his birding adventure with us.  I am sorry to see the series end.

Bird of the Month

by Keeli Marvel

This month I’m going to diverge from the normal bird life history narrative a little bit and start with a story.
I credit my college ornithology teacher with getting me wholly and irrevocably hooked on birds and birding. He had an unorthodox teaching method that was totally unpredictable, yet his classes were the highlight of my week. One class period he brought a bucket of fried chicken to class to teach us a lesson about bird  bone structure. The next time we met for class he’d recite poems that talked about birds, and the next we’d be singing songs that had birds in them.  I was thinking about this the other day while trying to decide what to spotlight for this month’s bird of the month.  I was also, as it will become apparent, feeling the holiday spirit. I decided this month to spotlight birds in common holiday songs, because it’s fun (for me at least) to find little bits and pieces of the world of birds that I’ve come to love in unexpected places.
After some thought I found a few traditional holiday songs that you might have sung many times without even thinking about the bird references hidden within their verses:
In the carol “Sleigh Ride” the riders are “snuggled up together like two birds of a feather would be.”  Sounds pretty cozy, right?  Makes me think of doves all fluffed up and nestled together in their roosts.
In the song “Winter Wonderland” we learn that when winter wonderland weather has arrived, the bluebird has gone away (to warmer climes, we hope) and has been replaced by a “new bird” who, not only is here to stay, but also serenades those walking in the winter wonderland with a love song. I think I’d like to round my year list off with this bird, but I’ll probably have to break out the snowshoes first.
Finally, the crowning glory of all bird references in holiday songs, and possibly the ultimate bird-lover’s Christmas wish list: The Twelve Days of Christmas.  I did a little research (on the internet, so take it with a grain of salt) to see if I could figure out the meaning and origins of this carol. Why exactly is this poor girl’s true love giving her so many strange presents? When singing this song, I have visions of a gift giving spectacular that begins with a single partridge and ends in a spectacular broadway-esqe finish complete with chorus lines of drummers and pipers and lord-a-leaping. It’s quite the production, really.
What my various sources agreed upon was this: no one really knows where the song originated. Sometime in the 1700s we find the first record of it as possibly a recitation, or some sort of memory game, which I would ultimately lose at because when it comes time to sing all twelve verses in the correct order, I get lost somewhere around the eighth or ninth.
In early versions of the lyrics, five golden rings probably referred to Ring-necked pheasants and today’s four calling birds were actually four “colly” birds, a common name back then for blackbirds.  Turns out even the pear tree at the beginning of the song and the end of each verse might just have been a repetition of the French word for partridge: “une perdrix” (pronounced pear-dree).  What end up with are seven days of swans, geese, pheasants, blackbirds, French hens, turtle doves, and partridge or two to top it all off. Nice Christmas bird count list of species, if you ask me!  I’ll let you speculate on the species identifications…
Hope you all have a great holiday season, and happy birding!

Click here for past 'Birds of the Month'.


Field Trip Report

Antelope Island - November 13, 2010

by Eric Huish


There were a lot of Birders on Antelope Island yesterday.  I went up with the Utah County Birders Field Trip (Led by Lu Giddings). 

The Black Scoter was seen in  morning on the South side of the Causeway at the last bridge before the Island. On our way back across the Causeway at about noon we saw 2 Surf Scoters from the same bridge but they were more distant and off the North side of the Causeway.  I believe the Black Scoter was seen again around noon but I missed it the second time.  We could not find the previously reported Dunlin or Bonaparte's Gulls along the causeway.

We walked around Garr Ranch for some time and there were other birders there before us. As far as I know No one saw any of the previously reported Varied Thrushes. It was very quiet at the ranch.

Along the road to Garr Ranch a few of the cars stopped to watch a Northern Shrike, a first-of-season for me.  Also first-of-season for me was a Rough-legged Hawk. I heard some people saw a Prairie Falcon but our car missed it.

Below are My complete lists. They are Not a complete list of the birds seen by the group.


Location: Antelope Island Causeway - Davis Co. UT
Observation date: 11/13/10
Notes: UCB Field Trip led by Lu Giddings. Participant numbers varied as we met up with and lost people.
Number of species: 21

Canada Goose 300
Tundra Swan 400
Northern Shoveler 50
Lesser Scaup 6
Surf Scoter 2
Black Scoter 1
Common Goldeneye 4
Ruddy Duck 700
duck sp. 2000
Eared Grebe 20
Northern Harrier 1
American Kestrel 1
Snowy Plover 1
Killdeer 60
American Avocet 200
Least Sandpiper 45
Ring-billed Gull 20
California Gull 100
Herring Gull 1
Larus sp. 300
Common Raven 4
American Pipit 5
American Goldfinch 1 Heard Only


Location: Antelope Island SP -- Antelope Island
Observation date: 11/13/10
Notes: Birding with Eric Peterson, Keeli Marvel and Yvonne Carter.  This is the list of birds seen by our car as we traveled the road to Garr Ranch.  Birds seen at Garr Ranch and on the Causeway are on separate lists. 
Number of species: 7

Northern Harrier 4
Rough-legged Hawk 1
Golden Eagle 1
American Kestrel 2
Northern Shrike 1
Common Raven 10
European Starling 10


Location: Antelope Island SP -- Garr Ranch
Observation date: 11/13/10
Notes: UCB Field Trip led by Lu Giddings. Participant numbers varied as we met up with and lost people.
Number of species: 8

Cooper's Hawk 1
Great Horned Owl 2
Northern Flicker 2
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 1
European Starling 4
Song Sparrow 1
Red-winged Blackbird 30 Fly Over


Backyard Bird of the Month

November 2010

Glenn Barlow - Fruit Heights
Sharp-shinned Hawk [11/22: Adult male. He chased one of my feeding Eurasian Collared-Doves into a window well, where he tried to finish it off, without success. My daughter first asked me what the two large birds were doing in the window well. The dove was really in bad condition and subsequently died.] Also had Yellow-rumped Warblers, Lesser Goldfinches and Juncos.

Milt Moody - Provo
The Pine Siskins have returned for the winter, joining the Lesser Goldfinches at the thistle feeder.

Alton Thygerson – Provo
Spotted Towhee came back after a 2 month absence.

Steve Carr - Holladay
Cedar Waxwings - Flock of 10 enjoying the heated water feature.

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Accipiters - Daily. One day at least 2 different Sharp-shins and a Cooper's. On another day I had 2 Cooper's at once. Also had an Orange-crowned Warbler on the Nov 29th.

Junece Markham - Provo
Flocks of birds coming to my feeders since the storm. New were Cedar Waxwings with some Robins also many American & Lesser Goldfinches. Also had Scrub Jays, Magpies, Chickadee, House Finches, Juncos, one little Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a noisy Flicker.

Bruce Robinson - West Jordan
Dark Eyed Junco - So fun to watch! Always busy...

Leila Ogden - Orem
Dozens of Lesser and American Goldfinches at my feeder. They love the Niger seed.

Alona Huffaker - Springville
Sandhill Cranes
circling over the neighborhood!

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