Utah County Birders Newsletter
January 2001


Wednesday January 17th. 7:00 pm 
at the Shoney's in East Bay, Provo. 1122 S University Ave.

We will be introduced to our new Executive Committee and 
recognize those who participated in the year 2000 contest.

Come in, eat from the buffet, and chat with friends. 
The meal will cost around six or seven dollars. 
It's going to be fun! Don't miss out.


Saturday, January 20.

Wasatch County

We will meet at 8:00 A.M. at the Provo Temple. 
In the parking area South West and across the street from the Temple.

Swan Song
by Darlene Amott

It's January, a time of newness and change. It's a time for newness and change among the birding association officers as well. It's seems unreal that two years have passed since I became your president, and much has happened. There have been meetings, and parties, and contests, and trips. There have been hundreds of beautiful birds seen and many choice friendships developed. It has been a choice two years. However, there is a time to move on, and this is the time. Someone else needs to have the opportunity to serve. 
     As I sit and reflect on the two years, I become very aware of how much my birding skills have grown and I become aware of a corresponding increase in my understanding of birds. The learning process has been exciting. I recognize, as well, how much I have learned about this state of ours. Surely, I have been places and seen things that would not have been part of my experience otherwise. 
     The greatest experience, however, has come through association with you, the members. Association with people is the essence of life. Each one of you, in some way, has enriched my life. We don't meet often, but when we do there is an excitement and a spirit of fun that doesn't exist in all groups. I found long ago that birders love life, and beauty, and the world around them. This makes them (and you, specifically) a delightful and special group. So, let me say a great big "THANK YOU" for all you have done for me and for our association. The incoming officers are excited about serving and will provide strong leadership for the group. The next two years promise to be fun.

Robin's View

What Makes Us Strong
by Robin Tuck

What makes us strong I had a conversation last month with a person who had come to some of our birding functions, but didn't keep with it. She mentioned family pressures and lack of time as some of her reasons for not joining in, but when she said she hadn't felt included, I was taken aback. 
     I believe we make an honest effort to include all who come and mostly make them feel welcome. Although I have watched many people come to one or more of our functions then drop out of sight, I do not believe their departure is due to any omissions of ours. I think there is a lot right about our club. Admittedly, I am biased, but here are some of the things that I think are good about our organization:
1. We have monthly meetings. I think that monthly meetings with good speakers gives us life. We learn about interesting and different aspects of nature (mainly focused on birding) and we have an opportunity to stand around and talk to each other.
2. We have frequent and varied field trips. We travel near and far, about twice a month. Our trips are exciting. Everyone may not be able to attend each one, but they are frequent and varied enough that there is opportunity for all. And our trips are not just local either. Our big plans excite even those who cannot go.
3. We have committed leaders. There is a lot of work done behind the scenes that make this work, without putting undo pressure on any single person (with perhaps the exception of our web master).
4. We have a great newsletter. Mind you, we could always use more articles and I encourage each of you to write one.
5. We do not conflict with the predominant religion in our area. Conflicts are impossible to eliminate entirely, but we do not put people in a position where they have to choose between church and the club.
6. Our Internet presence is fantastic. I cannot say enough good about Milton and his efforts there. He is ‘working' full time making it one of the best.
7. Lastly, we have great members. We care for each other. We like being with each other. Where our abilities are strong, we teach, where they are light, we learn
     As an aside, I believe our contests help a lot. They provide a challenge and a reason to get out and bird. Really, our strength is you. I appreciate being a part of this group. Thanks.

 Ned C. Hill
January 9, 2001

"How would you like to see your 700th bird?" Matt DeVries asked me last week. The hotlines were reporting a recently identified Nutting's Flycatcher in Irvine, California. The bird had been there since mid-November but it had been misidentified sometimes as an Ash-Throated, sometimes as a Dusky-capped Flycatcher. Just a few weeks ago, some experts examined the photos, carefully looked at the bird in the field, heard the calls, and determined that this was a Nutting's Flycatcher from Mexico-only the third time this species has been seen north of the border. 
     Normally, I don't go on "chases" to find rare birds. I have met some of the avid chasers of the birding world and I am not nearly as intense as they are about the size of one's life list. I bird for the pleasure of it. When I happen to be traveling to an area that has an unusual bird nearby, I may go a bit out of my way to see it. But I'm not a complete crazy who jumps on the first plane to see a Code 5 bird-just crazy enough to jump on the second plane for Irvine. 
     This opportunity was different. I had been stuck at 699 on my ABA area life list since last April, 2000, and had not been able to find that last species to get me into the formerly rare "700 Club." I came very close in Nova Scotia (fogged out for a pelagic trip where South Polar Skua and Leach's Storm- Petrel were being seen and "holidayed out" for Bicknell's Thrush-as in the ranger who knew where to look for the thrush was off for Canada Day) and Indiana (a day too late for a Buff-breasted Sandpiper). Besides, Matt is a great friend and excellent birder and we haven't been together on a birding adventure for several years. 
     Now, 700 species today is really not that big a deal. Twenty years ago, probably only a handful of birders had seen 700 species in North America. But, with the advent of hot lines, area bird finding guides and the Internet, there are several hundred birders who can claim at least 700. I personally know of a few birders who have seen over 800 species. Nevertheless, the lure reaching 700 and, possibly, even 701 (Santa Cruz Island is not too far from Irvine) was a great temptation. My wife, Claralyn, who had been with me a couple of times this year when I failed to make 700, thought it would be good thing to "get out of my system." So, with our wives' blessings Matt and I found cheap airline tickets into LAX airport, rearranged work schedules and hoped the thickening Utah fog would not jinx my efforts. 
     Friday, January 6th, 2001, we found the fog had lifted enough for us to make it to Salt Lake and take off. Arriving in Los Angeles at 1 p.m., we had a 40 mile trip to Irvine. Fortunately, our car came with a navigation system at no extra charge. It faithfully led us through the usually crowded freeways of LA to a small regional park next to the University of California's Irvine campus. The directions from the Internet were quite good but the aerial photo was confusing. Fortunately, a small group of birders were already prowling around down the trail and they seemed to know where the bird was usually seen. They had been there for an hour or so but no Nutting's Flycatcher had appeared yet. We wandered the area near some apartments trying not to scare the residents by looking through binoculars too closely in their direction. Dog walkers and jogging were abundant. Turkey Vultures came gliding in to roost in tall eucalyptus trees. After half an hour, David Mark, a birder from Buffalo who was attending a conference in the area, held his binoculars to his eyes and said those most comforting words, "I think that's the bird." I was standing close by but at first couldn't see where he was indicating. The other birders came running and trained 7 pairs of binoculars on the willows about 20 yards in front of us. I finally found the bird in my binoculars. It sat quietly, not moving for several minutes. It looked just like an Ash-throated Flycatcher but the belly was more yellow. I ran back to the car to get my scope and give everyone a better look. On the way back to the site, I called Claralyn on my cell phone to tell her the news. She was happy to be included. 
     Through the scope we could see the rufous in the primary feathers extending further down the wing than in Ash- throated. We could also get a hint of orange around the mouth. The bird started to move around a bit affording everyone very close, scope-filling views. Although the flycatcher did not vocalize, we all felt we had pretty good looks. I can see why they had trouble with the identification- one just would not expect such a rare bird to be here (first California record) so it would be easy to just pass it off as a more common species. 
     When we told the group that this was my 700th bird, the 5 other birders extended congratulations. Louise McCullough said that Ed Greaves (both from Sacramento) had recently seen his 800th bird. They had also both been to Attu on multiple trips so we exchanged some stories about our experiences there. Attuvians have an immediate common bond. Birders are always so friendly anyway and seem happy to share one another's successes. After spending a few more minutes taking in the Nutting's Flycatcher, we looked around to see what other birds were in the area and then headed out for our next adventure. We had planned to come back to Irvine in the morning if we could not find the Nutting's today- so this meant that we could head north to look for the Island Scrub-Jay tomorrow. 
     701 was now a possibility-or would IT actually be my 700th bird? Matt told me of some conversations he had had with Texas birders who said the Gray-crowned Yellowthroat Matt and I and many others had seen about 5 years ago in the Rio Grand Valley was being (or had been) rejected by the Texas Records Committee. Although the bird looked like a Gray- crowned and vocalized like one, some of its features showed it may have been a hybrid. 
     The next morning provided us a gorgeous sunrise as we awaited the Island Packer's boat at Ventura Harbor. Santa Cruz Island, our destination, is the only place in the world one can find the Island Scrub-Jay. Long considered a subspecies of the Scrub Jay, a few years ago, research revealed that the island subspecies was indeed a distinct species (same for the Florida subspecies). 
     On the 1 1/2 hour trip out to the island, we met Bill Tannery, an avid birder from the Philadelphia area who had come to California for a 2-week birding trip. As he had never been on a west coast pelagic, it was a pleasure to find with him Black- vented and Pink-footed Shearwater, Cassin's and Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murre and, the real treat of the ocean part of the trip, a pair of Xantu's Murrelets-a lifer for both Matt and Bill. 
     On Santa Cruz Island, we were told that the Island Scrub-Jay lived at higher elevations in the canyon scrub. So we set out on a hike that took us through a couple of camping areas where there were huge trees. The trees were filled with Allen's Hummingbirds, Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Say's Phoebes, Bewick's Wrens, House Finches, Lesser Goldfinches, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. On the rocky slopes we located several Rufous-crowned Sparrows. Some of these species may be isolated subspecies that may some day be declared full species like the Island Scrub-Jay. 
     After a long hike up a boulder-strewn canyon, Bill shouted back to us that he had found the jays. They are much brighter than our local Western Scrub-Jays. The blue is bluer and the belly is very white. The bill is larger and the bird overall is an inch or so longer than our species. They sounded pretty much like our Scrub-Jays, however. After seeing half a dozen of them, we headed back down the canyon and were treated to the mating flight of an Allen's Hummingbird. It would zoom up into the air and then zoom down-sometimes making an unusual whistling noise (with its tail?). 
     On the boat trip back we saw some of the same pelagic birds plus hundreds of Western Grebes and a Pomarine Jaeger. We finished off the day with a wonderful fish dinner at a non- fancy restaurant on the harbor. 
     What does it mean to have seen 700 (or 701) birds? It means 700 wonderful memories. I think I can remember the first time I saw every one of those 700 birds-except perhaps the ones I saw very early in my life. Since I started birding as a Boy Scout and then became re-dedicated to the idea about 14 years ago, birding has been a most enjoyable hobby. The feelings, the excitement, the smells, the surroundings, and especially the friends I was with-all come back to my mind just by looking at the list of those 700 birds. Of course, you don't have to have seen 700 birds to have those memories. Any number will do. 700 just means that I have a few more of them than some. Anyone want to try for 800?


Some memory highlights among those 700 birds:

Most expensive birds: A tie between two birds: Whiskered Auklet seen in the Baby Islands off Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Ivan Call and I along with four others chartered a plane and a boat (as we waited in vain for our flight to Attu in 1995) to reach this very rare species. Even the captain was nearly seasick. We also saw about 3,000 Tufted Puffins on the trip. OR Buff-breasted Flycatcher in Arizona. While trying to get up Sawmill Canyon road, I tore the bottom off the Volvo and cracked a hole in my catalytic converter.

Most disappointing misses: (a) A sure Mongolian Plover at Alexai Point, Attu, was reported at the end of a long, exhausting day. The leaders said, "Don't go for it-they are common here." Our legs balked at the thought of a 20 mile bike ride over the tundra so Ivan and I stayed back. One in our group went out and found the plover-none were seen the rest of the trip. (b)Gray Silky Flycatcher in El Paso. Matt DeVries and I had great success in finding a Rufous-backed Robin in Phoenix so we decided to press our luck and drive to El Paso. The next morning we searched in vain to find the bird. It disappeared for that day and the next but returned after we left. (c) My son Jonathan and I attended the BYU Cotton Bowl game in 1997. We went down a couple of days early to bird in the Rio Grand Valley. The night before we arrived, the only appearance of a Stygian Owl in North America happened. The owl was gone the next morning when we looked for it at Bentsen State Park..

Luckiest finds: (a) I had to give a seminar in San Antonio. Merrill Webb and I decided to go together and arrive a few days early to bird in Texas. When we arrived at Bentsen State Park, a huge group of birders was there, too, looking for the Collared Forest-Falcon. We were standing next to a guy who located the bird and Merrill and I got great looks at it. A few minutes later it left and was not seen again, disappointing many other birders who flew in from all over the country later that day. (b) Ivan Call and I were heading to our finance meetings in Toronto. When we called the hotline, a Variegated Flycatcher was reported to be on Toronto Island. We had meetings all the next day and hoped the bird would still be there. Early the next morning we took a ferry over to the island along with other birders and spent several hours looking for the bird. No luck. We determined we had to leave within the next 15 minutes to catch the next ferry. Just then, Ivan saw the bird pop up into a low branch. We got great looks at this third North American and first Canadian record, Code 5, beauty-and then ran like mad for the ferry.

Rarest bird: On our Attu trip in 1996, Ivan Call and I were privileged to see the second record of Great Spotted Woodpecker. In 1986 and 1987 the same bird was seen by one person in two consecutive years. He was a collector and shot the bird before any other birders could see it. While the bird is not uncommon in Europe and Asia, only about 85 people have seen it in North America.

Summary of Code 3, 4, and 5 Sightings

Code 5  
Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Collared Forest-Falcon, Black- tailed Gull, Oriental Turtle-Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nutting's Flycatcher, Variegated Flycatcher, Bahama Mockingbird, Red-flanked Bluetail, Siberian Accentor, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Bunting. Total 12

Code 4  
Laysan Albatross, Blue-footed Booby, Masked Duck, Whooper Swan, Common Pochard, White-tailed Eagle, Northern Jacana, Bristle-thighed Curlew, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Gray-tailed Tattler, Red-necked Stint, Long-toed Stint, Common Ringed Plover, Slaty-backed Gull, White- winged Tern, Black Noddy, Whiskered Auklet, Arctic Loon, Buff-collared Nightjar, White-eared Hummingbird, Berylline Hummingbird, Eyebrowed Thrush, Clay-colored Robin, Rufous-backed Robin, Siberian Rubythroat, Bluethroat, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Bahama Swallow, Olive-backed Pipit, Brambling, Rustic Bunting, White-collared Seedeater, Blue Bunting. Total 36

Code 3
Black-footed Albatross, Flesh-footed Shearwater, Masked Booby, Brown Booby, Eurasian Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Spectacled Eider, Hook-billed Kite, Gyrfalcon, Yellow Rail, Bar-tailed Godwit, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Yellow-footed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Ross's Gull, Bridled Tern, Brown Noddy, Red-billed Pigeon, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Monk Parakeet, Mangrove Cuckoo, Flammulated Owl, Great Gray Owl, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Boreal Owl, Antillean Nighthawk, Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Elegant Trogon, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Island Scrub-Jay, Tamaulipas Crow, Crested Myna, Northern Wheatear, Sky Lark, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Colima Warbler, Tropical Parula, Kirtland's Warbler, Five-striped Sparrow, Shiny Cowbird. Total 44

by Tuula Rose

If you are reading this, you qualify to be categorized under one or more of the following:
1. BIRDLOVER - one who definitely likes birds.
2. BIRDWATCHER - one who looks at birds and is familiar with four different kinds, or as one of my coworkers put it: tweety birds, dickie birds, ducks, and hawk-like things.
3. BIRDER - one who owns a pair of binoculars and a field guide and uses both on a regular basis
4. BIRDING ENTHUSIAST - one who is actively involved in a birding group or two and participates in field trips, meetings and contests.
5. LISTER - one who makes lists in myriads of categories of birds seen or heard anywhere in the world.
6. TICKER - one who already has the most comprehensive world lists, and ticks off the sightings one by one.
7. TWITCHER - one who is ready to leap into action at a moments notice to go chase a rare bird (like Iceland Gull, Varied Thrush or Nutting's Flycatcher for example), and to TICK them off on their life LIST with ENTHUSIASM.
8. HARD CORE BIRDER - one who is knowledgeable, devoted and passionate about finding all the species possible, near or far.
9. NED - one who fits all of the above. Congratulations on #701 ABA.

You can examine your personal style and rate yourself. I confess to being a full-fledged twitcher. (I could name a few other UCB members who qualify for #7, self-confessed or not). This is a British term that might not be familiar to us in the west. Maybe some of you remember a comedy series named "To the Manor Born". In one of the episodes Audrey spots a rare Bee-eater nesting in her garden. One of the characters, a crusty old general warns her not to let the word out for fear that all the TWITCHERS in England are going to be trespassing on her property to see the bird. Instead of fighting the crowds, Audrey puts up a blind near the nest and charges admission. It worked out beautifully for all involved. 
     Sharing sightings is invaluable to us if we are trying to reach personal goals or those given in a contest. The birdnet e-mail system has proven to be an excellent help in getting the word out. However, everyone does not have access to e-mail. We don't want anyone to be left out of the loop, so yet another PHONE HOTLINE is in the process of being created. 
     We know that the early bird gets the worm, and maybe even more true is that the early birder gets the bird. So, if you want the bird, your choices are:
1. Get e-mail, and get on the birdnet, today!
2. If you are on the birdnet, check your mail more than once a week, i.e. today!
3. If you can't get e-mail, sign up for the PHONE HOTLINE and someone will call you about sightings reported on birdnet. Voice- mail on your phone would be useful, so we don't need to keep calling back.
4. If you have e-mail, but are worried about missing rare and occasional species because you can only check your e-mail at night or during weekdays, sign up for the PHONE HOTLINE, and give us a number you can be reached at when not at home.