Utah County Birders Newsletter
December 2011

    December Meeting
Upcoming Field Trips
    President's Message
    Bird of the Month
Field Trip Report - Farmington Bay and AIC
    Pelican Encounter

    Backyard Bird of the Month
    November Hotline Highlights


Thursday, December 8th.

Provo CBC Preparation.

We will be going over the assignments for the Christmas bird count. We also will have a bird quiz to get us ready for the count so bring a field guide. If you can't be at the meeting and want to participate in the bird count on Dec. 17 be sure to email or call Bryan Shirley.


Beginning birders are welcome.

December 17 (Sat): Provo Christmas Bird Count - Assignments are given out at the Utah County Birders meeting on December 8th. If you can’t attend the meeting, call Dennis Shirley at 801-491-4084 or send an email to bt_shirley@hotmail.com.

There are many Christmas Bird Count this month.  Attend as many as you can.  Click the following link for a full list of this year's Utah Christmas Bird Counts - http://www.utahbirds.org/cbc/cbc.html.

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 Keeli Marvel at - keeli.marvel@gmail.com


President's Message

by Bryan Shirley, UCB President

My Favorite Tradition – the Christmas Bird Count

I was one of the lucky few who grew up in a family of birders. I admit that I wasn’t all that interested in birding as a kid, but growing up I knew that every year we were going to do the Christmas Bird Count. It didn’t matter what football game was on TV or how far below zero it was outside, we still went. It was kind of like eating my grandma’s rice pudding – just one of those things that happened every year at Christmas, like it or not.

Overtime my interest in birds grew. So has my appreciation for good times that birding has brought. Now I have developed quite a few traditions that I try to do every year, but none of them are as enjoyable to me as the Christmas Bird Count.

The Christmas Bird Count was started over 100 years ago as an alternative to the annual Christmas Duck Hunt. Over time it has grown and last year there were 2215 counts (1714 from USA, 394 from Canada, the remainder from Latin America and other places). The total number of birds counted was 61,359,451! Here in the US we tallied 646 species with a total of 57,542,123 individual birds counted. That is a lot of birds.

Data from these counts is all on line at www.birds.audubon.org. What a great way to spend some time going through data there. On the site you can see that are over 50 counts that have been in existence for over 100 years! The count in Provo has been going since 1973. I don’t know how many of those counts I have participated in, but quite a few. It has been a family tradition for as long as I can remember and I have a lot of great memories.

One of my earliest memories is one of those memories we would all like to forget. I was riding in a vehicle with somebody my dad worked with. We stopped to look at some birds on a telephone wire. They were mostly black but they were spotted all over. When asked if I knew what they were I replied that didn’t think I had never seen anything like these birds. I was pretty embarrassed when I found out that I couldn’t even ID starlings and surprised to learn that it wasn’t just ducks that change plumage during the year.

Another year on the bird count we were covering the area around East Bay. Great-tailed Grackles had been around East Bay that year and we were determined to get them on the bird count for the first time. We had tried to find them in the morning with no luck so we thought we would eat lunch at the McDonald’s in East Bay. We sat at a booth by the window so we could keep an eye out. Just outside the window was a flagpole with an eagle on the top. My brother & I pointed to it and made some joke about trying to ID it. A few minutes later my dad yelled “there’s a grackle!” and pointed towards the flagpole. My brother & I were way too smart to fall for that trick. My dad kept yelling and we kept refusing to look. Eventually when my dad turned bright red and stormed out we begin to wonder if he was joking or not. My brother & I never did see a grackle that day and it is still a family joke every time we eat at that McDonald's. The flagpole with the eagle is still there and grackles are still being seen around McD’s nearly every year.

Of course there are lots of memories of good birds too. Most years on the count we have the same area we have always had, so we are always trying to find the same birds. We always check the same fields for Horned Larks. Some years they are there, some years they aren’t. We always search the same group of trees that sometimes has an owl. There used to be a dairy that would have thousands of Red-winged and Brewer’s Blackbirds. When we count them we would have to look close for Yellow-headed Blackbird and Brown-headed Cowbird. The dairy is no longer in operation so we have to work a lot harder to find them now. There have been a few real rarities as well. One year we had just started the count and were counting our very first flock of House Sparrows when a Harris’ Sparrow hopped out of the bush with them. Another year Lu Giddings and I found a Swamp Sparrow as we hiked through the snow along the shore of Utah Lake.

Each count has a different way of compiling the bird numbers for the day, but at the Provo count we all meet after dark and go through the lists together, usually while we have a pot luck dinner. The compiling is another one of my favorite parts of the bird count, not just because I am nearly frozen and starving after birding all day. Most people are pretty secretive about what birds they saw until the actually tallying, but you can usually guess who has a rarity because of the excitement in their eyes. When we finally start tallying the birds it is sort of like Christmas morning itself as everybody announces what exciting presents, or in this case birds, they got this year. It is always fun, but especially if you are the one with the present everybody else wants!

Here in Utah we had 24 counts last year and they cover most of the count period, so no matter where in Utah you live and no matter what your work schedule you should be able to find a count to participate in somewhere. Our count in Provo is Dec 17th this year. If you want to join the fun send me an email or give me a call. If you can’t make it to the Provo count, be sure to get out and do one of the others. If you have done the bird count in the past you know how fun it can be. If you have never participated before this year could be the start of a great new tradition. I guarantee it will be much better than rice pudding.

Bird of the Month

No Bird of the Month this Month.

If you would like to write an article for the Bird of the Month, please contact Oliver Hansen -- 801-378-4771 - byucactus@gmail.com .

Click here for past 'Birds of the Month'.


Field Trip Report
Farmington Bay, Antelope Island Causeway - November 12, 2011

by Keeli Marvel

Four Utah County Birders braved the blustery weather and met for a field trip Saturday to Farmington Bay and the Antelope Is. Causeway. Highlights of the trip included the Hudsonian Godwit and two early Bald Eagles at Farmington Bay, 3 Harlequin ducks on the causeway (the male plumage coming along nicely), and several Scoters. Three of our group got great looks at both the Surf and Black Scoters, while only one of our group got a confirmed look at a White-Winged Scoter. As mentioned in previous emails, a Prairie Falcon was patrolling up and down the causeway for part of the morning. We stopped on our way back to Utah County at Jensen Nature Park where we found a bunch of Great-tailed Grackles, a few ducks and gulls, but not much else, and at Lee Kay where the highlights were 2 Greater Yellowlegs, and a nice assortment of duck species (Redhead, Ring-necked, Bufflehead, Ruddy, Mallard, Gadwall, Lesser Scaup, and Common Goldeneye). Complete lists of species seen as follows.

Farmington Bay WMA, Davis, US-UT
Nov 12, 2011 8:00 AM - 9:29 AM
Protocol: Traveling
2.5 mile(s)
28 species (+2 other taxa)

Gadwall 50
American Wigeon 1
Mallard 30
Northern Shoveler 15
Northern Pintail 1
Lesser Scaup 20
Bufflehead 22
Hooded Merganser 3
Pied-billed Grebe 6
Western Grebe 20
American White Pelican 1
Great Blue Heron 1
Bald Eagle 2
Northern Harrier 4
American Kestrel 1
American Coot 200
Killdeer 4
American Avocet 100
Hudsonian Godwit 1
peep sp. 15
Franklin's Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 20
gull sp. 200
Northern Flicker 1
Black-billed Magpie 2
American Robin 1
European Starling 20
American Pipit 4
Red-winged Blackbird 50
Brewer's Blackbird 10

Antelope Island SP--Causeway, Davis, US-UT
Nov 12, 2011 10:10 AM - 12:04 PM
Protocol: Traveling
10.0 mile(s)
20 species (+2 other taxa)

Mallard 50
Northern Shoveler 340
Lesser Scaup 80
Harlequin Duck 3
Surf Scoter 5
Black Scoter 1
Bufflehead 20
Common Goldeneye 4
Ruddy Duck 23
duck sp. 1000
Eared Grebe 200
Northern Harrier 4
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Prairie Falcon 1
Killdeer 11
American Avocet 3
Franklin's Gull 1
Ring-billed Gull 100
California Gull 100
gull sp. 200
Black-billed Magpie 4
Common Raven 1

Jensen Nature Park (Davis Co.), Davis, US-UT
Nov 12, 2011 12:12 PM - 12:22 PM
Protocol: Stationary
6 species (+2 other taxa)

Gadwall 1
Mallard 5
Mallard (Domestic type) 100
American Coot 10
Ring-billed Gull 1
gull sp. 10
Red-winged Blackbird 1
Great-tailed Grackle 20

Lee Kay Ponds, Salt Lake, US-UT
Nov 12, 2011 1:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Protocol: Traveling
0.5 mile(s)
17 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose 2
Gadwall 10
Mallard 10
Redhead 2
Ring-necked Duck 5
Lesser Scaup 1
Bufflehead 10
Common Goldeneye 20
Ruddy Duck 2
Pied-billed Grebe 1
American White Pelican 1
American Coot 50
Greater Yellowlegs 2
Ring-billed Gull 20
California Gull 5
gull sp. 500
European Starling 20
Brewer's Blackbird 1

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3



Photo by Chris Peterson

Pelican Encounter
by Cheryl Peterson


My sons were in San Diego during the Thanksgiving weekend. They were on the wharf and saw a Brown Pelican. It was standing in a wooden box with the name Charlie on it. Chris, the oldest, told his little brother (I should say younger - Michael is a 6'1" Marine - nothing little about him) to go stand by 'Charlie' so that Chris could take a picture. Michael got a bit too close to Charlie and got nipped. When Michael texted me and told me of the encounter, my response wasn't very motherly. Instead of finding out if he was okay, I asked him if it was a brown or white pelican.


If you don't want to read any more silly articles like this from me, please submit articles for publication in the newsletter. We especially need people willing to write a Bird of the Month article each month. It is quite easy to do. Just choose a bird you want to write about and submit it to me. If you are worried that someone has already done the bird, you can email me and I will check my list. If this sounds like I am begging, I am! cherylpeterson@gmail.com.

Backyard Bird of the Month
November 2011

Alton Thygerson – Provo
Western Scrub-Jays gliding onto the back porch for peanuts.

Bruce Robinson - West Jordan
Sharp-Shinned Hawk - haven't seen her since spring.

Steve Carr - Holladay
Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warbler - 3 of them love the peanut butter in winter.

Yvonne Carter - Highland
A lot of Juncos, House Finches, Scrub Jays, and a few American Goldfinches are real busy at the feeders.

Milt Moody - Provo
My backyard bird of the month is a Lesser Goldfinch in breeding plumage, with a completely black back.

Reed Stone - Provo
Spotted Towhee under my feeder

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Townsend's Solitaire - I don't always get one in the yard every year.

Cheryl Peterson - Provo
Downy Woodpecker

Send your backyard bird of the month to Cheryl Peterson (375-1914 or cherylpeterson@gmail.com) by the end of each month.


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.