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UTAH COUNTY BIRDERS
Newsletter
June 1998


Contents


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

It was bound to happen sooner or later. I have had hair-brained ideas before: a vacation to the Spanish Pyrenees (with Turkey as a back-up plan) to find Wallcreeper, summer in Tazmania on a flower farm (free room and board!), a visit to Aru to look for Wallace’s birds of paradise. But none of those unrequited fantasies received the same greeting as my pronouncement last week: "Let’s move to Lombok."

Now, Pia has threatened to destroy my "Kingfishers, Bee-eaters, and Rollers" book...simply because I want us to move to an island in southeast Asia for a couple of years. But, if I don’t document the life history of the White-rumped Kingfisher, who will?

Ah Lombok...idyllic climate, peaceful politics, unique indigenous culture, and home to a magical collection of birds, including the indigenous White-rumped Kingfisher. This island paradise is located a mere eighty kilometers east of Bali in the chain of islands known as West Nusa Tenggara. West Nusa Tenggara, can’t you hear it calling you?

Pia can’t. Apparently, the grace, beauty, and mystery of the almost unknown-to-science White-rumped Kingfisher has yet to penetrate her soul and fill her dreams. It has mine.

And so, I am busy planning, plotting, and dreaming. I am beginning a library of books on Lombok. It will include history, travel, maps, and of course bird books. I am building sample itineraries and bookmarking important web sites.

Maybe I will never see a White-rumped kingfisher, or a Wallcreeper, a bird of a paradise, or the parrots of Tazmania, but I will plot, and plan, and dream. And, this will sustain and enliven me until someday, one, or two, or all of my dreams come true.

In the mean time, I am loaning my kingfisher book to Pia. You never know.... And, besides, my copy of "Munias and Mannikins" should be here any day!!!

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June Meeting

On June 18th, we will be meeting EARLY to go on a bird walk. We will meet at 6:00 p.m. at the Bean Museum. Be on-time and bring your binoculars!!!

Rumor has it that we’ll be going to Rock Canyon and then to a nearby home for goodies after the walk.

In case of rain, just go directly to Milton Moody’s home at 2795 Indian Hills Drive, Provo (930 East and 2780 North), where light refreshments will be served.

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

 

Sighting Records

I heard some time ago that if I saw a large hawk, soaring or perched here in Utah and said it was a Red-tail, I’d be right 80% of the time.

Red-tail Hawks are here year-round, we can almost find one on demand just by heading out into the farm country. In fact, most of us are amazed if we go out birding for more than a few hours and don’t see one. I suppose I find them soaring about as much as I find them perched. Sometimes I have seen three or four one right after another along a row of power poles.

But, I wonder how accurate the old saying is. Large birds-of-prey that frequent Utah County that might be mistaken for a Red-tail include Osprey, Bald and Golden Eagle, Northern Harrier, Northern Goshawk, Swainson’s Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, and Rough-legged Hawk. I suppose most of us would not mistake a Common Raven for a hawk, at least not after looking at it for a while.

What do we know from our sightings data? A cursory review of my records since the first of the year indicate I saw 20 Red-tails to 62 other hawk-like birds. But my sightings are inaccurate because I routinely did not record subsequent sightings of the same species seen on the same day.

Of the 82 hawk-like birds I have seen the past 5 months, 22 were Northern Harriers. Most of us don’t have any problem identifying Harriers, especially when they are soaring low over some field. But I recall being confused twice with a Harrier; once at the top of a mountain where ‘Marsh Hawks’ aren’t supposed to be and another time when Reed and I were stumped by one sitting on a fencepost, until it flew. Dropping Harriers changes the ratio to 20 to 40, or one third.

Eagles are huge and ought not be confused with hawks, and I saw another 22 of them, which leaves 20 Red tails to 18 other hawks, or almost 50% Red-tails.

This is not the 80% figure I’d been quoted, but still a significant number. In the future months, I will be more careful about recording all my sightings, and will see how my hawk sightings add up for the rest of the year.

Tell me, what do your records tell you about this. Limiting your records search to this year, how many Red-tail Hawks do you see compared to the other hawks? This exercise was fun, causing me to review my records, and made it worthwhile to have kept the records in the first place. There is more to recording bird sightings than knowing your life list; how good are yours?

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Nome--The Adventure Comes to a Close
Attu Adventures, Part 9: 1996
by Ned C. Hill ([email protected])

This is the ninth of a series of articles giving the account of North America’s ultimate birding adventure: a trip to Attu Island, Alaska, and extensions. In Part 8 I told of our days on St. Lawrence Island in the whaling village of Gambell, a unique spot for finding Asian strays and sea birds. For our final stop we visited Nome, Alaska, home of some of North America’s rarest nesting birds.

The normally completely predictable Alaskan weather (laughter here) left us an extra day in Gambell. This time we were glad—the extra day allowed us to find two rarities, the Common Ringed Plover and the Olive-backed Pipit which we would have missed with timely airport departures. Our turn finally came to leave this unusual village that mixed the modern with the ancient. We were anxious to move on to Nome which we had visited briefly a few days ago because of another weather problem. We traveled with the WINGS people led by Jon Dunn, a well-known bird expert and tour guide. Jon took us in his bus to our new residence, The Ponderosa, named in honor of the tree that is certainly NOT present anywhere for hundreds of miles. After checking in grabbing a bite to eat, we drove in rented vans 25 miles out east of town to Safety Lagoon, named after the safety it provided to sea captains during severe storms. All along the dirt road leading there we noticed little shacks of every variety all along the coast. They house those who still seek their fortunes in gold in the sand.

At the large lagoon (several miles across), we stopped in several places where we found Bar-tailed Godwit, Western and Solitary Sandpiper, Long-tailed Jaeger (nesting in the tundra), Dunlin, Brant, Greater Scaup, American Wigeon, etc. We got beautiful looks at Red-throated Loon. The sun at our backs illuminated the blood red throat patch. On the way back to our lodgings, we stopped at a grocery store to pick up things for breakfast and lunch. We found some rare prices: $.70 for one banana, $6 for gallon of orange juice, $6 for a box of breakfast cereal. I guess they don’t grow much up here and transportation costs are very high. It was difficult to get to sleep at 11 p.m. with the sun still shining brightly.

June 9th was a memorable day of birding. We arose at 4:30 a.m. and ate quickly in our kitchenette. At 5:00 we left for a long ride (about 75 miles) over the famous Kougarak Road to the north of Nome—nearly to the Arctic Circle. Our main target for the day was the Bristle-thighed Curlew. This bird can be seen fairly easily on its wintering grounds in Hawaii and other islands in the South Pacific (Claralyn and I saw one there last October), but its breeding grounds were poorly known for many years. A few years ago, someone found some nesting birds in the area of Coffee Dome on the Kougarak Road. This is one of the only places remotely accessible to birders. Ron Finch and others in our group had been to this area two or three times before and had not been successful in finding the Bristle-thighed. Each time, they had to hike in about 8 miles from the road and then back out again. Mike Toochin, our Attour leader, had found a much shorter but more vertical route to the nesting area and the WINGS group and we decided to combine our forces to look for this bird—one of the rarest of North American nesters. Mike is four out of four in finding the Curlew by this route.

We stopped several times on our way up the Kougarak. At one early stop, Jon Dunn picked out an Arctic Warbler singing from the top of a willow. We all got to see it through a scope and then called it in with a tape for closer inspection. We also found in the willows Yellow, Wilson’s, Orange-crowned Warblers, Northern Waterthrush, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Fox and White-crowned Sparrows and Willow Ptarmigan. The willows were alive with bird life this sunny morning. At a stop further up the road, we found a Bluethroat, one of the most beautiful of all passerines. This one was not in full color—probably a juvenile. From the same stop we also found singing Blackpoll Warbler, those powerful featherweights that fly from Venezuela to New England and then across Canada to these willows. After nesting, parents and young reverse the process to spend the winter in South America. How do they do that?

By 9 a.m. we had arrived at our chosen spot just north of Coffee Dome. About 50 people were given instructions on how not to break ankles climbing on this unusual tundra and also how to not scare the birds. It took us an hour of exhaustive climbing up tundra-covered boulders. Each step was laborious and each held some danger. One didn’t know if the tundra one was about to tread on masked a crevice between rocks. Fortunately, we had no broken ankles or even sprains on this hike. Ivan and I were well trained by Attu and we were able to keep up with the leaders. We all finally made it to the top of a large bowl where the curlews sometimes nest. A few Whimbrel—looking just like Bristle-thighed Curlews—flew up and gave us false starts. We found several nesting American Golden Plover in stunning spring dress. Someone saw a Northern Harrier fly past and Gary shouted, "Get on that bird, the Bristle-thighed will come up to fend off a predator." Then Mike heard the distinctive call we had memorized from tapes: "Chu-a-wink." "I’ve got the bird!" Jon Dunn called out. I found it quickly, floating above us, calling occasionally. It had come up to scare off the Harrier. Ivan and I were closer than most so we were able to clearly see its light tail that reddened towards the rump. We saw its down-curved beak and heard its, "Chu-a-wink" call. I studied it for several seconds before some of the WINGS people burst in front of us blocking our view. They lacked the strict discipline that is part of the Attu culture. When the Curlew disappeared, we hiked around the willows in the bowl and found a beautiful male Bluethroat. Several more appeared and we got some looks at its redstart-like tail fanning behavior. We were back down to the van by 11:30 a.m. What could have been a six to eight hour ordeal was completed with success in two and a half hours.

One the way back to Nome we stopped several times and found Rock Ptarmigan, Wandering Tattler (one in our group had never seen this species, only the rare Gray-tailed Tattler), Tundra Swan, Common and Hoary Redpoll. At mile marker 25 we stopped and looked up on a distant ledge where we found a gray-phase Gyrfalcon on a nest. The bird didn’t accommodate us well in terms of good views, but I guess that wasn’t her main concern.

We went back into town and ate at Fat Freddies before heading out to Safety Lagoon for more birding. Here we found several Red Knots and looked in vain for the very rare (but sometimes seen here) Great Knot. The Red was a lifer for Ivan and a new Alaska bird for most of us. We saw Solitary Sandpipers doing display flights and witnessed dozens of Arctic Terns diving into the water in seeming formations. They had found a school of fish. I had a great time photographing some very near shore Red and Red-necked Phalaropes in striking breeding plumage. Nearby, I also took some good shots of Sabine’s Gull and Black Turnstone.

June 10th was the final day of our great adventure. The day was sunny but cold. Several people had sore throats and weren’t feeling all that well. Fortunately, I was well the whole trip. We drove up to Anvil Mountain overlooking the town. There are four huge, old radar/antenna emplacements there that look like a scene from a grade-B science fiction movie. We walked around in the bitter wind and finally found our targets, little flitting gray and black birds of the rocks, Northern Wheatear. This habitat is a far cry from the first place I found one in Southern Florida (a real wanderer that one). We also looked for Red-throated Pipit but found only American Pipit. We drove back down to the town, passing a small LDS chapel on the way, checked the dump for gulls (nothing unusual) and then drove all the way out Safety Lagoon. We didn’t add much except for Emperor Goose. We passed the WINGS group and they told us they had seen several Ross’s Gulls on a sandbar. We saw these at a distance and then drove over towards them. We discovered a small gull right on the shore of the lagoon about 10 yards from our van—a 1st year Ross’s Gull! We carefully slid open the van door without scaring the bird so I could take a few close ups with my zoom lens. A few minutes after hearing from Jon Dunn that he hadn’t seen Arctic Loon around Nome for six years, we saw one fly over and got a great look at it. We saw a Gray Jay foraging on the beach—that’s a strange place for a Gray Jay!—and found a Short-eared Owl hunting over a field. Back in town we drove down to the jetty and searched among the large boulders for White Wagtail. After a short wait, one flew out of a nest set in a 4" diameter hole bored into the boulder. Having some time to kill before our plane was to leave, we drove down to the mouth of the Nome River where some rarities have been found in years past. All we found of interest was a Pacific Golden Plover—all of our Golden Plovers up to then had been American.

Our month-long adventure drew to a close. We were worn out and birded out. Both Ivan and I were most anxious to be back with our families and with BYU. A new and, as yet somewhat undefined, job awaited me in BYU administration. I was anxious to hear the details and find out what President Bateman had in mind. We were anxious to rejoin our very patient wives who had shouldered family responsibilities for us for too long now. We will always remember our Attu adventure. We’ll remember the quiet sounds of Attu, the intense feelings of excitement when a chase is announced, the long bike rides to and from Alexai Point, the fascinating personalities, the new birds we saw, the breathtaking scenery, the unpredictable weather. We will remember the thrill of exploring the Gambell boneyards, of standing on the point with its millions of sea birds, of learning something of the Eskimos--their hard lives and unusual ways. We will remember the challenging hike up to the nesting place of the Bristle-thighed Curlew and the thrill of finding our target. We learned much about the north, about Alaska, about birds and about birders. While we may not choose to ever go on such a hard-core and lengthy birding adventure in the future, this was an adventure of a lifetime and we are glad we did it!

End of the Series

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Statewide Hotline Report

June 11, 1998

Birds mentioned:
Blue-winged Teal Box Elder Co., Davis Co.
Tufted Duck Kane Co.
Sanderling Davis Co.
Glaucous-winged Gull Box Elder Co.
Yellow-Billed Cuckoo Box Elder Co., Rich Co., Salt Lake Co.
Vaux's Swift Utah Co
Ovenbird Washington Co.
Rose-Breasted Grosbeak Salt Lake Co.

 Utah Birdline (801) 538-4730, Compiler: Mark Stackhouse, Transcriber: Mark Stackhouse

 BOX ELDER COUNTY

 At the Box Elder Campground (USFS), near the town of Mantua, a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO was seen on Wednesday, 06/10. It was seen near the start of the "A" loop in the campground, in the third day-use picnic area (DT).

A BLUE-WINGED TEAL was seen at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge on Saturday, 06/06 (SC).

An apparent third-winter GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL was seen along the road leading to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge on Wednesday, 06/03. The bird was seen about 4 miles east of the refuge entrance on the mudflats to the south of the road. It then flew towards the refuge, and was not seen again (PL).

 

DAVIS COUNTY

A pair of BLUE-WINGED TEAL were seen at the south end of Farmington Bay WMA on Saturday, 06/06, along the dirt road that runs west along the south boundary (SC).

At least 48 SANDERLINGS will still found along the Antelope Island Causeway on Wednesday, 06/03 (PL).

 

KANE COUNTY

A male TUFTED DUCK was found on Tuesday, 06/09, near the town of Alton (MG). This is the first sighting of a Tufted Duck in Utah. It was seen again and photographed on Wednesday evening, 06/10 in the same location (MS). The bird was in amongst a flock of about 20 Ring-necked Ducks, on the eastern-most of the three small lakes which are on the south side of the county road (CR 1854) leading to Alton from US 89. On Wednesday, the birds flew to the second lake late in the day. Birders should check all three lakes, as Ring-necked Ducks are on each of them, and the Tufted Duck could be on any of them. To get there, take US 89 south from Panguitch (or north from Mount Carmel Junction) to the turn-off to Alton (signed). The first lake is less than 1/4 mile from the junction.

 

RICH COUNTY

On Wednesday, 06/10, a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO was seen in the yard of the guest house at Deseret Ranch (MS). Note: Deseret Ranch is private property, and allows birding only by permission. Normally sightings from the ranch are not reported on the birdline. This sighting is reported because of the remarkable coincidence of three sightings of Yellow-billed Cuckoo at widely separated locations on the same day.

 

SALT LAKE COUNTY

A YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO was also seen at Parley's Gulch, near Tanner Park, on Wednesday, 06/10 (PG). The bird was seen along the stream about 100 yds. west of the first bridge.

The male ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK which was seen in Parley's Gulch on Sunday, 05/31, near Tanner Park (KJ&LL), has not been reported again since Friday, 06/05 (SS). Several birders report trying for the bird, with no luck, during the past week. The grosbeak had been singing in the trees along Parley's Creek, near, and just west of, the first bridge.

 

UTAH COUNTY

The pair of VAUX'S SWIFTS which has been seen in the town of Lehi since Wednesday, 05/13 (KS), have continued to be in the area, as recently as Saturday, 06/06 (KJ, MS, DW). On Wednesday, 06/03, the birds were seen entering a chimney with nesting material (PL&ES). If confirmed, this would be the first known breeding of Vaux's Swifts in Utah. To get to the area of the apparent nest, take exit 282 from I-15 and go west to 100 East, then north to 500 North. Although it is unlikely that simply observing the birds would disturb this type of nest, birders are advised to be respectful of the birds and of private property, and observe the birds only from the road.

 

WASHINGTON COUNTY

An OVENBIRD was seen in the Kolob Section of Zion National Park, south of

Cedar City, on Wednesday, 06/03 (SP). The bird was seen along the middle fork of Taylor Creek in the woods behind the second cabin. Birders are advised to ask at the visitor's center for directions to the second cabin.

This concludes the Utah Bird Report for Thursday, June 11, 1998.

Observers: SC=Steve Carr; MG=Mark Galizio; PG=Parker Gay; KJ=Kevin

Johnson; PL=Paul Lehman; LL=Laura Lockhart; SP=Shane Pruit; SS=Stan Smith; ES=Ella Sorensen; MS=Mark Stackhouse; KS=Kay Stone; DT=Dave Thompson; DW=David Wheeler

Please report your sightings by calling the Utah Birdline at: (801) 538-4730 or by e-mail to [email protected]

You may e-mail questions and comments to [email protected]   or you may call (801) 487-9453.


July Meeting

Mark Stackhouse, a prominent member of the Utah birding community (and compiler and transcriber of the above report) , will be our speaker.


Utah Birds

The web site has a new name

We have invited the rest of the state to use our e-mail "birdnet" to report bird sightings. So, we have renamed the web site as the more inclusive, "Utah Birds." If you have not already signed up for the birdnet, you can sign up on the web site at www.utahbirds.org or send an e-mail with "subscribe" as the Subject (without quotes), to [email protected]

If you have any question on how to sign up, phone 373-2795.


Hotline Summary

Junece Markham (373-2487)
Julia Tuck  (377-8084)

Names of Birds

Age/Sex

Date

Reported by:

Location

Vaux’s Swifts (see the state report) Pair 13 May Kay Stone Lehi
Northern Waterthrush, Black & White Warbler Adult 16 May Merrill Webb S. of Kuhni’s, Provo
Great-tailed Grackle   20 May Ned Hill S. of Kuhni’s, Provo
Gray Catbird, Swainson’s Thrush   26 May Merrill Webb Vivian Park (trail)
Pine Grosbeak   26 May Christian Peay Vivian Park
Fox Sparrow, MacGillivray’s Warbler   27 May Milton Moody Vivian Park (trail)
Great Egret Adult 29 May Tom Williams NE. of Kuhni’s
Bobolinks   30 May Merrill Webb North of Goshen
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (see the state report) Male 31 May Kevin, Johnson, Laura Lockhart Tanner’s Park
Salt Lake City
Dusky Flycatcher, Juniper Titmouse   6 Jun Merrill Webb Near Eureka
Black Swifts   6 Jun Merrill Webb Provo Canyon
Willow Flycatcher, Bohemian Waxwing   8 Jun Flora Duncan Oxbow, Provo Riv.
Short-eared Owl, Red-necked Phalarope   8 Jun Flora Duncan North of Goshen

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