Utah County Birders Newsletter
August 2001

August Meeting:

Wednesday, August 29.
Summer Social- Dennis and Carolyn Shirley's House.

Meet at 7:00 p.m. at the Shirley's. 
399 N. Loffer Drive, Elk Ridge.

Bring Pot Luck 

A Fine Kettle of Fish Birds
by Dennis Shirley

Last week, I saw my first fine kettle of birds of the "fall". I had gotten up early and was up along the Strawberry Ridge at dawn, classifying elk, which means counting cow/calf and cow/bull ratios. The early morning elk counting was over, and I had recorded a pretty good morning. I saw 19 mature bull elk, one mature bull moose, and one black bear, not to mention several dozen mule deer. Around nine o-clock, I turned my attention to birds. 
     As I so often do, I was slowly driving along with the window rolled down, listening and looking for singing birds. In a grove of aspen, near the head of Indian Creek, I came on my first-of-the-year kettle of migrating passerines. Birds show a wide difference in flocking habits during migration. Many species, such as hawks, migrate singly. Others, such as shore birds, migrate in flocks composed of their own species. But a kettle is a flock of mixed species that migrate together. Usually these birds are of the same general size and habits, such as small song birds. And they are usually moving as a group through the trees or understory. When you find a moving kettle, you need to move with it to effectively identify the bird species in it, and this can be challenging. 
    Last week's flock had maybe 25 individuals including Townsend's, orange-crowned, yellow-rumped, and MacGillivray's warblers; warbling vireos; black-capped chickadees; chipping sparrows; dark-eyed juncos; western tanagers; and a single downy woodpecker. That's ten species, and luckily, the loose flock was traveling parallel with the road. That gave me a chance to look over pretty well all of the individuals. There was one vireo that, at first, I thought was different and possibly a Philadelphia vireo because of the much more extensive yellow underneath than a warbling vireo. But, after getting good looks at it for some time, I convinced myself it was a subspecies (possibly eastern) of a warbling vireo. 
     This little kettle, like they always do, made me wonder what part of the continent they came from and, of course, where they were going. It also made me wonder if these birds had been neighbors in a certain location and had started out migrating together or had picked up new members as they headed south. Additionally, I wondered whether this kettle would stay together throughout its migration and then winter together when it reaches its migration end. Are more individuals added to this group as it migrates? Or does it loose individuals as it goes? Why does it seem there is always a downy woodpecker in these kettles of songbirds? Why would you have a northwestern species like a Townsend's warbler in the same flock as an Eastern subspecies of warbling vireo? Certainly, there's safety in numbers. Predation on any one bird would be minimized. There are always more questions that come to mind than answers. 
    Over the last couple of years, we've seen some really neat kettles. Last year, on a field trip to southeastern Utah with several of our club members, we saw a great kettle of warblers and vireos along the Colorado River, which included Cassin's vireos and Townsend's warblers. Another September day, I found a kettle moving along the riparian woods in Diamond Fork. This one included three vireos and 14 other passerine species. One of the vireos was, I believe, a blue-headed vireo from the East, which would have been a first-of-state record, but we'll never know because I didn't get a really good look at it. That's why finding a group of migrating passerines can be exciting because you never know what's going to be in the pot. Keep track of the kettles you see this next couple of months and let's compare notes! 

Robin's View

by Robin Tuck

There are more birders out looking for birds than ever before, and the birdnet reports are making it possible for more of us to see them. In the past, the club has operated phone trees, where the person finding an unusual bird calls someone in the tree and the sighting is passed on. This worked great if you were part of the phone tree, but not so well if you weren't. Now it is easy to inform everyone by simply sending an email to the birdnet. And virtually anyone can subscribe to birdnet. (Subscribe by going to UtahBirds.org and following the directions there.)
     In spite of birdnet's efficiency at informing lots of people about bird sightings, sometimes it is hard for birders to report their sightings. The person seeing the bird may not have access to email or might not get to their computer soon enough. I have often heard someone lament "Gee, I wish I'd heard about that bird in time." Lately, I have been pondering the birdnet and what my expectations of it ought to be. Half a dozen years ago, I came across an article about Finnish birders who used pagers to keep everyone informed about the latest sightings. I spoke about this with Milton Moody, who has just visited Finland. He reported that this system works so well that other birders often show up within 5 minutes of the initial report.
     I have pondered what it would take for us to achieve the same thing here in Utah. Every time I see a new pager advertisement, I carefully read it to see if it would work for us, but each time I find some fatal flaw, such as limited coverage or high purchase and operating cost. Yet, some of us already have equipment that can support quick report submission and reception. For example, many cell phones have the capability to send and receive text pages. The changes necessary to enable the birdnet to accept input and send sightings to these phones are not difficult to implement, but they do require some learning and experimentation on our part. So, the question is "Should we begin work to implement sighting send and receive to pagers and cell phones?" Please let me know if you would like to send and receive sighting information via text messaging by sending me an email to robin@utahnature.com. Please send both positive and negative responses.

Where the Birders Hang Out
by KC Childs

In trying to think up an article to write I decided to focus on what the public's perception of birders was. I asked people old, and young. I looked up things on the internet to see some of the myths, and misconceptions of a birder. I also have many experiences and encounters with birders to make some judgements. I hope to unravel the mystery behind the birder.
     I went and asked people from all around Utah what they thought about when they heard the term "bird watcher." I had several answers, ranging from extremely patient, tree huggers, nerds, old, minded their own business, stand offish, had no life, and many other terms. Many thought of men as birders. I knew a lot of these were not true at all, and attempted to disrobe these myths. When I told them, I was a birder most were shocked. They were surprised to see someone young to be out birding. Of course there are young, and old, and by no means do we have no lives. We are extremely busy with work, birding, and many other constructive activities. Many are active in club, church, work, and voluntary positions. They are an active group with much to offer, and learn, and with a sense of humor.
     I searched the internet to find out what there was out there about myths about birders, and birding. I found a lot of myths referring to birding myths such as; Keeping your feeder up in the fall is bad for the migrants. This being because it will keep the birds there through the winter, and kill them. Also things concerning all the Rails that have died due to people playing there tapes. Supposedly this brings the animal so close that you step on them, or as they jump up and fly people hit them and break their neck out of fright. But as for myths about the birders this was a hard subject to find information on. There are many pages talking about "You might be a birder if . . . " These are pages meant to be funny though. My favorite being "You might be a birder if you pish at the bushes at the local mall parking lot."
     As for misconceptions about the birder there are few. All I could find is referring to them as geek's nerds, and sorts. Which is obviously not true? My experience through my years of birding here in Utah is a pleasant one. I have met many young birders, and many great older birders as well. They are some of the nicest people, always willing to lend you a hand (or a scope depending on the case ) and help in any way they can. They care for nature, and the animals and birds in it. They all have other hobbies, and a lot of other activities they are involved in. Personally I am involved in sports, and love to go to music concerts, and go out with my friends. All I am is not birding, all though many people have that idea. I know that there are birders that are interested in so many things, from art to hunting. I have learned a lot since I have started birding. If you had asked me two years ago, I would have agreed with the stereotypes. Granted there are some different, and odd people, as there are in any hobby or profession.
     Well I explored people's opinion on the birder, I looked up information on the internet to hopefully get a better perception, and have talked to and met birders all over the state. I think that it is safe to say that the birder is an individual. The birder is not one thing, the only thing they are is a human. Even the definition of a birder varies from birder to birder. I guess it is good to know we share a common bond, but yet are all different.