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August 1998


Matt's Message
by Matt DeVries (

The last week or so, Pia and I have been hearing an unusual nosie in our yard: chickadee chatter. For many, a chickadee in the yard is not an unusual occurrence. However, our yard is a concrete driveway and our foliage is limited: any sound other than traffic is pleasant. A CD of the "Birds of Matt and Pia's Yard" could contain the following four species: American Robin, House Finch, House Sparrow, and starling. Armed with such a CD one could accurately identify 90% of the sounds in our yard.

However, midst the drudgery of our local avifauna, are some irregular regularities and some genuine surprises. So omnipresent are our regular visitors, that anything outside of those species stands out dramatically. Our irregular regulars include: chickadees (including mountain once), kestrels, and flickers, scrub-jays, nighthawks (every fall!!!), swallows, Mourning Doves, waxwings, juncos, yellow-warblers, and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Our surprises (once each) have included Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, and Cassin's Finch.

None of the above birds is truly unusual, but in our yard anything other than one of the "familiar four" is strange. And, once in awhile we are truly surprised by an unusual visitor. This spring, for instance, I stepped out one morning to here a familiar song, so out of place in our yard that I was disoriented. I stood there for several minutes hearing this painfully familiar trill before I realized our neighbor's yard was filled with Chipping Sparrows. There were at least a dozen. They spent three days, trilled relentlessly and then disappeared. Mixed in with there trills was an insect-like tsip-tsip-tsip-SREEEE-ip which turned out to be a Savannah Sparrow.

After, an experience like this, I always spend a few minutes thinking "who would have ever guessed it...." And, I suppose these experiences in my yard sum a lot of the joy I find in birding: a whole lot of the familiar, a little of the unusual, and just a touch of the bizarre.


Field Trip

We’re heading North to see Migrating Shorebirds
Saturday, August 22

We will leave at 6:00 am from the Bean Museum and travel up to the Antelope Island Causeway, Farmington Bay, and/or Bear River Bird Refuge. We will be looking for migrating shorebirds. Exact location will depend upon what birds are being seen at the time. Plan on returning mid-afternoon.

August Meeting

Annual Potluck Dinner
Friday, August 21st 7:00 PM

This year’s potluck dinner will be held at Robin and Julia Tuck’s home in Provo. The address is: 917 East 2730 North. (Go five block north of the Provo Temple on 930 East).

Please bring a dish that will serve about 6 or 7 people. Bring your own plates and utensils. Drinks will be provided.


Robin’s View
by Robin Tuck (


Slam, slam, slam, slam...

"Rats," I think to myself, "now I’ll never see that bird." "Four door slams, at least four noisy people."

Some birds need to not be pressed by noisy on-lookers. They hide, they fly away, some even abandon nest sites because of noisy people. If you want to see them, you play the game their way, which may mean being very quiet, moving slowly and trying to fit into the surroundings.

It seems to me that when serious birders do serious birding, they often go alone, or in small groups of other seasoned birders. They want to not drive the birds away before they have a chance to see them.

While some lessons are hard to learn, they are often just as hard to teach. For example, how do you teach someone to be quiet without coming off rude or insensitive? When I have asked someone to stop talking, I have felt like a heal, and have vowed not to do it any more.

But all erstwhile birders need to learn when to keep quiet, when to minimize quick movements and other incidental noises. Even some of us ‘old hat’ birders need to learn that some of our actions drive away birds. So, here is a list of what we oughtn’t do while birding:

Slam doors. (Get out of the vehicles quietly).
Talk loudly. (Ever see ducks hurry to the other side of the pond when they hear people?)
Talk incessantly. (Tell us about last week’s bird when we aren’t looking for this week’s bird).
Run ahead to see what’s there. (Share the experience, go together).
Walk noisily. (Leaves, twigs, even dirt make big noise when walked on).

The list could probably go on. Just last week, I was birding with a friend, driving down a dirt road, when he hollered "stop," so I skidded to a stop. I skidded so noisily that the birds were scared off. So I learned, Don’t skid to a stop.

Some things are hard to say. Saying them make me feel like a heal. But, please be quiet.


On the web:
The Bookstore

The Utah-Birds-Web-Site Bookstore has a good selection of birding books. Although they promise delivery within 5 or 6 days, (if the book is in stock ), the orders have been arriving by mail in two or three days, even for the "Birding Utah" book, which wasn’t in stock.

Check it out!


Saving Red and Gray
by Alison Hill Spencer

I hear it before I am even in the room—a throbbing through the house like a tiny earthquake chipping away at the chimney. I sit down by the fireplace in Mom and Dad’s room to wait and see if whatever is up there will come down. There is a glass door over the fireplace, caging the animal in. Mom and Dad finally put it on after eight years because their first grandbaby is crawling. I sit across from it and wait.

It is already Christmas outside with icy snowdrifts to our back door. The morning sky cradles the cold earth with a haunting gray. With the snow reflecting the sky the whole world seems gray, and I feel sorry for the thing in the chimney because the chimney is cold and dark with no sky at all. I know it must be a bird in the chimney—we have had them there before—and I think out loud how ironic it is to have a bird there this morning. Dad and my brothers are out on the Utah County Christmas Bird Count, identifying and counting all the birds in the county for the Audubon Society’s annual research. Every year I say I’ll go, and every year it’s too cold for me, so I stay at home and count the birds that come to our feeders.

"Come on down little guy," I whisper, not loud enough for him to hear me. He is bigger than a little guy, though. I can tell by the thumping of his wings on the bricks.

Suddenly he is there, in the fireplace, with his wings beating and his heart beating and the glass on the fireplace beating until I am afraid it will all shatter at once. He is a beautiful gray and black and red and rust all flapping together in the fireplace. He is a Northern Flicker, the most common woodpecker in Utah County. Everyone has seen them, I am sure, at picnics, on hikes, bounding over the road, their pulsing of red and gray, red and gray, red and gray. I must have seen them a million times, with and without my dad. But here is one now, two feet in front of me, and I have to hold my breath because he is so beautiful.

He stops flapping when he is clinging to the glass itself, his long gray toes spread out at me like forks with claws clasping the hinges of the door. He knows I am there as well as I know he is there, but he doesn’t show it. He just clings and looks sideways, perhaps hoping I have not seen him yet. His breast is pure white, speckled with black like cookies and cream. His heart is vibrating so fast that his breast makes the glass shiver. He has a thick black necklace—like I see the old rich women in movies wearing—which wraps around a soft gray neck. I’ve never been close enough to a flicker to see the red streak that makes his beak frown, or the rusty cap on the top of his head that bleeds down his scaled back. His eyes are just as black and round as any other bird I have seen, but they reflect beads of white that make the bird seem to have a spirit just like a child. But these two little eyes are afraid. "You’re going to be okay little guy," I tell him. I am sure he can hear me. He stays still anyway. "We just need to get you out of there." But everything is more easily said than done. If I open one of the fireplace doors I will scare him back up the chimney where he will bang around until his wings are broken or his little body marred. If he does not fly back up the chimney and I get both the outside door and the fireplace door open, I don’t know that he will know to fly out through the outside door. If I am in the room and he feels trapped, I am afraid that he might come after me with that solid beak. Attack seems less likely, but it has happened once before on Machias Seal Island when Dad and I got too close to an Arctic Tern’s nest. The mother tern sped around us in anger, shrieking and diving like a bomber. She merely grazed our faces and backs with her razor wings and thick beak, but she wasn’t locked in a room with us either like this flicker was.

I stand up slowly, pulling myself to my feet with the bed. I decide it’s safest to open the outside door first, so I carefully step to the door and pull it open. Even though it is cold outside and the snow powders in, I open it as wide as it will go. The flicker will have more chance to find it then. The fireplace door will be trickier. But he sees me coming and watches me with his black eyes. His head moves slightly with my hand. Slower, slower, slower I move until my hand is on the handle. The flicker does not fly up the chimney. I pull firmly so the clumsy door will not bounce when it opens. It clicks open—one, two, three, four, five, six inches—until there is enough room, and I am nearly touching the quivering little body. But still he watches me and doesn’t fly up the chimney. I sit by the bed again, on the side farthest from the fireplace. If he does try to attack I can hide more easily. But he just clings to the fireplace a while longer, waiting to see what will happen next. Maybe he is hiding and waiting just as I am doing. Maybe he wants me to leave first, but I can’t. I can’t help but watch and admire him. Maybe he has injured himself and can’t fly away.

Finally, he pokes his head out and stares at me. For just a moment my heart matches the racing of his heart; and then he is flying, his wide wings flashing red and gray, red and gray, red and gray, until he is out the open door in the snow, cradled by the gray sky. Before he is gone, I see him meet his mate at the top of the pine in the back yard. She must have been waiting for him all along, more afraid than I was that he wouldn’t get out safely.

They fly off together over the trees with their red and gray. I go to the kitchen and sit down where I can watch the feeder boxes. I take out the list Dad gave me before he left this morning and write where it lists Northern Flicker: 2.


Two Birding Classes Offered This Fall

Merrill Webb will be teaching a Continuing Education class on "Birding Basics" for UVSC this fall. The class will start on Wednesday, August 26, ending on October 14, and will have a Field Trip most Saturdays during that time. A second class will start Oct 21 and continue to Dec 9, also with Saturday Field Trips. The classes must have 10 people attending to "carry" and will cost somewhere around $39 per session. The classes will be taught at the UVSC class rooms at the University Mall. Call UVSC Continuing Education at 222-8450, for more information.


Watch for Wrong-way Willy, Subtle Sally

The fall migration is under way
by Milton Moody (

We’re seeing signs of a little action after the summer slowdown. A Dunlin and a Ruddy Turnstone have shown up around Antelope Island, along with some regular late-summer shorebirds. Rufous Hummingbirds are staking out feeders and buzzing anything that comes their way. We may have another mixed up bird go north instead of south like the Vermilion Flycatcher that showed up at the American Fork boat harbor to spend the winter. And with El Niņo and La Niņa doing their thing, we may have a warbler from Bangor Maine come through thinking that Cuba is just around the bend. I asked Ned Hill and Matt De Vries what to look for in the next month or so as far as rare birds are concerned and this is what I think they said:


The shorebirds are generally the first birds to start coming through. Check mud flats between August and October for things like Red Knots, Dunlins, Ruddy Turnstones as well as the more regular migrants. (We have a field trip on the 22nd of August, targeting shorebirds...see page one for details).

Warblers and other Passerines

Check the usual vagrant traps–isolated stands of trees, dense foliage along lakes or streams, marshy areas plus funnel areas like mountain passes and canyon mouths. We should be seeing Nashville Warblers, Townsend’s Warblers or maybe some wacky warbler from the east or another Scarlet Tanager...who knows?


The usual Rufous and Calliope Hummingbirds should be showing up. There have been Anna’s Hummingbirds come in for the winter possibly taking the wrong mountain range from Vancouver headed for San Diego and ending up at Bob and Betty’s feeder in the chilly Wasatch Mountains. And maybe the Green Violet-ear that ended up in Tennessee instead of the tropics will want to check out Utah this time.


Ned said that a Long-tailed Jaeger and a Pomarine Jaeger showed up one year within a week of each other. (Those young gulls may not be gulls). In the California-Ring-billed-Gull shift, we could see some interesting stuff. (I might just get out the new seabird book I bought through our web bookstore and pump up on gulls–an area I’ve neglected for years).

Irregular Regulars

During this spread-out fall migration we’ll probably see a lot of our regular birds looking a bit different. There are lots of juveniles and birds with drab, beaten-up feathers this time of year. It’s a good chance to observe our "regulars" in something other than their bright spiffed-up breeding plumage–it’s a good time to check out the subtle variety in the birds we see all the time.

And remember to report your interesting birds to the hotline.

Happy birding!


Hotline Summary

Junece Markham 373-2487
Julia Tuck 377-8084

Names of Birds


Reported by:



Dunlin 10 July Mark Stackhouse North end of Antelope Island Davis
Ross’ Goose July Jay Banta Fish Springs Juab
Three-toed Woodpecker 11 July Mark Stackhouse Bald Mountain trail head Duchesne
Black Rosy-finch 13 July Mark Stackhouse Bald Mountain trail head Duchesne
Magnificent Hummingbird


Josh Krietzer Grapevine Wash, Washington Washington
Brown Thrasher 13 July Jay Banta Fish Springs Juab
Williamson’s Sapsucker 14 July Christian Peay Squaw Peak Road Utah
White-eyed Vireo 18 July Ann Braun Tom’s Creek, Callao Juab
Marbled Godwit 21 July Merrill Webb Swede Lane mud flats Utah
Caspian Tern


Merrill Webb


White-winged Crossbill 19 July Joel & Kathy Beyer Near Mirror Lake Duchesne
Snowy Plover 21 July Carol Gwynn, Larene Wyss Saltair Salt Lake
Baird’s Sandpiper


Larene Wyss, Carol Gwynn " Salt Lake
Peregrine Falcon 28 July Christian Peay Strawberry Reservoir Wasatch
Ruddy Turnstone 31 July Ann Pierce Antelope Island Davis
Cassin’s Kingbird 1 Aug Mark Stackhouse Canyonlands National Park San Juan
Common Poorwill 3 Aug Dana Green Majestic Oaks Lane Salt Lake
Pectoral Sandpiper 2 Aug Joel & Kathy Beyer Saltair Exit Salt Lake
Common Tern 4 Aug Stan Smith Great Salt Lake State Park Salt Lake
Semipalmated Plover 8 Aug Mark Anderson Saltair Salt Lake
Red-breasted Merganser


Steve Carr Farmington Bay Davis