Utah County Birders Newsletter
April 2013

    April Meeting
Upcoming Field Trips
    Captains Log
    Bird of the Month
    Field Trip Report
- Skipper Bay Trail
    Field Trip Report
- South Utah County
Backyard Bird of the Month
    March Hotline Highlights
Newsletter is now Online Only


Thursday, April 11th, 2013 - 7:00 PM

Nikki Wayment from Hawkwatch International. will present a talk titled "The American Kestrel: A raptor in decline."  Also, she will be bringing an education bird for show and tell. 

Meet at 7:00 PM at the Orem Public Library - 58 North State Street, Orem.  We meet downstairs.

Note - meetings will be held at the Orem Public Library while the Bean Museum is under construction.


20 April 2013 (Sat):  Early morning trip to East Canyon Sage Grouse Lek, and East Canyon Reservoir. Meet at the park and ride at the mouth of Provo Canyon (by the gas station) at 5am to carpool and review lek etiquette. After observing the grouse, we will bird the area around East Canyon, and return home around noon. Led by Keeli Marvel.

27 April 2013 (Sat): We will visit Antelope Island for Shorebirds and migrants at Garr Ranch. We will meet at 7 AM at the Orem Center St. Park and Ride and carpool from there. We should be back in mid-afternoon.  Led by Bryan Shirley.

Possible future trip - I'm thinking about scheduling a weekend club field trip to Monterey or Half Moon Bay in August or September to go on a Pelagic birding trip, and I'd like to know how many people would be interested. Email keeli.marvel@gmail.com if interested. A list of potential trip dates and pricing can be found here http://www.shearwaterjourneys.com/schedule.shtml or http://www.montereyseabirds.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 Bryan Shirley at - bt_shirley@hotmail.com  

April Captains Log
by Keeli Marvel




Birding San Antonio

Last August I was sent to San Antonio for three weeks for training for a job duty that was newly assigned to me at work. Anyone who has lived in Texas or traveled there in the summertime knows that August is definitely not the best time to visit, temperature-wise. Average temperatures there ranged in the high 90s to low 100s with humidity to match. However, this was my first time in Texas, and I was excited and I planned to make the most of my free time there.

I flew in the day before training was to begin, picked up my rental car, dropped off my luggage, and went exploring. One aspect of the city I found interesting was the high water gates and enormous flood canals found around the lower parts of the city. One of the locals I’d talked to later in the trip said that San Antonio either gets too much precipitation, or not enough, and when they get too much, they really get too much. In some places, flood gauges on the curbs or light posts measure the water in feet above the road, and certain roads disappear completely during high water events. It must be a headache for the cleanup crews, as I get the feeling it happens during monsoon season fairly regularly.

I’d done a little research and found a park not far from my hotel that looked promising. Breckenridge Park is a huge tract of about 350 acres of old growth wooded land that includes the San Antonio River, the Zoo, a Japanese garden, and a golf course, and it was here that I found my first life bird of the trip– a Black-Crested Titmouse. I also heard a few other species I’d seen on prior trips back east – Carolina wren, Northern Cardinal, and Blue Jays. Not a bad start for the first day of my trip! After my little exploratory birding trip, I found the local grocery store, picked up a few things for the week, and headed back to my hotel.

The first week of class flew by. My classmates were all either civilian pest management people like myself, or active duty soldiers tasked with pest management on their respective army installations. For the most part, we all got along really well, and I found a couple of people willing to go do some birding with me later in the trip.

The following weekend I hooked up with the local Audubon group for a beginner bird walk at another nearby park called Olmos Park. If I were to give anyone advice about birding in an area that is new to you, it would be this: Find the nearest birding organization, and if at all possible, hook up with them. Their local knowledge is priceless, and generally you will find people who share your love of birding and who are eager to share their local birds with you. The local Audubon chapter had converted a small shed into an education center in Olmos Park and we met there and began walking the Judson Nature Trails through the park. The biggest highlight of this trip for me was a lifer Golden-fronted Woodpecker. We also saw a Purple Martin house just chalk full of Purple Martins, Chimney Swifts zipping around, Eastern Phoebe, Ladder-backed woodpecker, Inca Doves, White-winged Doves, Black Vultures, Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, Carolina Wrens, Black-crested Titmouse (titmice?) and Great-tailed grackles (which as it turns out are the unofficial-official bird of San Antonio, and are ubiquitous). At the end of our field trip we met back at the education center for cookies and juice (a tradition I think maybe the UCB needs to adopt) and we reviewed our trip species list. I got some great tips on where to find some local rarities and an invite on a trip the following weekend to the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center.

To be continued next month…

Bird of the Month

Photo by Carol Nelson

The Thunder-Pumper
(Botaurus lentiginosus)
by Carol Nelson

Last year I was determined to accomplish the Utah County Birders challenge. Finding 236 species would test me as I had never seen that many species in one year. As summer approached I was well on my way and shortly found my count to be 235. The day after I reached that total I was looking at Utah Bird’s web page under Places to Bird and read Paul Higgins report on Crawford Mountain Road which is located 1.5 miles north of Randolph, Utah. His description intrigued me as did his report that I might be able to see the old Thunder Pumper there. I had only seen it once in my life when it was scared out of hiding by Dennis Shirley, but that was many years ago.

The next morning I headed out very early because Paul had said it was most easily seen before 10:00 AM. I arrived and hunted and hunted until 10:00 AM. I became very familiar with every cattail and bulrush in the area--but not with the bird. I didn’t want to give up. Randolph is quite a distance from Provo, not to mention the gas I had used, and I HATE FAILURE. Despite the 10:00 hour I decided to give it one more try. I retraced my steps.

The Thunder-pumper is a solitary, stealthy and slow moving bird. Its neck and breast, according to eNature.com, have chestnut stripes on a paler background and the feathers on its back and upper wings are marbled and finely marked. It has a white throat and supercilium, and black malar stripe. Its eyes and dagger-like bill are both yellow. Males, females and juveniles are similar. Its wingspan is 3 feet and it is approximately 2.5 feet long. The bird looks quite large, but, according to Audubon, it weighs only about a pound. The Department of Emergency and Environmental Protection says loss of habitat makes the bird an endangered species at present, and it is protected under the United States Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. In years past, it was hunted for food and was considered a delicacy. Its life expectancy is approximately 8 years of age.

When cooler weather comes and ponds around us freeze, the Thunder Pumper can be found further south, and west along the coast where ice on ponds is not a factor to be dealt with. It heads north again mid April to early May. The male may have several females nesting within his territory. Females choose the nest site, build the nest and are responsible for both incubation and tending the young. And what is the male doing all this time—why making the most obnoxious sound he can muster up trying to attract other females, I suppose. This unmelodious call has prompted many folk names. Thunder-pumper, Stake-driver, and Water-belcher are a few. The first description I heard of its call was “regurgitation”. In all field guides the Thunder-pumper is known as the American Bittern. When alarmed, instead of taking flight like other birds, it will stand motionless with its bill pointed straight up and its body contracted. This habit and its coloring make it very hard to see in the reeds.

I finished my retracing without success and finally decided to head for home. About 100 feet from the Oxbow on Weston Lane, a side arm of Crawford Mountain Road, a large bird flew overhead. I decided to back up and check it out. As I turned my head to back up, in a grassy field to my right, I noticed a horizontal log just over the fence and a perpendicular log out a ways beyond it. I picked up my binoculars to look at them and started bouncing up and down. The perpendicular log had a yellow eye and a yellow bill pointing skyward. The Thunder-pumper was doing his thing. All I had was my iPhone, but I took a quick shot with it, and then just sat, looked and enjoyed one of God’s creations and the satisfied feeling I had.

If you would like to write an article for the Bird of the Month, please contact
Eric Huish - erichuish@gmail.com

Click here for past 'Birds of the Month'.

Field Trip Report
Skipper Bay Trail & Provo Airport
- March 16th, 2013
by Eric Huish

UCB at Skipper Bay Trail - photo by Leena Rogers

On Saturday, March16th, 28 Utah County Birders met for a field trip led by Bryan Shirley. We visited Skipper Bay Trail and the Provo Airport Dike.

We found over 40 species along our 1 mile walk down the Skipper Bay Trail.  The most exciting find was a male Eurasian Wigeon only 700 feet down the trail from where we had parked. We almost missed it.  We had checked the field with our scopes once already.  Then farther down the trail we stopped again to look back and check the same spot but with better lighting.  The Wigeon was a lifer for several people in the group.  Other Skipper Bay highlights were a Snow Goose, 18 Tundra Swans, Wood Ducks, Dowitchers, and newly arrived Tree Swallows  - You can see the full checklist here - http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S13416140

We then drove around the Provo Airport Dike.  We didn't spend as much time here and there dike was not as birdy as Skipper Bay.  Best birds here were more Tundra Swans, a kettle of 6 immature Bald Eagles all soaring together and a lingering Rough-legged Hawk. The car I was in returned to the east end of the dike to drop people off at their cars after the trip.  We saw a flock of about 100 American Crows flying high overhead heading North.  Full Checklist here - http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S13416173

We had a great time and got great views of beautiful birds.

Field Trip Report
South Utah County
- March 30th, 2013
by Dennis Shirley

Eight Utah County Birders found time away from the Easter weekend festivities to spend four hours Saturday morning on a UCB field trip. Areas looked at included; Benjamin Slough, Lincoln Beach, Le Baron Point, Genola, and Goshen. Sixty birds species were recorded, several of which were FOY for State or County.

Most notable birds included; Black-necked Stilt, Long-billed Curlew, Franklin's Gull, Merlin, Ferruginous Hawk, Mountain Bluebird, and Sage Thrasher.


Backyard Bird of the Month

March 2013


Harold Clayson - Salem
Sunday morning I went out for the paper and had 2 Downy Woodpeckers drumming on 2 separate telephone poles. They took turns, one on a G pole, the other on a B flat pole. You know the loud tones they can produce.


Jeff Cooper - Pleasant Grove
My March yard bird of the month was definitely the Sharp-shinned Hawk that took out a Robin and was dining on it in my backyard. I was able to watch it from a close range and got some nice photos to enjoy when I need a quick raptor fix.

Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
I had a male Cassin's Finch at the feeders a couple of days.

Leila Ogden - Orem
The Screech-Owl stayed in my box for 3 weeks and then left. Haven't seen it since. I still have the Red-breasted Nuthatch that visits my feeders occasionally.

Leena Rodgers - Provo
Backyard bird of the month for us was a Red-breasted Nuthatch which made a quick visit to check out our old plum tree and feeders.

Dennis Shirley - Elk Ridge
My backyard bird of the month is a toss-up between an adult
Golden Eagle circling low over my backyard on the 18th, or a high flying migrating flock of Sandhill Cranes on the 24th.

Alton Thygerson - Provo
California Quail were once seen frequently in the backyard. However, during the past several years, cats have greatly decimated their numbers. Hopefully, a pair which has been seen a few times this month will survive the cats.

Report your favorite backyard bird each month to Eric Huish at 801-360-8777 or erichuish@gmail.com

Newsletter Announcement.  The Utah County Birders Newsletter is now online only. 


We've decided to stop the regular paper mail version of the UCB Newsletter.  This will save our club on Printing, Postage and Paper.  If you would like an email notice each month when the Newsletter is posted online please send an email to Eric Huish at erichuish@gmail.com or subscribe to the ucbnet mailing list.  To subscribe to ucbnet just send an e-mail to ucbnet-subscribe@utahbirds.org


We are willing to print the online version of the newsletter and mail it out to anyone who still wants a paper copy or who doesn't have internet access.  If you know of anyone who enjoys the UCB Newsletter but doesn't have internet access please let Eric Huish or Keeli Marvel know and we will make sure they get a copy.