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UTAH COUNTY BIRDERS
Newsletter
January 1998


Contents


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

My heart started beating faster when I heard that Terry Sadler had relocated Josh and Lou's Red-shouldered Hawk. And, when Ned announced that his team had found a Black-and-White Warbler it started to race. The St. George Christmas Bird Count had provided me with the chance I needed.

I had been stuck at 298 species on my Utah list for months. And, while I had not abandoned hope, I was beginning to despair. Until Ned's wonderful announcement, there seemed little hope of achieving my goal for the year—300 birds on my Utah list.

Now, I had a chance. I grilled Ned and accosted Terry. Where had the birds been seen? What time of day was it? Had they flown off? Had they agreed to hang around for a couple more days so that I could see them? I took notes, imagined success, and anticipated the thrill of the chase.

At 7:30, seven birders gathered at the Red Hills Golf Course to pursue the warbler. It was cold and there was no bird activity. Birders paced up and down the row of cottonwoods where Ned had seen the bird. No activity. But, it was early and it was cold. Perhaps, when the sun peaked over the ridge, our quarry would make its appearance.

Sensing a possible defeat, we began to converge on a common location. Suddenly, several birders grabbed their binoculars and peered intently in the same direction. Everyone followed their example and was treated to a beautiful, cooperative Black-and-White Warbler. For several minutes the bird fed in the open and delighted a chilly group of birders. After everyone was satisfied, the bird headed for some privacy in some nearby shrubs.

Two hundred and ninety-nine. I no longer felt a sense of urgency. The birding gods were with me today, I would be successful.

Still filled with the joy of a successful chase, five of us headed to Washington to find the Red-shouldered Hawk. And, while our second quarry was not so sociable as the first, it was present. And, thanks to Merrill's assistance we successfully located it. A glorious end to another birding year.

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January Meeting

by Dennis Shirley

Kent Keller, well-known raptor enthusiast, will be our featured guest at our regularly scheduled meeting in January. He will present his slides, put to music, concerning nature appreciation. He will also discuss his many years of study on Golden Eagle nesting biology. Many of Kent’s photos have been printed in national publications, and he has been featured in a number of newspaper and magazine articles. He is a quality individual and his enthusiasm will rub off at our meeting. Be sure to plan to be at the BYU Bean Museum on Thursday, January 15, 1998, at 7:00 p.m.

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Salt Lake County Field Trip, Saturday, January 17th

Plan to join us next Saturday for a field trip to Salt Lake County. We will meet at the Bean Museum parking lot at 7:00 am. Weather permitting, we plan to look for mountain species at Solitude/Alta (both Rosy Finches, Clark's Nutcracker, Stellar's Jay, etc.) then proceed to Liberty Park in Salt Lake City, where Northern Goshawks have been hanging around. We will then visit City Creek Canyon by the capitol, stop by Saltair, and head home through Rush Valley and the western dessert. We should be back in Provo by about 3:00 p.m.

Call Ned Hill if you have questions or suggestions: 375-2417.

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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. Dues can be prorated if paid the last quarter in 1997. Call Beula Hinckley at 377-3443.

The biggest expense in the Club is for printing and mailing newsletters. Last year we sent newsletters to nearly 100 addresses each month. We had 61 paid members. This included several couples, so the actual newsletters sent to addresses of paid members was 52. This year the board has decided to send newsletters each month only to paid members' households, beginning March 1998.

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

 

This month's article, "The Bill of the Shrike,"  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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Success at Last--Birding Attu Island
Attu Adventures, Part 4: 1996
by Ned C. Hill ([email protected])

This is the fourth of a series of articles giving the account of North America’s ultimate birding adventure: a trip to Attu Island, Alaska. In Part 1-3, I told of the disappointing cancellation of the 1995 Attu trip because of weather problems. Nevertheless, we saw some wonderful birds in other parts of the Aleutians and the Anchorage area. This part tells of our successful 1996 trip to that took Ivan Call and me to Attu, Nome and St. Lawrence Island.

After the failure of the 1995 trip (the first ever complete cancellation of an Attour trip), Ivan and I debated whether we were up to trying again in 1996. Larry Balch, trip organizer, gave all 1995 participants first priority for the 1996 trip even though that trip was almost full. Would we be able to gear up again for such a physically demanding trip with the possibility of a second disappointment? Could we face the biting cold and the significant absence from our families and our employer? Could we convince our most understanding wives to let us go for a month this second year in a row? All of this for a handful of rare birds we might never be able to see any other way. The answer to these questions was a resounding, "YES!"

So we put down our deposit for another attempt and began another round of physical preparation and dreams about Code 5 birds. A few days before we were to leave for Anchorage, President Bateman called me in and asked me to consider a significant administrative appointment at BYU. I told him about my Attu plans and he very kindly told me to go ahead with them and think about his proposal during the next month. The day before departing, I got a call about a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (Utah’s first record) that had showed up at a pond near Mona. With my new Minolta and zoom lens, we raced down and were fortunate enough to see the bird and get a few reasonably good pictures of it for the records committee. That day was a flurry of activity as we scrambled to get everything ready for a month-long trip. I found that two prescriptions for my eye-drops had expired and had to call my doctor away from a family meal and have him phone the pharmacy. He was most understanding. Lots of little things to make the day interesting. Ivan and I finally bade our families farewell, drove to the airport and reached Anchorage by 12:30 in the morning of May 11th. This time our luggage even made it on time—surely the sign of good things to come!

The first full day of our trip we birded around Anchorage. At the Turnagain Arm (an arm of the sea that extends miles into the land south of Anchorage) at low tide we found several Surfbirds on the mudflats. These birds nest in the trees in spruce bogs. At Hillside Park we found two Three-toed Woodpeckers and located their nesting cavity. Also in the park were Boreal Chickadee, Varied Thrush, and both Kinglets. At Westchester Lagoon and Potter’s March, we found many species of shorebirds, gulls and other waterfowl including Pacific Loon, Hudsonian Godwit, Glaucous-winged Gull, Common Merganser, and Mew Gull.

Our friend Don Burlett from last year joined us that evening. The next morning, we showed Don some of the birds we had found and helped the Attour pre-tour trip locate the Three-toed Woodpeckers. From deep in the woods of Hillside Park, we heard the hollow echoing call of a Spruce Grouse. That evening we had a dinner with all 85 hopeful Attuvians, including many friends from last year. Larry showed us slides of previous trips to get our blood flowing and then announced the words we wanted to hear: "The weather appears excellent for our flight to Attu tomorrow."

Up at 4:30 am, bags into the vans, breakfast with the group, vans to the airport. Then the announcement we had become so accustomed to, "Weather delay." But just for a few hours—please? Then we all gathered around Larry who told us the fog had closed in on our route and we wouldn’t be going today. And tomorrow, Reeve Aleutian Airways had no plane available to take us. Deja vu! We were all so discouraged. Perhaps we were a jinx to the Attu experience! We proceeded to the car rental counter, re-rented a car for the next two days and found another couple of fellows who wanted to go with us to Homer. Tom Killip, Chief of Medicine at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City, joined Don Burlett (a manager at Goodyear in Akron, Ohio), Ivan and me for the five hour drive to Homer.

We met up with two other Attuvians at a restaurant at the end of the Homer Spit, a 5 mile long point that extends out into the ocean. From the restaurant window, we sat with binoculars poised over our food as we studied Tufted Puffin, Black-legged Kittiwake, Pigeon Guillemot, and Kittlitz’s Murrelet as good numbers of these birds (with many other species) flew past. After dinner we found a Kittlitz’s Murrelet quite close to shore and got pictures of it.

The next morning we went back to the end of the spit and found all three Scoters: Black, White-winged and Surf, Marbled Godwit (which are, we found out, very rare in Alaska) and other shorebirds. We found it strange to see Lesser Yellowlegs perched in the tops of trees defending their territories. On the drive back to Anchorage, we saw a large forest fire just a few miles from the highway. We turned the car in and prepared for our morning departure to Attu.

At an early morning breakfast, a long-faced Larry Balch announced that the Aleutians were all fogged in. There would be no trip today. Oh agony! I felt especially bad for some of our group who were going to Attu for only one week. They had already missed half their trip. Ivan and I rented a car again and headed down south of Anchorage to Girdwood and the Portage Glacier. We went out onto the lake in a small icebreaker-type boat and got great looks at the glacier. The ice in parts was blue.

Thursday morning we had good news and bad. The weather along the Aleutians was perfect but the plane had mechanical problems. Oh the agony! Some of the one-week only participants decided to fly home. Ivan and I went birding with the group for a few hours. We saw a Northern Saw-Whet Owl in a nest box and went onto the Elmendorf Air Force Base to bird a while. Then, after Ivan and I decided we had seen about every bird around the Anchorage area, we went to see the movie "Twister." Later in the evening we watched the Utah Jazz beat San Antonio to win the Western Conference championship. Even that failed to lift our spirits much as we worried that we might never reach Attu. But the talk in the halls of the motel was that tomorrow we would go to Attu.

Friday, May 17th we went through our now very practiced routine: up at 4:30, pack bags into the vans, eat breakfast, unpack vans, etc. There was one difference this morning, the words, "Attu’s on!" Spirits brightened. Laughter increased. The plane took off and the captain announced that the whole Aleutian chain was clear today. We refueled in Adak—which was much less busy than it was last year because it is being phased out—and then entered into the last leg of the trip. Remember last year we got this far, too, but were never able to land on Attu. The weather can change so quickly out there. But this year, we finally touched down on Attu. The cheers were deafening. We descended onto the runway of an old World War II Coast Guard station. My first impressions of Attu: towering, snow-filled mountains; much larger than expected; cold and windy; tundra—no trees in sight; brown; quiet; Lapland Longspurs calling everywhere with their tinkling sounds.

The day was sunny and relatively warm. Ivan asked me how many lifers I thought I would have by the end of the day. I foolishly said, "Ten." From all I had read, it seemed like new birds were all over Attu. Little did I realize it would take three days before my first lifer would be found and ten days before I could claim 10 new life birds. Birding Attu is much more difficult than we had anticipated.

While the Coast Guard kindly helped truck our gear to the base camp, the rest of us birded around the airport. We saw a small flock of Bar-tailed Godwits just off the runway. We hiked around Casco Cove and the mouth of Peaceful River. In a small pond we found two Tufted Ducks. Just off shore we saw dozens of Red-faced Cormorants, Common Eiders and Tufted Puffins. We located Kittlitz’s Murrelet and a few Ancient Murrelets. Rock Sandpipers were ubiquitous as was debris from WWII: foundations of buildings, rust covered metal pieces, broken cement, decaying docks covered with moss and birds, telephone poles with no wires to hold up. Every time I thought I had found a rare bird like an Eyebrowed Thrush, it turned out to be a Song Sparrow. The Aleutian race is very large. No Smews on Smew pond. We hiked on to the base camp—a distance of some 2 miles from the runway.

The Base Camp consists of two 50-year-old cement communication buildings that have been gradually upgraded by Attour until they are now quite serviceable. Ivan and I shared a bunk room with Tom Schlegel from New Jersey and Ron Finch from Delaware. They were both with us last year. Lower Base building houses participants. Upper Base houses the kitchen, dining hall and a few of the leaders. Each sleeping room has an electric heater, sturdy bunk beds and insulation. We have hot water, a couple of showers, washing machines, a drying room, a day room, a repair shop and outdoor toilets. The dining room sports a modern kitchen with all the amenities. Attour provides cooks who prepare breakfast and dinner and set out fixings for field lunches. It is not exactly Marriott-level accommodations but it is a far cry from the tin quonset huts with no heaters that earlier Attu birders faced. Larry has a large tank of gasoline shipped in by barge. He has, over the years, brought in bicycles, freezers, generators, ATVs, etc., to make quite a comfortable environment. Everyone is assigned one or more camp duties. Ivan and I are pot scrubbers. We chose a chore that occurs after birding hours to maximize our time in the field. Others do laundry, clean bathrooms, fix bicycles, etc.

The next morning was rainy and but that doesn’t stop us. We went out anyway. We prepare a field lunch from the fixings they set out for us after breakfast. We take water with us on our bikes. Mine is a three-speed that is serviceable but not elegant. We have some great times together, my bike and I. Our Gortex gloves don’t keep us very warm and our hats proved to be less than adequate. We were soon soaked through! We tramped all along the shore of Casco Cove and Peaceful River mouth. No new birds to report. We came back early to dry out. I feel sorry for the one-weekers. They will leave in two days and we haven’t really seen many of the typical Attu birds. But, fortunately, our luck was about to change.

To be continued.

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Membership in the Utah County Birders is open to any interested person. Dues are $12 per year, although no one will be excluded if unable or unwilling to participate. Send dues to Beula Hinckley, 2067 N. 420 E., Provo, UT 84604

Executive Committee

President Matt DeVries ([email protected]) 226-0958
Past-President Robin Tuck ([email protected]) 377-8084
President-Elect Merrill Webb 224-6113
Secretary-Treasurer Beula Hinckley ([email protected]) 377-3443
Programs Dennis Shirley 423-1108
Field Trips Ned Hill ([email protected]) 375-2417
Membership Barbara Whipple ([email protected]) 226-3931
Newsletter Weldon Whipple ([email protected]) 226-3931

Telephone Hotline: 375-2487, 377-8084
E-mail: [email protected]
Submit news items to [email protected]

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