Utah County Birders Newsletter
October 2015

    October Meeting
Upcoming Field Trips
    Captainís Log
    Bird of the Month   

    Field Trip Report - River Lane
    Field Trip Report - Antelope Island
Backyard Bird of the Month
    September Hotline Highlights

Printable Version


Thursday, October 8th, 2015 - 7:00 pm

UCB Monthly Meeting - Jeff Cooper will give a presentation on why he blogs. Jeff is a skilled photographer and a great bird blogger.

Meet at 7:00 pm at the Monte L. Bean Museum. 645 East 1430 North, Provo, UT http://mlbean.byu.edu/


Saturday, October 10th, 2015. Provo Airport Dike Big Sit - 6:00 am to Sunset. - We will sit out at the Southwest Corner of the Provo Airport Dike and watch birds from 6:00 am to sunset. Keeli Marvel will lead the sit. Come join us anytime and stay as long as you like. This will be our 14th year participating in the big sit. http://www.birdwatchersdigest.com/bwdsite/connect/bigsit.php   Provo Airport Dike Map - http://www.utahbirds.org/counties/utahco/provoairport.html

Saturday, October 17th.  Museum of Natural History - 9am-noon. We will be going to the Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake to see the Birds of Paradise exhibit and tour the rest of the museum. Meet at the American Fork Main Street park and ride on the northwest side of the freeway on Pioneer Crossing. We will carpool up to the museum. If anyone feels like eating lunch afterwards we could eat at the museum cafe. The entry fee for the museum is $13 for adults, $11 for seniors, and if we get a large enough group we can get the group rate which is $2 cheaper.

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 yearís field trips, please contact Bryan Shirley at - bt_shirley@hotmail.com  

Utah County Birders Captainís Log
:  October 2015

by Keeli Marvel

Badlands National Park
photo by Keeli Marvel

Badlands National Park
photo by Keeli Marvel

Devil's Tower National Monument
photo by Keeli Marvel

Haystacks in South Dakota
photo by Keeli Marvel

I promised a report on birding in South Dakota last month, and here it is. Unfortunately, the birding was challenging and the opportunities were less than Iíd hoped, as they often are when not traveling specific for the purpose of birding. My parents and husband and I took off for the Black Hills area of South Dakota last Thursday. Rapid City, SD is right on the northeastern edge of the Black Hills. Itís not a huge city, and less than a mile north of our hotel the roads quickly become graded gravel surrounded by rolling prairie.

On Friday morning I got up and headed out to do a little birding before everyone else was up. I headed north and west of Rapid City to a hot spot that had popped up on Ebird Ė Sevey Lake on Elk Creek Road. When I finally found it, it was more of a puddle than a lake. Birding was slow, but I saw a Prairie Falcon swoop at and miss a Lark Sparrow, and then chase unsuccessfully after some Gadwall that were in the pond. I also saw several Vesper Sparrows which I tried unsuccessfully to turn into Lark Buntings. Before the Prairie Falcon flushed all the birds from the pond I saw a Lesser Yellowlegs, a sandpiper I didnít get to ID before it flew, a handful of Killdeer, and a Sora sneaking through some reeds along the side of the road.

Later that day we headed to Keystone, which is just outside Mt. Rushmore. We rode a historic train from Keystone to Hill City, and along the ride saw tons of wild turkeys, a few turkey vultures, and a couple of raptors that were too far away for me to ID. The lighting ceremony at Mt. Rushmore that we attended that evening was pretty cool. I highly recommend sticking around in the evening for it if anyone is headed that way. They played a video telling the stories of the presidentsí accomplishments that inspired Borglum, the sculptor of Mt. Rushmore to make them his subject. After the video, the audience was invited to stand and sing the national anthem while they lit up the heads on Mt. Rushmore, and then all of the veterans and current military service members were invited to the stage to help retire the flag.

Saturday morning I headed out early again before everyone else was up for the day. This time I drove north from my hotel a couple miles until there was more prairie than homes. I was really hoping to see a Lark Bunting, and I tried really hard to turn a few Vesper Sparrows into one, but without any luck. I did, however, pick up a pair of lifer Clay-colored Sparrows. I also saw a few other birds out there including White-crowned Sparrows, Brewerís Blackbirds, and a couple of Kestrels. Later that morning we headed south to Wind Cave National Park. The cave itself is a little less impressive in terms of diversity of cave formations compared to others Iíve been to (Timpanogos Cave Included), but it was pretty cool to learn how much of the cave system they think has yet to be discovered (hundreds of miles). By the time we were finished with the tour, it was lunch time so we stopped at a picnic area just down the road from the visitor center. There I picked up some American Robins, a Hairy Woodpecker, a Spotted Towhee, and a migrating Tennessee Warbler, my second and only other lifer for the trip. From there we headed east to our second National Park for the day: Badlands National Park.

I didnít see any notable birds in Badlands, but there was a herd of Bighorn Sheep not far from the north entrance to the park grazing right off the side of the road. It was recommended to me that we visit Badlands either early or late in the day when the light was favorable, and Iím glad we took that recommendation. The colors were amazing and the views were incredible with the sun setting and the almost full moon rising over the formations in the park. Badlands National Park is definitely worth the visit if you like unique scenery.

Sunday was a driving day, and I spent most of it in the car traveling to North Dakota and back. On the way, however, we stopped for a few minutes outside Sturgis at a little lake called Bear Butte Reservoir/State Park. I birded a brushy area along the north side of the lake and saw tons of sparrows including more White-crowned, Clay-colored, and Vesper Sparrows. I picked up a Yellow-breasted Chat and a small flock of Red-winged Blackbirds along the lake shore. On the lake there were Canada Geese and American Coots, and I saw at least two Franklinís Gulls cruising around in the air. Off in the distance I could hear a Blue Jay calling.

On the rest of the drive up I saw several hawks including Red-tailed Hawks, a couple of Ferruginous Hawks, and one Golden Eagle near some rocky hills outside one of the small one-horse towns we drove through. Itís weird to drive across the prairie in that part of the country. I decided while driving through Skull Valley yesterday that most of our valleys here in Utah are bordered by mountains, and having them there makes me feel secure, like having giant walls around me. The prairie feels infinite in some places, like if you go too far, youíll fall right off the edge of the earth. At the same time, I really enjoyed the green rolling hills, with the grass waving in the wind. It was refreshing to see so much open space that looked green and productive, as opposed to our stark desert brush land and salt flats. I donít think Iíve ever seen as many White-tailed Deer or Pronghorn as we saw driving across Wyoming and between North and South Dakota.

On the drive home on Monday we stopped briefly at Devilís Tower in Wyoming. Devilís Tower is a National Monument that is a remnant of volcanic upwelling that was left behind when the surrounding land eroded away. Itís a pretty neat place, and definitely worth a stop. A storm was rolling through while we were there, and it was raining lightly, but there were Townsendís Solitaires and Black-capped Chickadees calling and singing along the trail at the base of the tower.

We got home Monday night exhausted from all the driving, but having seen 2 lifers, visited 2 National Parks and 2 National Monuments, and having made some good memories.

Happy Autumn Equinox and Happy Birding!
Keeli Marvel



Bird of the Month

photo of a full-sized wood carving of a Green Heron, carved by Steve Carr

Green Heron
Butorides virescens
by Steve Carr

[Rerun article from June 2011]

The Green Heron (Butorides virescens) is the smallest member of the heron family (Ardeidae) in North America, except for the tiny Least Bittern. It measures 18 inches long when fully stretched out, which it almost never is except when diving for prey. When usually observed, its neck is tightly pulled into the shoulders giving it a somewhat scrunched-up look, so that it is more nearly 13-14 inches long. Wingspan is 26 inches.

The greenish coloration is almost more of a blue-green on the wings, crown, and long filamentous plumes on the back. The face, nape, throat, and chest are a deep chocolate brown and the legs and feet are yellow. In its usual darkened habitat the bird appears almost black.

The habitat usually consists of the edges of swamps and marshes, among cattails, bulrushes, and other marsh reeds, and along slowly moving streams in darkened forests. They usually are seen alone or with one or two others, perched quietly on a stream bank or submerged log intently watching for errant fish or frogs or invertebrate animals to swim by. On the other hand, I have seen them in a dry field full of old sunflower stalks, hundreds of yards from the nearest water, feeding on crickets and other grasshopper-like insects. If disturbed, they may act like bitterns in freezing next to some vegetation, or they may suddenly take flight with a loud squawk. When flying, they take on the appearance of a crow Ė fairly rapid, deep wingbeats, compared to the larger herons and egrets. They also readily fly in and land on trees and bushes up to 15-20 feet tall. They nest in a variety of locations, including willow thickets, open marsh, and wooded areas from 5 to 35 feet high. Three to five pale greenish-blue eggs are laid and both parents do the incubating for about 20-21 days. Chicks are altricial and begin to fly at three weeks.

Green Herons are among very few North American birds known to use tools to forage. It has been observed to drop a feather, small leaf, or a tiny twig onto the water, so that when a fish swims up to investigate this possible food source for itself, it becomes prey for the heron.

In the 1940ís, the bird was known as Anthonyís Green Heron or Eastern Green Heron, as well as Green-backed Heron. In fact, Volume 1 of Handbook of the Birds of the World, published in 1992, p. 417, still lists it as Green-backed Heron, where it is still lumped with what is now known as the Striated Heron (Butorides striatus). Then, in about 1995, after being split from the Green Heron, the Striated Heron is the common small heron of the eastern hemisphere and South America.

Range maps for this species are a little disconcerting. They all show the large breeding range east of the Rocky Mountains up to southern Ontario and barely into Manitoba. Also shown is the western range up the west of the Cascade Mountains to Vancouver, BC. Permanent range includes the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas and down into Mexico, all of Central America, and the Caribbean area. Most of California and the Baja Peninsula are also covered. One map shows the permanent range up along the entire Atlantic seaboard, another shows nothing there. One map
shows several breeding areas in New Mexico, Arizona, and southern Utah. Another shows almost nothing in Arizona and New Mexico, but a permanent range up along the Colorado River into the St. George, Utah, area. There are at least two to three pairs in the St. George valley around several golf courses, the Tonaquint Nature Center, and along the Virgin River. According to the Utah Bird Checklist, the Green Heron has been seen in the following 13 counties: Beaver, Davis, Emery, Grand, Juab, Millard, Morgan, Rich, Salt Lake, Uintah, Utah, Washington, and Wayne. I have
personally seen them in Washington, Davis, and Salt Lake counties. Surprisingly, the bird has been seen in such far away places as the Azores Islands off Africa, Great Britain, Greenland, and Hawaii.

Bird Guide, Part 1, Water and Game Birds, and Birds of Prey, Chester A. Reed, Worcester, Mass.,

Birds of North America, A Golden Field Guide, Chandler Robbins, et al., Golden Press, 1966.

Complete Birds of North America, National Geographic Society, Washington, DC, 2006, p.119. A Field Guide to the Birds (Eastern and Western editions), Roger Tory Peterson, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1934, 1941.

Field Guide to the Birds of North America, National Geographic Society, Washington, DC, 1999. Handbook of the Birds of the World, Lynx Edicions 1992, Volume 1, pp. 417-418.

Lives of North American Birds, Kenn Kaufman, Roger Tory Peterson Institute, 1996, p. 58.

The Sibley Guide to Birds, Sibley, David A., National Audubon Society, 2000. (Also available in the
Sibley Guide to Western Birds.)

If you would like to write an article for the Bird of the Month, please contact Machelle - machelle13johnson@yahoo.com

Click here for past 'Birds of the Month'.


Field Trip Report
River Lane -
  September 12, 2015
by Machelle Johnson

We met early on Saturday Sept 12 to bird River Lane. There wasn't a lot of activity in the fields as we headed West, just some Sandhill Cranes and White-faced Ibis's, and Canada Geese flying overhead. We did stop to check out a dark raptor in a big tree. We thought it was a Peregrine Falcon, but that was kinda weird. Turns out we were right. A Peregrine Falcon in a big tree in the fields heading West to River Lane. Cool. Once we turned on to River Lane we saw more bird activity. There were several American Kestrels chasing each other around, including one that was abnormally dark. We thought it might possibly be a Merlin, but it was just a Kestrel, probably looked dark due to light or something. A Belted Kingfisher did a rattling fly-by on his was to the pond behind the house on the West side and there was a family of Ring-necked Pheasants along the fence line.

Our first stop on the dirt road was pretty quiet. We went down a trail heading North, but it was pretty quiet. Back on the main dirt road walked down the road to a spot that was teeming with flitting little birds. There were so many, we were calling out birds right and left! We had warblers, gnatcatchers, goldfinches and sparrows in the trees and Common Nighthawks overhead as well as perched on branches. Once we had our fill at that spot we went on out to the beach and got good looks at several American Avocets, Gulls, Terns and 5 Sanderlings.

Here is the complete list for River Lane and Sandy Beach:
Sandhill Crane
White-faced Ibis
Black-billed Magpie
American Kestrel
Swainson's Hawk
Canada Geese
Peregrine Falcon
House Finch
House Sparrow
Western Meadowlark
American Robin
Belted Kingfisher
Red-winged Blackbird
Barn Swallow
Bank Swallow
Tree Swallow
Ring-necked Pheasant
Common Night Hawk
Northern Harrier
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Northern Flicker
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Virginia's Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Black-capped Chickadee
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
American Goldfinch
Gray Catbird
Mourning Dove
Eurasian-collared Dove
Caspian Tern
American Avocet
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Franklin's Gull
Red-tailed Hawk
Turkey Vulture


Field Trip Report
Antelope Island -
  September 26, 2015
by Machelle Johnson

On Sept 26 a few of us went to Antelope Island. The water has receded dramatically. It was practically dry to the first bridge. We had decided that we were going straight to the ranch first, no stopping on the Causeway until we were on our way out. A Chestnut-sided warbler had been reported at the ranch for a few days as well as a few other great birds, but we didn't see any of them, we couldn't find the Great-horned Owl that resides in the grove either. It was a bit disappointing, but hey, a bad day birding is still better than a good day (fill in the blank with your choice, my choice is 'at work').

Here is a complete list of Antelope Island:
Barn Swallow
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Song Sparrow
Yellow-rumped Warbler
White-crowned Sparrow
Orange-crowned Warbler
Red-naped Sapsucker
Wilson's Warbler
Hermit Thrush
Dark-eyed Junco
Spotted Towhee
Cedar Waxwing
Ring-necked Pheasant
Horned Lark
Sage Thrasher
Black-billed Magpie
Eurasian Collared Dove
Great-Horned Owl (at the Bison Corrals)
Mourning Dove
Rock Wren
American Coot
American Avocet
Long-billed Curlew
Northern Shoveler
California Gull
Common Raven
Franklin's Gull

We also went to Farmington Bay:
White-faced Ibis
Pied-billed Grebe
Canada Geese
American Kestrel
Snowy Egret
Franklin's Gull
American Coot
Clark's Grebe
Western Grebe
Ruddy Duck
American Wigeon
Northern Shoveler
Barn Swallow
Double-crested Cormorant
Ring-necked Pheasant
Great-blue Heron
Eared Grebe
Greater Yellowlegs
Red-winged Blackbird
Lesser Yellowlegs
Least Sandpiper
Black-crowned Night Heron


Backyard Bird of the Month

September 2015

Jack Binch - Sandy

On the 29th I was trying to ID a hummingbird and a Red-breasted Nuthatch landed on my platform feeder. Only the third one I have seen at home.


Yvonne Carter - Highland
First time in my yard! a Mountain Chickadee and still had until the other day a few hummingbirds, still a lot of Western Scrub Jays.

Jeff Cooper - Pleasant Grove
I heard a Barn Owl screaming from the darkness while talking to a neighbor on my front porch the other night. That was a nice birding moment that, like most, went completely unnoticed by my friend who did not have an ear tuned to the sounds of our birds.


Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove

Orange-crowned Warblers - Two together hung out in the yard for a few day.  One was missing its tail.


Milt Moody - Provo

Some mountain birds are starting to arrive in my Provo yard. A Red-breasted Nuthatch came to my bird bath for a drink and a Pine Siskin came to my thistle feeder.


Leena Rogers - Provo
We had a surprise visit from a Red-breasted Nuthatch. It took a quick dip in our shady birdbath. What a treat!

Dennis Shirley - Shemya Island, Alaska

Since my big backyard till the 21st of Sept. was still Shemya Island, my best bird was a MARSH SANDPIPER, a Code #5 ABA bird. It was a new record for the island and only the 4th or 5th time for North America. It's still good to be back!!

Alton Thygerson - Provo
Band-tailed Pigeons - Infrequent, unpredictable visitors, sometimes accompanying Eurasian Collared-Doves.

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


The Utah County Birders Newsletter is now online only/mostly. 


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.


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.


Printable Version of this UCB Newsletter