Utah County Birders Newsletter
January 2000

January Meeting

January 19th at 7:00 pm, Bean Museum, BYU Campus, Provo Utah

Presentation by Dr. Kevin Johnson, about Systematics of Birds and Bird Ectoparasites

Kevin's talk will have two parts. The first part will be on species concepts and systematics of birds. He will talk about some of his systematic work in ducks and other groups of birds. In the second part of the talk, he will discuss bird ectoparasites, specifically lice. He will talk about how knowledge of relationships between louse species might gives clues about how birds hosts are related.

Kevin Johnson did his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at Bethel College in Minnesota. He received a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of Minnesota with his thesis work on the systematics of dabbling ducks and the origins of behaviors in that group. He is currently a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Utah working with Dale Clayton, studying the systematics of birds and their parasitic lice. In May, he will be starting a job as an avian systematist at the Illinois Natural History Survey.

Field Trips

Cache Valley
Saturday, January 22nd 
Meet: 6:00 AM at BYU's Bean Museum
Return: late afternoon
Target Species:
Varied Thrush, White-winged Crossbill

Saturday, February 26th - TBA* 

Saturday, March 18th - TBA*

* The time, destination, etc. will be announced closer to
the day of the field trip.

Still a Bargain! 2000 Membership only $10

Due to continued excellent money management, the Utah County Birders are still running a budget surplus, (as you see in Tuula's report on page 2). This year's membership dues are still only $10 per person or per couple (fees are used mainly for the newsletter expenses). Partial year dues for those joining in the middle of the year will be assessed at $1 per month or you can pay for a whole year from the time of the payment. These dues are optional so please sign up with Tuula Rose, in any event, so you'll receive the newsletter and be on the phone tree, etc. Check your address label to see when your membership expires. Make checks payable to "Utah County Birders,"and send to the address below:

Tuula Rose - (801) 377-5477
1065 East 560 North
Provo, UT 84606


by Darlene Amott

Just a few days ago, we entered into a period of newness unlike any other we have experienced. Not only is it a new year, but it is a new century and a new millennium, as well. To top it off we have the excitement and challenge of a new birding contest.

I like new things. As a child I enjoyed a new dress, or new shoes, or a new toy. When I was a bit older I enjoyed new friends, or a new place to live (we moved often.) There is something exciting and invigorating about change and newness. It is good for us to be knocked out of our comfort zone once in awhile. It's true that there is security in sameness, but there is a risk of dullness and monotony, as well.

The dictionary says that " new" means thought of, developed, or made for the first time. That's sort of exciting. It presents a challenge to find the new in all that we do. The dictionary also lists the words strange or unaccustomed. Does that account for the anxiety we feel when we venture into the new? Does that anxiety and uncertainty keep us from trying something new?

As I mentioned before, change and newness have always been a part of my life. I look forward to things new. The seeking is almost more fun than the finding. In terms of the contest for this year, finishing is the ultimate goal, but much of the excitement, the challenge, and the fun will be in the hunt. If all of us enter into the spirit of the contest, we can have a year of exciting activity, and increased fellowship with one another. Who knows where we might go, who we might see, or what we might find. Some will complete the requirements and some won't, but the sense of accomplishment and success will be in the trying.

Robin's View

by Robin Tuck

Counting Sightings

Just to see if I was in the ballpark on my challenge for everyone to see 2000 different sightings in year 2000, I went back to my records for 1998, our last contest year. Some of you may remember the contest was to see an average of 98 species each quarter that year, which was entirely appropriate since the year was '98.

In 1998, I recorded my bird sightings on my Palm Pilot, using 4 character bird codes. I wrote about using bird codes that year if you care to go back and read it. Basically, the bird code is made up using one or two letters from each word in the bird's name. For example, American Robin becomes 'amro'. Collisions where two different bird named yield the same code are handled by making both codes different than the collision. An example of this is Yellow Warbler which would be 'yewa' which conflicts with Yellow Wagtail and is thus given the code 'ywar'. Going back over my records, I find that I recorded 2398 different sightings in 1998. Remember, a sighting is a bird at a place at a time. A different bird at the same place and time is a different sighting as is the same bird (species) at a different place and time. Times for the same place probably ought to differ by at least an hour.

When I recorded my sightings, I logged the date and time, place name and county as well as an estimate of the number of birds seen. I did this as a experiment in record keeping to see if the data gave me enough information to tempt me to keep on keeping records. I wrote several programs and analyzed the data but ended up not recording my sightings at all in 1999. I found that the difficulty of actually writing down the sighting in my Palm Pilot distracted from watching the birds.

Several of my fellow birder friends commented on how my head was down altogether too much as I recorded the sightings. This time, I am trying a new method. The database I am using can automatically record the date and time and I am writing the location and county only when they change so that most of the time, I am writing the bird code and the estimated count seen. Perhaps this lessened amount of writing will have a positive affect and I will keep at it.

In 1998, I wrote several programs to convert the bird code to the full bird name but now, the software has changed a bit so those programs don't work. I'll have to write a new set which is OK since I like writing programs. Still, things don't work well enough for me to pass the programs around for others to use. I keep hoping that I soon will be able to write programs that do most of the recording automatically that can be shared. The palm-top computers are more than capable enough now. All I need is for the simple software development tools to mature a little more.

One thing I can see by comparing my sighting counts with the number of species seen each month; when I recorded more sightings, I saw more species. Duh. The more I looked the more I saw. It couldn't be simpler.

1999 Christmas Bird Count Report 

Provo, Utah
by Merrill Webb

Following is the results of the Provo 1999 Christmas Bird Count held on Saturday, December 18. There were 54 field observers plus 3 feeder watchers. Eighty-seven species were observed with 27,936 individual birds tallied. Starlings topped the list with the most at over 12,800 individuals. Only one individual of fourteen different species was observed, so the number of species might have even been lower. The three most rare birds accounted for were the Northern Pygmy Owl (heard by Ned Hill's owling party) at Centennial Park in Provo, White-throated Sparrow north of the greenhouse on the BYU campus by Ned Hill's party and the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher on the foothills southeast of Provo by Cheryl Peterson.

I appreciated all those who helped with this year's count and tabulation. Next year's CBC will be December 16 so please calendar now for Provo's 30th consecutive count. Following is the list and the numbers for each species:
Pied-billed Grebe 32
Gt. Blue Heron 24
Black-crowned Night Heron 7
Canada Goose 692
Wood Duck 1
Green-winged Teal 640
Mallard 1762
No. Pintail 31
No. Shoveler 453
Gadwall 187
Am. Wigeon 445
Canvasback 1
Redhead 22
Ring-necked Duck 25
Lesser Scaup 32
Common Goldeneye 17
Bufflehead 2
Ruddy Duck 75
Bald Eagle 12
No. Harrier 61
Sharp-shinned Hawk 11
Red-tailed Hawk 51
Rough-legged Hawk 3
Golden Eagle 7
Am. Kestrel 76
Merlin 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Prairie Falcon 1
Chukar 1
Ring-necked Pheasant 55
Calif. Quail 228
Virginia Rail 8
Am. Coot 1472
Killdeer 62
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Common Snipe 11
Ring-billed Gull 350
Calif. Gull 4
Rock Dove 882
Mourning Dove 1
Barn Owl 5
W. Screech Owl 8
Gt. Horned Owl 2
No. Pygmy Owl 1
Belted Kingfisher 8
Downy Woodpecker 10
No. Flicker 226
Horned Lark 62
Steller's Jay 3
W. Scrub Jay 42
Black-billed Magpie 395
Am. Crow 458
Common Raven 2
Black-capped Chickadee 133
Mt. Chickadee 1
Bushtit 33
Canyon Wren 1
Bewick's Wren 1
Winter Wren 1
Marsh Wren 12
Am Dipper 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 72
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Townsend's Solitaire 2
Hermit Thrush 2
Am. Robin 770
Am. Pipit 28
Cedar Waxwing 56
Starling 12,817
Orange-crowned Warbler 7
Yellow-rumped Warbler 106
Spotted Towhee 10
Am. Tree Sparrow 6
Song Sparrow 100
Lincoln's Sparrow 2
White-throated Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow 518
Dark-eyed Junco 419
Red-winged Blackbird 5
W. Meadowlark 73
Yellow-headed Blackbird 5
Brewer's Blackbird 825
Great-tailed Grackle 20
House Finch 661
Lesser Goldfinch 13
American Goldfinch 120
House Sparrow 1016

Utah County Birders Treasurer Report for 1999

Tuula Rose, Secretary - Treasurer

Balance carry over $623.58
Members' dues paid $775.00
Amazon Books $38.37
Patches sold $6.00
Total income 1999 $1,442.00
Newsletter $576.48
Kenwood Radios $196.00
Patches embroidery $27.00
Website dues $12.00
Flowers (funeral) $58.12
Misc. $6.95
Total expenses $876.55
Balance 12.31.99 $566.40

Have You Kept Records for 1999?

How to submit your numbers

There are several lists of birding records on our web site. These are:

  1. State records collected by Steve Hedges through the Utah Ornithological Society
  2. A "Top 10" list for Utah County (and there will soon be lists for other counties)
  3. And coming soon, a comprehensive list in the new "Utah Birding Records" section on the web site 

Three ways you can submit your numbers for 1999:

  1. On the internet: Go to www.utahbirds.org and fill out the Utah Birding Records form.
  2. By Phone: Call Milton at (801) 373-2795 – (You can fill out the form in the January Newsletter, then report by phone.)
  3. By Mail: Fill out the form in the January Newsletter and mail it toMilton Moody, 2795 Indian Hills Dr., Provo, UT 84604.