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UTAH COUNTY BIRDERS
Newsletter
February 1998


Contents


Matt's Message
by Matt DeVries ([email protected])

 

Not long ago, the leadership of the club met to discuss our plans for 1998. We made several decisions that affect the organization of the club. First, we decided that the presidency will be a two year position. This means that I will continue as president of the club for 1998. In the future, when a new president is needed, the leadership of the club will submit an individual for the vote of the membership. The position will not be limited to the recommendation; anyone may be nominated.

In addition to making the presidency a two year post, we also changed the structure of the presidency. The past-president position was eliminated. There will continue to be a president-elect. The elimination of past-president does not leave Robin unemployed. He has accepted the position of activity coordinator. He will be responsible for non-field trip activities. This includes contests, volunteer opportunities, etc.

The other committees will remain largely as they are now. Ned will continue as field trip coordinator and Dennis will continue to organize our meetings. Beula will continue as treasurer and will also assume membership responsibilities. Julie and Junece will continue their work on the hotline and will soon have a revised calling tree for us.

This brings us to our most substantial change. Responsibility for the newsletter will move from Weldon Whipple to Milton Moody. For the last year, Weldon and his family have consistently produced an excellent newsletter. Weldon has served as editor, compiler, and creator of the Utah County Birder’s Newsletter. He also became the Utah County Birder’s first Webmaster when he created our homepage and bookstore. His service to the club has been extremely valuable and we are fortunate that he will continue maintaining the webpage.

All of the committees are open to members. So, in addition to the people listed above, many others participate in organizing and carrying out our activities. I want to encourage members to participate in the club. If you have an idea for a meeting, trip, project, or anything else, please share it.

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February Meeting

February 19th (Thursday), 7:00 pm, Bean Museum Auditorium. Ned Hill will lead a discussion and demonstration on "Birding Resources." He invites all who attend to bring some of their favorite birding books, magazines, software and Internet sites. He will demo AviSyssoftware for keeping track of your sightings and show you how to use the Web to enrich your birding experiences.

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Membership Dues: 1998

Membership in Utah County Birders is open to anyone. Dues are $12.00 per year, and it is time again to renew for 1998. Please make checks payable to Utah County Birders and give or mail c/o Beula Hinckley, 2067 North 420 East, Provo, UT 84604. Please include a note as you pay dues indicating whether you want to be part of the club "Calling Tree," which alerts those interested to rare bird sightings or special activities.

Meeting and activities (bird walks, etc.) are still open to EVERYONE, so join us whether or not you are a member!

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Field Trip to Delta, February 21st

Join Utah County Birders for a field trip to Delta to see the Snow Geese (and maybe a few Ross' Geese, too). We will meet at the Bean Museum parking lot at 7:00 a.m. Reed Stone will lead the trip. We will return mid-afternoon.

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Robin’s View
by Robin Tuck ([email protected])

 

This month's article, "Keeping Records,"  is found in the Robin's View section of this web site.

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UCB Bookstore News

(www.whipple.org/birders/bookstore.html)

Visit the Utah County Birders Bookstore on the web and check out Robin Tuck’s new review of Birding for Dummies. If you like the review, you can purchase it from the Bookstore at a significant discount—and part of the purchase price goes to the Utah County Birders!

Help "stock" your bookstore. E-mail your favorite titles (preferably with a brief review) to [email protected].

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Eric Huish spots White-throated Sparrow at Anderson Park

by Merrill Webb

The recent sighting of a White-throated Sparrow by Eric Huish at the Anderson Park in Pleasant Grove was a great find by an observant birder. A quick check of a fieldguide map indicates its ne. and n.-c. U.S. Winter range maps do not show it occurring in Utah although it has been found as far south as Arizona; so it should be an expected winter visitor in our area. It is easy to over look because it frequents thick brushy wood borders.

We have seen it on four Provo Christmas Bird Counts in the last seven years. A detailed check of my own personal records for the state of Utah indicates 14 records since 1980–the first being on a CBC at Bear River Bird Refuge. Two sightings have been at Springdale during Zion National Park CBC’s and two at Lytle’s Ranch (1981 and 1991). I have seen them as late in the year as October 18, and as late in the spring as March 24.

I suggest we visit similar habitats as what existed at Anderson Park. We could probably find other White-throated Sparrows in Utah County before the winter is over.

Other Sightings in Utah*

Location

Comment

Date

Bear River Ref. During CBC; first sighting in state for Merrill Webb 22 Dec 1980
Provo East side of Ut. Lake 12 Feb 1981
Lytle’s Ranch One 15 Feb 1981
Zion N.P. CBC at Springdale 28 Dec 1983
Zion N.P. CBC ; Springdale 27 Dec 1984
Provo CBC, along Provo R. W. Provo 15 Dec 1990
Provo Two at 2200 W. 250 No. along Provo R. 14 Jan 1991
Provo Along the lower Provo R. 17 Feb 1991
Provo Along the lower Provo R. 17 Mar 1991
Lytle’s Ranch One male with white-throated in sunflower patch. 19 Oct 1991
Provo Along the lower Provo R. 21 Dec 1991
Lytle’s Ranch One; nice find. 24 Mar 1992
Springville Near hatchery 21 Dec 1993
Pleasant Grove One at Anderson Park 31 Jan 1998

*According to Merrill Webb’s personal database

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Birds of Utah Auto Tour, Swasey Mountain--Sinbad Springs
An Island in a Desert
by Reed Stone

Tour time 12 hours
Distance 330 miles
Road 80 miles, well graded dirt, some rough
Elevation: 4000-8000 ft.
No. species 32

This tour begins at Delta. To get there take I-15 south to Nephi exit 225 then follow U. S. highway 6 west through Leamington. Continue 6 more miles to Lynadyl then south 16 miles to Delta. A total of about 100 miles. Make a rest stop and fill your fuel tanks. The next gas station will be about 160 miles, at Lynndyl.

Go straight west out of Delta leaving us Hwy. 6 & 50 and follow the dirt road about .5 mile to Gunnison Bend Res. where one can see many waterfoul and other birds including Snow and Canada Geese, Gulls, Herons, Snowy and Cattle Egrets, Ducks, Killdeer, Belted Kingfisher, Turkey Vultures, Kestrel, Northern Harrier, Sharpshinned Hawk, Meadow Lark, and others. Return to US 6 & 50 and continue southwest about one mile and turn right at the sign to Sherwood Shores. Follow this road about .4 mile turn right. By following this road less than a mile you will cross the dam with a brushy area on your left and the lake on the right. Turn around and return to US 6 & 50 turn right and continue about 30 miles, watch for Ravens, Crows, Sage Thrashers, Horned Larks, Meadow Larks, and Loggerhead Shrikes. Right after mile marker 57, on the left, a sign, on the right, points to Antelope Springs and another sign, "U Dig Trilobites." Follow the dirt road north, watch for Pronghorn Antelope. In about 7 miles you will arrive at Long Ridge Reservoir. Ease upon the reservoir, stop and check the shoreline for Larks, Longspurs, and shorebirds. The surrounding desert is dry , and barren. only stunted brush and grasses are visible. The mountain straight ahead is Swasey. Continue another 7 miles to a reservoir fed from Antelope Springs by an aqueduct. Watch for ducks and other birds looking for a drink.

You now leave the desert floor entering a juniper and pinion pine forest. Cliff rose and mountain mahogany become increasingly numerous as well as sage bush. Watch for Mountain Bluebirds, Scrub and Pinion Jays as well as some sparrow sized birds. You are also entering the Trilobite Dig area. There is a commercial tribolite dig on the right. Tribolites are one of the earliest forms of sealife, and are about 500 million years old.

Continue another 2 or 3 miles. At this point you cross a cattle- guard, immediately on the left side there is a cattle watering trough. Watch for Red Crossbills, Tounsends Solitare, Finches and little brown birds. Wild horse bands frequent this trough and Sinbad Springs. Their trail is on the left side of the road and is clearly visible. Wild horse trails are 11 1/2" wide. Continue on, the road becomes a little rough. High clearance vehicles are recommended, but a good careful driver can negotiate around the high spots. As you continue up the grades become steeper. You will come to a open meadow area where Mountain Bluebirds frequent. Within a few hundred yards you come upon some very large ponderosa pine on the left. They are almost 2 feet in diameter and about 70 feet tall. They are nourished by Sinbad Springs, a broad seep. Just around the bend on the left there is room to park. This is a big sit location. Pull out your folding chairs, lean back, and observe. Many of the afore mentioned birds come here for water food and the habitat. After a while pull yourselves away and continue about a mile to Sinbad overlook, a striking view of a deep canyon and a commanding view of Tuele Valley to the left. To the north the high mountains of the Deep Creek range thrust their 12,000 foot peaks toward the sky.

While returning to the valley floor take a look at the panorama facing you. A commanding view of Sevier Lake surrounded by a vast desert is your reward. When you reach the little reservoir turn left at the sign noting Swasey Spring 12 miles. Watch for Golden Eagles, Meadow, and Horned Larks. Watch the fence posts for Shrike and Prairie Falcon. At about 12 miles there will be a wet spot, or a trough, on the right side of the road. About 100 yards past the wet spot a road turns to the left toward Swasey Springs. Watch for wild horses. Follow the road 4.6 miles to a very long watering trough, with water, for range livestock.

This is a great place to see Sparrows, Scrub and Pinion Jays, Mountain Bluebirds, and Townsend's Solitare. With a four wheel drive one can negotiate a boulder strewn narrow road two miles up the slope to the actual springs. Watch for Golden Eagles.

Return to the valley floor and continue north on the main road 2 miles to an unmarked, but good, road on the right. Follow it 14 miles to the site of Joy, a former mining camp of the late 1800s.

It is reported to have had saloons, stores, and around 500 residents. There is a spring on the north side of the road and remnants or an old stone foundation 30 to 40 yards east. This spring is used by wildlife in the area including Pronghorn Antelope.

After exploring Joy continue to the 2nd road to the left. Follow it 5 miles to the Brush Wellman, an oiled road. Turn right and follow it about 40 miles to Hwy. 6. Turn left and follow Hwy. 6 six miles to Lynndyl where there is fuel, food and a rest stop.

Continue on through town to the junction 132 east to Nephi, the way you came, or you may choose to take Hwy. 6 through Eureka, Goshen, and Santaquin back to I 15. The distance either way is about the same. Go under the freeway and turn left on the northbound ramp to Provo.

Thirteen Utah County birders made this tour last summer. It was a fantastic tour.

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The Main Course--Finding Rare Birds
Attu Adventures, Part 5: 1996
by Ned C. Hill ([email protected])

This is the fifth of a series of articles giving the account of North America’s ultimate birding adventure: a trip to Attu Island, Alaska. In Part 4 I told of the delays in getting to Attu and a little about the island itself. In this part, I describe the thrill of finding those much sought after rare birds that an Attu Adventure is all about.

After a seemingly interminable delay in Anchorage (4 days), we finally reached our destination: the much talked and dreamed about island of Attu, 1400 miles west of Anchorage. The first two days we spent setting up camp and birding close to our base camp in the rain. While we got great looks at common Alaska birds, none of the hoped for rarities appeared and we were getting anxious to see our first "lifer" and experience the thrill of an "Attu chase." On the 19th, Ivan and I decided to join a group of about 10 birders led by James Huntington, an energetic leader and skillful birder from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Perhaps being a letter carrier in his regular life explains why he could scale the steep tundra-covered hills like a mountain goat. Our goal was the Temnac Valley—about 7 miles over snow, stream and hills—to search for perhaps the only White-Tailed Eagle on U.S. soil. The bird has been there on and off for over 20 years. Its mate died a few years ago and this bird is getting towards the end of its eagle life. No one saw it last year because of the trip cancellation. Leaders warned us it might not be there.

Our trek presented us with breathtaking scenes of jagged, snow-covered peaks, avalanche-threatening snow cornices, snow fields that sometimes plunged us up to our thighs and emerging spring plant life. For the most part we stayed in the valleys to avoid the snow but hiking was nevertheless challenging as our feet trudged through spongy tundra several feet thick. Tundra is a miniature forest of tiny plants—often with tiny flowers blossoming forth. Some unusual evergreens are mixed in that grow close to the ground like vines. Up ahead a Rock Ptarmigan perched on a rock outcropping and let us approach for a good picture. We saw at least six on our hike. They are much darker than the birds saw last year north of Anchorage—a different subspecies.

We took a wrong turn and ended up on a precipice high above a waterfall that cascaded down to the ocean. James surveyed the situation and set us back on the right trail. A dark falcon zoomed by. Some thought it might be a Gyrfalcon but we learned later that this species is extremely rare on Attu and that Peregrine Falcons are quite dark and gyr-looking. We soon located the right valley and found the place where we had to drop down a steep 100-foot slope to George’s Creek. Ivan wisely decided to wait for us and not risk his recovering heart on such a climb. A rope secured there years ago was still serviceable. Ron, our single-armed roommate was the first to go down the rope. He refused to let any physical obstacle keep him back. We next had to cross the stream without getting wet. We tied garbage bags over our boots and legs and waded through. The weather went from foggy and cloudy to sunny and warm. Mountain peaks started to appear from their perpetual fog banks. We walked along a beautiful beach where we could see numerous rock pinnacles just off shore. There could not be a more beautiful picture! Finally we reached the mouth of the Temnac River. We paused to have lunch overlooking a sandbar where Glaucous-Winged Gulls had gathered. Some of our group were napping when Jack Hugus hollered, "There’s the eagle!" The gulls all stirred and cried. Everyone grabbed binoculars and scopes and quickly found the bird. All except me, that is. I couldn’t find it. What if I miss it?! I have a hard time picking out a soaring bird. James kept calling out directions. I still couldn’t find it. Darn! Then the White-tailed Eagle broke the horizon into the clear blue sky and I finally picked it up. Such an elegant and majestic eagle with a broad white tail and a blond head—not quite the white of a Bald Eagle. It soared for a while and was harassed by another bird before coming to rest on a cliff up the valley. Such a bird warrants more than just a passing view. Some of us decided to try for a better look. We hiked up the valley to the WWII wreckage of a P-38 fighter. James said the pilot and co-pilot had walked away from the crash. From that vantage point we could clearly see the perched eagle through our scopes. [Note: the 1997 Attour group looked in vain for the eagle in this same area on several different days and concluded it probably died during the year. We may have been the last people to have seen it.] I felt badly that Ivan didn’t get to see it but he would have his reward later. The seven mile hike back to the runway where we parked our bikes was a killer. I worried about Ivan and his heart. But we finally made it and James had radioed ahead to have the four-wheeler meet Ivan and take him and his bike back the last two miles.

When we returned triumphantly to base camp, we learned that most of our group had seen an Arctic Loon close by in Casco Cove. We looked for it in vain. Nevertheless, for the day we had seen, in addition to the eagle and Peregrine, Black Scoter, Greater Scaup, Common Eider, Tufted Puffin, Canada Goose (Aleutian subspecies), Harlequin Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Winter Wren, Snow Bunting and the ubiquitous Rock Sandpiper and Lapland Longspur. We were so glad to be back in our "home" where a great meal awaited us followed by a wonderfully sound sleep.

While we were hiking to the Temnac Valley, another smaller group had hiked even further to Nichols Lake where they found a pair of Whooper Swans—birds that have never been seen this late on Attu before. Other groups reported sightings of Ruff, Yellow Wagtail and a possible Common Sandpiper fly-over. Things are starting to pop! One thing was becoming clear, however. All those beguiling Attu lists reported only on birds seen on the trip—without mentioning how many of the group had seen the bird. They forgot to mention that some of those great sightings were by only a few birders in the group. This is such a large island, it is impossible to get to where each bird is being seen. The leaders are very dedicated to the idea of having everyone see every bird possible. But it is sometimes physically impossible to have all of us get to a bird before the bird decides to fly off to China.

On May 20th a large group hiked back up to see the swans. I wasn’t too tempted because of our exhausting hike the day before and because I had seen a Whooper Swan last year near Sacramento. The group reported back that it appeared the swans were nesting near the lake. Indeed, later visits proved they had successfully hatched some goslings—a first North American nesting record!

The one-weekers departed today—I felt so badly that they had come all this way and had so few new birds to show for their efforts. One fellow, another postal worker, received his one week Attu trip as a 50th birthday present from his wife. He found the eagle with us, but added no other new birds to his life list before his shortened week came to a close. The plane to pick up this group brought in a large load of supplies together with another group of Attour birders. Some old friends from last year were included: Bill Rydell, David Narins, Paul Baicich and Jerry Rosenburg. The world famous birder Sandy Komito also arrived. He has a life list somewhere above 820 but he won’t reveal the exact number to anyone. There are now about 84 of us so we have to eat in two shifts for breakfast and dinner. Some new bikes arrived along with two large white plastic tents: one for a drying room and another for a lunch making room. As those assigned worked on setting up the new equipment, Ivan and I joined a group that birded the area around the base camp. We saw the same birds we had seen on previous days.

The 21st proved to be the day we were all hoping for. Ivan went with a walking group to Murder Point and I chose to bike about 5 miles over to Henderson Marsh in a group led by David Sonneborn. On the way over Sandy Komito told us how he developed his interest in birding as a Boy Scout. He and David Narins agreed that about half of the top 30 or so listers are somewhat unethical in their practices. They told some very interesting stories about unnamed individuals listing birds they really didn’t even see. Fascinating to hear about this level of birding. Before we started walking the huge marsh, Sandy told us, "There have been more first North American sightings in this marsh than any other spot on earth." Some examples: Green Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Narcissus Flycatcher. Oh for one of those Code 5 birds to show up. This seemed like perfect habitat but today there were no birds outside a few Green-winged Teal and some over flying Red-throated Loons. We spread out across the marsh in a line and started to walk when Dave remembered to do a radio check. Every half hour leaders are supposed to report their sightings, if any, to base camp via CB radio. Then base camp can report back out to all groups if a hot bird has been found. Usually the report sounds like, "This is Dave Sonneborn in Henderson Marsh with nothing to report, over." But this time, we were electrified to hear from base camp, "Jerry Rosenberg’s group at Alexai Point has reported a Great Spotted Woodpecker!" I had read about Attu chases but this was the first I had experienced. Gratefully it would not be the last. Everyone ran from the marsh, hopped on bikes and started pedaling as rapidly as possible down the muddy, sandy, tundra covered trail that led, after seven miles, to the Point. I met Ted Robinson coming out from the base camp. He said Jerry’s group had flushed the woodpecker but they had not been able to relocate it for the past hour. They were waiting for all of us to arrive. Sandy told us the only other time a Great Spotted was seen in North America was back in 1986. A fellow named George Wagner found it and then proceeded to shoot the bird (intentionally) for his collection just before the Attour group arrived. Were they mad! Sandy was in that Attour group and hoped after a decade to finally see a Great Spotted Woodpecker. He was sure it would still be around. The trail got muddier and muddier. I finally could ride my bike no more and ended up walking the last few miles—as did most of us. I stopped at a waterfall to refill my canteen (they told us the waterfalls were purer than any tapwater). When I arrived at the Point, the leaders had us form a long line and walk slowly across the whole area. After a couple of hours of thorough searching, we could report no woodpecker. So we lined up and did it again. An Emporer Goose flew by. It would have raised a lot of excitement on most days but not with our target in mind. We tromped through the tundra a few more hours until our legs ached. Then the radio crackled. Jennifer Jollis, our cook, had left the group a while back to go fix dinner. When she arrived at the place we had all parked our bikes, she found the woodpecker! With renewed energy, we swiftly marched the half mile back to the bikes. When I arrived, they had the bird in a scope but several people were waiting to get a look. I got my binoculars on it as it perched, woodpecker-like on the only upright piece of wood on the island, an old half-rotted telephone pole. It was a striking black and white with a flame-red crissum (undertail). I was just starting to enjoy my view when the bird flew out of sight. The leaders soon relocated the woodpecker and stayed with it until all of the group who made the trip were able to get a look. Some had to come from 20 miles away and a few were assisted by the four wheeler. As I started back to base camp, I was very happy to see Ivan arriving. He was able to see the woodpecker, too. There were a lot of smiles all around as we realize what a rare find this bird was. With rubbery legs, I walked and pedaled my way 12 miles back to base camp. Dinner was late due to all the excitement of our first real Attu chase but that made the food taste all the better. This was our first Code 5 bird. But there was talk in the camp of another Code 5 bird that one group saw as a flyby today: a Rufous Turtle Dove. Tom Schlagel, our roommate, was in the group and said he saw it well. We will all look for it tomorrow morning after a well-deserved night’s sleep. What other surprises will blow in for us to find?

To be continued.

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Membership in the Utah County Birders is open to any interested person. Dues are $12 per year. Send dues to Beula Hinckley, 2067 N. 420 E., Provo, UT 84604

Executive Committee

President Matt DeVries ([email protected]) 226-0958
President-Elect Merrill Webb 224-6113
Secretary-Treasurer Beula Hinckley ([email protected]) 377-3443
Programs Dennis Shirley 423-1108
Activities Robin Tuck ([email protected]) 377-8084
Field Trips Ned Hill ([email protected]) 375-2417
Webmaster Weldon Whipple ([email protected]) 226-3931
Newsletter Milton Moody ([email protected]) 373-2795
Telephone Hotline 375-2487, 377-8084

Submit items for future Newsletters to Milton Moody, 2795 Indian Hills Drive, Provo, UT 84604.
E-mail [email protected]

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