June Meeting | The Good Life | Robin's View | Point Pelee and Beyond | The Great Woodpecker Hunt(s) | State Hotline Highlights

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June 1999

June Meeting

7:00 PM, Wednesday, June 16th Bean Museum, BYU Campus, Provo, Utah

Painting Birds

Payton J Christenson, an artist who paints bird pictures, will speak at the Utah County Birders June Meeting. Payton favors painting Waterfowl and shore birds, earning a 'runner-up' in the 1999 Colorado duck stamp contest, although he admits to painting several passerines. Payton will discuss the bird observation skills and study it takes to get the picture right.

The Good Life

by Darlene Amott

Some weeks ago, I spent some time in the Yucatan Peninsula area of Mexico and in Belize, and as I reported in a recent news letter, it was a great trip. Since that time friends have told me of and reports have been made of birds seen in Argentina, in Hawaii, in Alaska, and in other inviting places around the world. The green of envy begins to rear its head occasionally, and I long to be able to travel again to some of the birding hot spots. However, when I settle down and think rationally, I realize what a good life we have right here in this valley. Our birds become "ordinary" and "common" to us, but they are still beautiful birds. Some are even sought after diligently by birders from other regions.

The other day, I had one of those rare occasions when I could sit in my study and watch the activity at the feeders in the back yard. I saw House Finches, Cassins Finches, House Sparrows, Pine Siskins, American Goldfinches, Lazuli Buntings, and California Quail. All are fairly common, but nice. Since that time I have added Black-headed Grosbeaks, Northern Orioles, and Cowbirds. I must not forget the ever present Starlings, Scrub Jays and Magpies. There were others which fed here during the winter months and new ones will come as the summer progresses. Where else could one see so many species without even leaving the house, and I am aware that many of you live in localities where you can see even more species that I do. Again, these are common, even mundane, birds. Some are considered trash birds, but all are beautiful and have a place in the world.

In addition to the casual backyard birding, we can easily drive out to a number of favorite places in the valley and see forty or fifty different species. Each season presents something new and exciting, as well. Once in a while we are treated to a bird that is special, or rare, or new to the area. The diversity of habitat we enjoy in the state is exceptional, and contributes to the variety of birds we see.

Can you tell by now that I am trying to say that we have something very good here. Yes, it's exciting to go new places and see new things, but I hope we appreciate the special nature of this valley and this state in which we live. On one of the maps I carry with me, I mark in bright pink each road I travel in Utah. The map is becoming brighter and brighter, but there are still roads which need to be traveled. There is a lot of birding to be done in Utah.

Robin's View

by Robin Tuck


I took my son for an excursion in the west desert and in the early evening found myself driving north from the southern end of Cedar Valley where several Short-eared Owls were flying over the fields. When one landed close to the road, I pulled over to take a photograph. While setting up I heard a series of soft claps' behind me and spinning around found another owl flying nearby. Wondering what the clapping was, I watched the owl for a few moments, then I saw it - the owl at the bottom of a down-stroke flapped its wings together 4 or 5 times making the clapping sound I had heard moments

before. Amazed, I watched this behavior happen several more times, each time the owl losing 15 to 30 feet of altitude. What was going on? I had never seen this behavior before and I wondered what was going on. Later, I observed several more owls doing the same thing.

I called several knowledgeable friends but did not find them home, then had to leave on a business trip, precluding further inquiry.

Internet to the rescue. I fired up www.google.com, a new search engine my oldest son informed me about, and I searched for "short-eared owl behavior" and got 316 matches. I started examining these one-by-one, and found the answer on the fourth one, www.owl.au.cd/articles/watson.html where Jack E. Watson reports the results of his studies of Short-eared Owls.

Mr. Watson reports wing clapping below the body being used for "intraspecific aggressive display" and for sexual recognition and courtship. Here was my answer. I remembered seeing several Northern Harriers on fence posts where the Owl was flying and, indeed, the owl was diving and making low passes toward them. This made sense, especially since an article I had read prior to Watson's, at www.inhs.uiuc.edu/chf/pub/ifwis/birds/short-eared-owl.html said that many aggressive encounters between Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls are recorded.

The knowledge gained from the Internet became more >real' because I observed the behavior personally.

Point Pelee and Beyond

by Sue Hinde

This could very well be a long, long article but I am going to try and keep it short for the newsletter, (though I think it could easily be turned into a book called "Travels with Dennis"!). On May 13th an intrepid band of 11 hard-core (or not too bright) birders left Salt Lake City to fly to Detroit. The agenda had a weeks worth of birding packed into only 3 days. We arrived in Detroit at about 4:00 PM, got into our van and headed towards Toledo. In Toledo we went to the world famous? Packo's restaurant (Klinger from MASH 4077). Everyone enjoyed the food and after we were treated to Chimney Swifts flying like dive bombers into a chimney at an old church in the parking lot. Also saw a Common Nighthawk and a few other species. The next morning we left Toledo at 5:00 AM and arrived at McGee Marsh at 6:00 AM; the first people at the park. This area is located on the southwest shore of Lake Erie and is a great warbler trap. We braved the wind and cold and spent about 8 hours walking around the boardwalk which was only 1/2 mile long. Fantastic looks at Blackburnian, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Magnolia, Cape May, Chestnut-sided, Palm, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Black-and-white, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Mourning and a number of warblers not seen here in the West. We also picked up some nice vireos: Philadelphia, Red-eyed, Blue-headed, and Yellow-throated. After lunch we birded more and then left at about 3:00 PM for the long drive to Grayling in northern Michigan. We spent a long time taking "scenic" routes as there was construction everywhere and we tried to get around some of it.

We arrived in Grayling late and the next morning slept in until 6:00. Had our first, last and only nice breakfast and then watched a 10 minute film on the Kirtland's Warbler. Three rangers then took us out to a site where they had been seen. We got out of the van and immediately heard one singing. Within minutes it was in our scopes and suddenly the long drive was completely forgotten. I felt quite humbled knowing that this bird had numbered as low as 200 individual species in 1975 and last spring approximately 800 pairs had been counted. This was the first time I had ever seen a cooperative effort between the forest service, department of natural resources and the Michigan Audubon society (or any other Audubon society) at work. It can happen and it is comforting to know that maybe we can save some of these species from extinction. Right up the road from the Kirtland Warblers' territory we found a pair of Upland Sandpipers and also saw the Eastern Towhee. We spent the rest of the day winding our way back to Detroit, stopping at Hartwick Pines State Park (a forest of old growth Monarch White Pines) and seeing Purple Finches, White-breasted Nuthatches and other forest birds at close range at the visitors' center feeder. Again, we arrived in Detroit late, met Dennis Shirleys' sons and slept a few hours at the motel.

We left at 4:30 AM for Point Pelee, crossing into Ontario in the dark and arriving at the park early. But this time we were not the first; in fact there were hundreds of cars. Later in the day it reminded me of Lagoon there were so many people. We caught the train down to the point and saw Great Black-backed Gull, Bonaparte's Gull, American Pipit and a few other water birds. Then back to the visitor's center where we walked around the Tillden Wood's trail. The birding was slower as it was a much larger area and birds were not as concentrated. We were able to round out our warbler list nicely with Blue-winged, Tennessee, Northern Parula, and a Connecticut Warbler that brought out the worst in a number of birders trying to see it. We also saw many Baltimore Orioles, Orchard Orioles, Eastern Phoebe, White-eyed Vireo nesting, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Great Crested Flycatcher and a number of thrushes: Wood, Veery and Swainson's. I particularly enjoyed the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and the Indigo Buntings, also Scarlet Tanager, Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Brown Thrasher.

It was hard to leave but we arrived at the airport exhausted but with visions of warblers in our heads (does this sound familiar?). The plane took off and then the fun started. A diversion to Tulsa, Oklahoma to get gas because of severe thunderstorms in the Midwest and then some turbulence for a couple of hours and a long flight down south over Lubbock, Texas, up through New Mexico, over Grand Junction and finally into Salt Lake City.

This is a trip that everyone needs to make, if possible. Most of the group got from 10-30 new life birds, with a couple getting less and a couple getting more. A total of 26(27?) warblers were seen and the group list total was approximately 130. Few waterfowl or birds of prey were seen but this was not very disappointing as the majority of us went for the warblers. The complete list is available from Dennis Shirley or Milton Moody if you are interested. Our group consisted of Junece Markham, Larene Wyss, Carol Gwynn, Lois Clark, Milton Moody, Dennis Shirley, Stan Smith, Tuula Rose, Eric Huish, Robert Parsons and Sue Hinde.

The Great Woodpecker Hunt(s)

by Beula Hinckley

Because we have family and a place to stay there and because we love the area, Ed and I have been driving to Pacific Grove (Monterey Peninsula) at least twice a year for the last several years. Usually we take a route over the Sierra Nevada mountains. To make travel more interesting, I try to select a >target= bird to search for. For about four trips that target bird was the White-headed Woodpecker. The bird books told me that its habitat was limited to the Ponderosa pine belts and the subalpine belts of firs of the mountains of British Columbia south to southern California. One map showed it squarely in the Sierra Nevadas where we were traveling. The Audubon Field Guide to North American Birds (western) describes it as an inconspicuous bird hard to find due to its silent habits. . .rarely taps or drums, vocalizing only around its nest. . .Although its bold black and white pattern is striking in flight, it provides excellent camouflage when the bird perches in a shady forest.

It was an interesting but frustrating search. Once I even tried to make an Acorn Woodpecker into a Whiteheaded, but good sense and birding conscience prevailed! On the fifth try, in June, we took Hwy. 50, headed back to Utah, determined that this would be the time. Ed was a good sport and stopped at practically every turnout in the right habitat. It took us two days to get from the west foothills to Lake Tahoe.

`We were over the mountain and I had about given up, but decided to give it a last try by going up the west side of Lake Tahoe because it was more forested and less inhabited than the south and east shore. We stopped at the Ranger Information Station (closed), but as I walked into the clearing, two woodpeckers flew by and disappeared. I was sure this was IT, but no amount of searching found them again. I walked dejected back to the car, reached out to open the door and right then that elusive bird flew in, perched on a stump about ten feet away, turned around so we could see every angle, and then was joined by a second one. By that time I dared lift my binoculars. It was a true BIRDING MOMENT (which actually lasted at least five minutes - unbelievable!).

State Hotline Highlights


Brian Wood - An apparent MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD was seen at Minersville Reservoir on Wednesday, 05/26. The juvenile-plumaged bird was seen along the south shore, about 1/4 mile east of the state park boat dock, in an area of flooded cottonwoods (BWo). If verified, this will be the first record of frigatebird in Utah.

Mark Stackhouse, Yvonne Stroup, Larene Wyss - The MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD which was seen at Minersville Reservoir on Wednesday, 05/26, has been seen and photographed by many birders over the past week. However, there has not been a confirmed sighting since it was seen on Wednesday, 06/02. The juvenile-plumaged bird was mostly seen along the south shore, east of the state park boat dock, in an area of flooded cottonwoods. This is the first record of frigatebird in Utah.


Cliff & Lisa Weisse - Breeding-plumaged DUNLIN have been seen on mudflats along the SE side of the auto tour loop at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. One was seen on Saturday, 05/01 (MS), and four were seen on Tuesday, 05/04.

Joel & Kathy Beyer - A NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH was seen at the campground at Willard Bay SP on Sunday, 05/16, near the stream behind the campground host campsite.

Cal & Sharon Andrus - On the road to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, 7-8 BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS were seen on Monday, 05/17. A pair of CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRDS has been visiting a feeder in Brigham City, at least through Saturday, 05/15.

Keith Evans, Jack Rensel - Three VAUX'S SWIFTS were seen flying over the campground at Willard Bay SP on Monday, 05/17 (KE,JR). A BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER was seen at Lucin, west of the Great Salt Lake, between Thursday, 05/20 and Saturday, 05/22 (KE). Lucin is about 40 miles north of Wendover.


Ron Ryel - COMMON GRACKLES have returned to Willow Park in Logan, as reported on Monday, 05/10. A HUDSONIAN GODWIT was seen along the Amalga Barrens road in northern Cache Valley on Wednesday, 05/19. The bird is a female in alternate (breeding) plumage, and was seen south of the road near the duck club gate both in the morning and later in the afternoon. Birders should stay on the road, as all of the land along the road is private. The barrens road is 7000 North in Amalga. Also along the Amalga Barrens road, up to two WHIMBRELS have been seen over the past week, with sightings from Wednesday, 05/19, and Saturday and Sunday, 05/15 and 05/16. Five RED KNOT were seen there on Saturday and Sunday, 05/15 and 05/16.Other birds seen at Amalga Barrens included 4 DUNLIN on Saturday and Sunday, 05/15 and 05/16, and 4 SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS on Tuesday, 05/11.

Keith Archibald, Nora Avila, Laura Lockhart, David Wheeler - Two GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS were seen in a field northwest of Clarkston on Saturday, 05/22.

Ron Ryel - WINTER WRENS have returned to High Creek Canyon, east of Richmond. One was seen there on Saturday, 05/22. Winter Wrens apparently nested there last year.


Phil Douglas - A late sighting of two COMMON LOONS occurred along the east side of Scofield Reservoir on Friday, 05/21.


Cliff & Lisa Weisse - RED KNOTS are being seen on the mudflats to the south of the entrance

station to the Antelope Island Causeway. Three Red Knots were seen on Wednesday, 05/05 (C&LW), and three were seen again on Saturday, 05/08 (MS). Ten Red Knots were seen at the same place on Monday, 05/10 (TS).

Terry Sadler; Mark Stackhouse - SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS have been seen and heard at Farmington Bay WMA. Several were heard among a large flock of Long-billed Dowitchers in the flooded area north of the Egg Island observation area on Monday, 05/10 (TS), and one was seen just south of the maintanance sheds on Saturday, 05/08 (MS).

Joel & Kathy Beyer - Two BLACK SWIFTS were seen at Farmington Bay WMA on Sunday, 05/16. The birds were flying over the small pond on the east side of the entrance road just south of the maintenance buildings. Four SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS were seen in the flooded area south of Glover Lane, just east of Farmington Bay WMA on Sunday, 05/16.

Robert & Susan Moran, Mark Stackhouse - A GRASSHOPPER SPARROW was heard singing in a weedy area just north of the Egg Island view point at Farmington Bay WMA on Sunday, 05/23.

Carolyn & Mort Somer - A BLACK-THROATED SPARROW was seen near Ladyfinger Point at the north end of Antelope Island on Monday, 05/31.


Bob & Georgine Bond; Mark Stackhouse, David Wheeler - A breeding-plumaged RED-NECKED GREBE was seen on the sewage lagoons at Duchesne on Sunday, 05/23 (B&GB). It was seen again on Tuesday, 05/25 (MS,DW). Both times, the bird was on the second pond from the eastern side of the sewage lagoon complex, which is located on the north side of US 40 on the east edge of town. There are only two accepted records of Red-necked Grebe in Utah prior to this sighting.


Martha Veranth - A male SUMMER TANAGER was seen along the Escalante River on Monday, 05/31. The bird was about 1/2 mile south of the Escalante River bridge about 1 mile south of Calf Creek Recreation Area.


Joel & Kathy Beyer - Nine BAND-TAILED PIGEONS were seen at the IFA grain elevators in Cedar City on Friday, 04/30.


Jay Banta; Colby & Tom Neuman - Some unusual birds have been seen recently at Fish Springs NWR. A male LUCY'S WARBLER was caught in a mist net on Wednesday, 05/05 (JBa), and a

WHITE-WINGED DOVE was seen in the residence area on Saturday, 05/08 (C&TN).

Jay Banta - An OVENBIRD was caught in a mist net at Fish Springs NWR on Monday, 05/24 .

Tom Neuman - A NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH was seen at the picnic area at Fish Springs NWR on Monday, 05/24.


David Allan - A male ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK was seen in a yard in Oak City, all day on Saturday, 05/22.

Terry Sadler - A TENNESSEE WARBLER was seen in the trees at the entrance to the Kaufman Ranch, north of Milford, on Wednesday, 05/26.


Arnold Smith - At the Morgan wastewater lagoons, a SOLITARY SANDPIPER, a female CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD, and a HARRIS'S SPARROW were all reported from Wednesday, 05/12.


Mark Stackhouse - A VAUX'S SWIFT was seen at the housing area at Deseret Ranch, south of Woodruff, on Sunday, 05/02.


Mark Stackhouse; RJA=R.J. Adams, Kevin Johnson - Both GRAY-CROWNED and BLACK ROSY-FINCHES were still coming to feeders at Brighton on Wednesday, 05/05 (MS), and were also seen at feeders at Alta on Saturday, 05/01 (RJA,KJ).

Jack Holley - A male LARK BUNTING was reported from the Decker Lake area on Wednesday, 05/12.

Robin McDuff - A CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD was seen visiting a feeder in Sandy on Friday, 05/14, and Saturday, 05/15.

Jeff & Nancy Larson - A male ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK was seen visiting a feeder near Silver Fork Lodge in Big Cottonwood Canyon on Saturday and Sunday, 05/22 and 05/23.

Deedee O'Brien - BAND-TAILED PIGEONS may be increasing in Salt Lake County. A group of up to ten Band-tailed Pigeons has been visiting a feeder in Holladay every day since Sunday, 05/23. The only other regular sightings of Band-tailed Pigeons in recent years in the Salt Lake City area are from the Olympus Cove neighborhood.


Alan Condie - An possible LEAST TERN was reported from the pond on the south side of I-80, 2.9 miles west of the Tooele exit on Friday, 06/04. Another Least Tern was reported flying over the Timpe Springs WMA on the same day.


Bob & Georgine Bond - Another late COMMON LOON was seen at Steinaker Reservoir on Saturday, 05/22. A NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH was also seen at the campground at Steinaker on the same day.

Joel & Kathy Beyer - A LEAST BITTERN was seen at Ouray NWR on Monday, 05/31. It was seen in the same area where Least Bitterns have been seen every year since 1996, in the first pond on the west side of the road south of the observation tower on the auto-tour loop.


Cheryl Peterson - Two RED KNOTS were seen at the end of the north jetty at Utah Lake SP on Tuesday, 05/11.

Lara Burton - The LITTLE BLUE HERON which has been seen in Springville, was last reported on Tuesday, 05/04 (LB). It had been seen in a small pond on the west side of the west frontage road about 1/4 mile south of exit 265.

Cheryl Peterson - Four BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS were seen at the north jetty at Utah Lake SP on Thursday, 05/06.

Dana Green - A PURPLE MARTIN was seen in the Swede Lane area, west of Springville, on Sunday, 05/02.

Mark Stackhouse, David Wheeler; Brian Maxfield - A VAUX'S SWIFT was seen along the Provo River just upstream from Utah Lake SP on Friday, 05/14 and again in the same place on Monday, 05/17 (BM). A Vaux's Swift was also seen flying over University Avenue, just north of

I-15 in Provo on Sunday, 05/16 (MS,DW). A SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER was seen at the northwest corner of the dike road at Provo Airport on Friday, 05/14 (MS,DW). Other birds seen at the Provo Airport included a HARRIS'S SPARROW, seen on Friday, 05/14 (BM), and numerous BLACK TERNS, also on Friday, 05/14 (MS,DW). A SNOWY PLOVER was seen at the end of the north jetty at Utah Lake SP on Friday, 05/14 (MS,DW).

Donna & Matt Thorum - At Swede Lane, a flock of about 12 BOBOLINK was seen on Saturday, 05/15.

Dennis Shirley; Joel & Kathy Beyer - About five CLAY-COLORED SPARROWS were seen on the west side of the dike at the Provo Airport on Friday, 05/28 (DS). Two Clay-colored Sparrows were seen in the same area, near the pump house, on Sunday, 05/30 (J&KB).

Brian Maxfield - On Wednesday, 05/26, a GREEN HERON was seen on the southeast shore of Goshen Bay on Utah Lake.


Jeffery Carlson, Mark Stackhouse - A male BOBOLINK was seen and heard singing along Potter Lane, north of Heber City, on Wednesday, 05/19.


C.J. Grimes; Mark Stackhouse - A BENDIRE'S THRASHER continues to be seen and heard south of Zella Tank, on the southwest slope of the Beaver Dam Mountains, with sightings from

Monday, 05/03 (CJG), and on Thursday, 05/06 (MS). To get to Zella Tank, take the Welcome Springs Pipeline Road south from the road to Lytle Ranch. A CASSIN'S KINGBIRD was seen at Zella Tank on Thursday, 05/06 (MS). A pair of Cassin's Kingbirds are being seen regularly in the town park in Springdale (CJG).

Colby & Tom Neuman - A BLACKPOLL WARBLER was seen at Lytle Ranch Preserve on Saturday, 05/15. It was about 1/4 mile south of the northern boundary of the preserve.

Josh Kreitzer - Several VAUX'S SWIFTS were seen flying over Pine View High School in Washington on Thursday, 06/03.


Bryant Olsen - A PHAINOPEPLA was seen in Poison Springs Wash, about 15 miles southeast of Hanksville, during the week of 05/23 to 05/30.


David Deutch - A VARIED THRUSH was seen along the road from Huntsville to Monte Cristo on Friday, 06/04. It was sitting on a fencepost next to the road about 10 miles from Huntsville.