Wednesday, June 27.
Meet at 7:00 p.m. at Vivian Park.
We will have an evening birdwalk. Bring snacks.
Key Species: Grey Catbird, Swainon's Thrush, Fox Sparrow.
Due to renovations to the Bean Museum we will be meeting outdoors for the
Note also that we are meeting on the 4th Wednesday of the month rather than the 3rd.
Tuesday, June 26- Big Sit.
Meet at 6:00 a.m. at the Provo Temple.
Visiting the Jordanelle Wetlands. Back around Noon. Bring a chair.
Wednesday, July 11- Stewart Falls.
Meet at 5:00 a.m. at the Provo Temple. Back around 8:00 a.m.
Key species: Black Swift.
Simba in St. Louis
by Dennis Shirley
If you remember last month's newsletter, I wrote my column as I ran out the
door to catch a plane for Lexington, Kentucky. I never made it as planned.
Carolyn and I had a 2-hour layover in St. Louis, Missouri. As it so often
happens, our flight to Lexington was overbooked. It just happened to be the day
before the Kentucky Derby. Six volunteers were needed to postpone their flight
from St. Louis to Lexington. After a brief consultation, Carolyn and I decided
to volunteer to be bumped and to spend the night in St. Louis. The airlines paid
for our hotel and meals and , best of all, we got two free tickets for anywhere
in the U.S. that TWA flies (which we will use for a future birding trip). Since
we didn't need to be in Kentucky that night, the only problem that we had was to
let our son, Bryan, know not to pick us up at the Lexington airport until noon
the next day. We've had many flights that stopped in St. Louis, but never had
the chance to stay the night.
Our plane didn't leave the next morning until 9:00 A.M., so when I finally got a hold of Bryan to pass on the change of itinerary, I asked him to check his Birds of the St. Louis Area book and find an easily accessible place from the airport area to find the Eurasian Tree Sparrow, an ABA specialty found only in the St. Louis vicinity. It was now after 11:00 P.M., but I still needed to figure out how I was going to get out of town about five miles into a local farming area to see the bird. I called several car rental agencies to see if I could rent a car for two hours, but most were closed. I then tried to see if the hotel had a car that could be used, and even went so far as to try to con a bell boy into letting me borrow his car for a couple of hours. Nothing seemed to work. So about midnight, I went to bed, not knowing how I was going to work this out in the morning.
Early the next morning, Carolyn and I threw our stuff together and went to the hotel lobby. There I again tried to figure out how to get a vehicle. I had thought about getting a cab but didn't know if that would work or not. It kind of made little sense to get a free night's lodging and meals and then spend half a fortune on a cab. But as I walked outside to the hotel curb, I noticed a friendly looking taxi driver standing by his car. It was about 6:00 A.M., and there wasn't anyone else around, so I approached him and nonchalantly asked what he thought a fare would be to drive out in an area along the Missouri River flood plain northwest of the airport. He wanted to know the address, and all I could say was "the farmland area." I explained to him that I was looking for a rare bird found only in St. Louis. At first he was noticeably skeptical, but when I seriously explained to him again what we needed to do, and that we only had a short time to do it, he agreed to take us on the adventure. We sped out of town, me giving the directions based on the information I got from Bryan.
We drove into a farmyard just as the sun was coming up, and there, just like clockwork, was a small flock of Eurasian Tree Sparrows. Sometimes it just pays to live right! The taxi driver was more than a little impressed. I'm not sure if we converted him to birding, but he sure got a quick indoctrination. He even took my binoculars and looked at the bird and compared it to the field guide. As it turned out, our driver was from Zimbabwe, Africa and his name was Simba. Before our hour escapade was through, we felt like old friends. He showed us pictures of his family and was especially proud of his two small sons. His parents have been here to visit, but especially exciting for him was the first trip back to Africa with his wife and kids, which they were planning for this summer. I told him that I had traveled in Africa several years ago, and he even knew the names of some of the birds that I had seen. It was well worth the $50 cab fare. We easily got the bird (a lifer) but more importantly, we made a new friend and shared our common excitement for the world that we live in. Who has more fun than birders!
by Robin Tuck
Cell towers are springing up all over Utah County. Most of the new ones I see are fairly short, under 80 feet but I am seeing them everywhere. Several weeks ago, I read an article in the Atlanta Constitution about migrating birds hitting cell towers in the night and being killed, which caused me a lot of concern because of all the new towers popping up allover. After a little research, I have found the problem to be real but that the extent of the problem is unknown. Here in Utah, the super tall towers haven't been built because we have plenty of high hills and real mountains to put them on, so most of our towers are in the 100 foot range with very few exceeding 200 feet in height. The towers put on mountains average a little shorter because they already have the advantage of height. To find out more, I phoned a local cell tower construction and maintenance company and spoke to "Dave." Dave is an engineer for the company and had a lot of experience, but told me he had never seen a dead bird near a tower. Apparently, the tower owners send the engineers to the tower sites periodically to examine them and report back their status. Dead birds are not mentioned in the questionnaire. OK, so we are in good shape. Well, maybe not. As I continued to research the issue, I found that much is not known about small bird migration and that short towers on high places may have the same affect as a tall tower and the effect of tall towers is very bad. I found examples of bird kills where over 10,000 birds were killed in a single night at a 1050 foot tower. Apparently, tower lights can create a halo of light in fog or snow storms that can confuse flocks causing them to collide with the tower, each other or the ground. Experts believe as many as 4 million birds are killed annually striking towers or guy wires but they also say that observers have to get to the tower sites early in the morning because, unless the kill is very large, predators carry off and consume the victims. So visiting towers may not provide an accurate indication of bird kills. Just to see if I could find any hints of bird kills, I visited a number of cell towers in my vicinity and found nothing, not a hint. The towers ranged from 40 feet to 120 feet, but all I found were locked chain link enclosures. None of the towers had a clear open area surrounding them to find dead birds in, so I searched where I could, finding nothing. Next I drove past a local(closed) radio station that had 500 foot towers out in a big empty field, protected by 'No Trespassing' signs. I didn't find a thing. Unfortunately, I don't think I learned a thing. To find out if Utah has a tower strike problem, I am going to have to get permission to visit sites and get closer to the towers or find current studies where others have been able to get closer. Perhaps now is the time to prepare. Other observers report 20% of their kills happen during the spring migration and 65% during the fall migration, accounting the difference to the inexperience of the migrating immature birds. For more information, see www.towerkills.com. Other information can be found by searching for "migrating bird tower kills" on the Internet.
A Peruvian Birding Adventure
May 3-17, 2001
by Ned C. Hill
Peru has a larger number of bird species (around 1,700) than perhaps any other country in the world. What accounts for this large variety is the great diversity of habitats in Peru— from the extremely dry deserts of the west to the towering peaks of the Andes mountains to the jungles of the Amazon basin. During a two-week trip with some members of the National Advisory Council of the Marriott School arranged by BYU Travel Study, forty- two of us sampled all three of these areas and saw nearly 100 species. And this was without really spending much time specifically looking for birds. To our surprise, many birds seen in far away Peru were familiar species in Utah and other parts of the U.S.
In the dry western cities of Chiclayo and Trujillo, we saw Black and Turkey Vultures soaring effortlessly in the sky. Turkey Vultures are, of course, common in Utah but Black Vultures are found only in the deep south. Most people in our group were amazed to see the brilliantly red Vermilion Flycatcher at several locations. They were astounded to learn that Vermilion Flycatchers are regularly found in St. George and once appeared in American Fork in the winter! We often saw Cattle Egrets and Great Egrets in fields as we drove along the highway.
We found our first really Peruvian birds as we visited the archeological site Tucume (near Chiclayo). Pale-legged Horneros, Long-tailed Mockingbirds and Groove-billed Anis were common. A short walk from the picnic area produced a brilliant Yellow Oriole (similar to our Hooded Oriole) and the black-and-white barred Fasciated Antshrike.
We located by far the highest number of unique Peruvian birds during our days at Sandoval Lake Lodge—a . Our guides were quite knowledgeable about birds and other animals. At the airport in Puerto Maldonado, we found Tropical Kingbirds on the light posts (we've seen these in southern Texas) and Red-capped Cardinals in the eaves. As we hiked three kilometers through the jungle between the Rio Tambopata and Sandoval Lake, we heard many unseen antbirds, saw a black and white King Vulture soaring overhead and found a very noisy Yellow-rumped Cacique (rhymes with "mystique") moving in the canopy. Jungle birds often develop loud voices and bright colors—perhaps so they can locate each other better with all the foliage in the way. Leaf-cutter ants frequently crossed our trail with their amazing display of diminutive muscle and organizational prowess. Huge, iridescent Blue Morpho butterflies danced by. Once we got out on Sandoval Lake, we found a large Agami Heron and saw the generally elusive, pre- historic-looking Hoatzin, known to the locals as "stink bird." In front of the lodge, Amazonian Oropendola had built large hanging-basket nests nearly three feet long high in the trees. By just sitting on the bench and looking up, we found a colorful Yellow- tufted Woodpecker, Ruddy Pigeon, Thrush-like Wren, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Masked Tityra, Greater Ani, and Smooth-billed Ani. By taking canoes around the lake, we found Great Kiskadees and Ringed and Amazon Kingfishers perched in low branches on the shore. Anhingas, "snake birds," were frequently seen drying out their wings. Large, raucous Red-bellied and Blue-and-yellow Macaws flew overhead and White-winged Swallows hawked insects over the lake. As the light faded, the jungle came alive with sounds: White-throated Toucans (I never saw one, alas!), Little and Undulated Tinamou (these are quail-like birds that are rarely seen) and various parrots and antbirds. When darkness finally descended, we heard the very loud but melodic duet of male and female Gray-necked Wood-Rails and saw the golden eye-shine from caimans lurking in the distance. As we paddled up a small tributary, Squirrel Monkeys threw branches and fruits down towards our canoe to remind us we were in their territory. Before falling asleep in our mosquito-netted beds, we heard the soft call of a Tropical Screech-Owl just outside our room.
Early in the morning we again headed onto Lake Sandoval in a canoe. We saw the strikingly colorful Blue-headed Parrots and the large, green Mealy Parrots whose sharp metallic cries pierced the jungle for some distance. At the top of a palm, a charcoal- colored hawk was perching. Our guide had never seen this bird before. We were puzzled until we matched up the marks with the Colombian field guide depiction of a Slate- colored Hawk. Greater Yellow-headed Vultures perched in the trees near the boat dock and Black Caracaras flew over them. In a nearby tree we found some small birds making a terrible racket—Black-capped Donacobius. Deep, powerful drumming was found to be coming from several Linneated Woodpeckers, relatives of our Pileated Woodpeakcers, with bright red heads. Near the water's edge, a juvenile Rufescent Tiger-Heron was poised to spear an unsuspecting fish and a Lesser Nighthawk slept on a branch.
Back at the lodge, a Straight-billed Hermit (a hummingbird) had trapped itself above the shower area. A Black-tailed Trogon, a striking bird with dark markings and a red and white belly, circulated in the canopy. A short hike through the neighboring farm produced both Russet-backed Oropendola and Crested Oropendola, Blue-gray Tanager, Silver-beaked Tanager, as well as chickens, pigs, horses and monkeys.
We arose at 3 a.m. to prepare to leave the jungle. After a quick breakfast we hiked back three kilometers through the jungle in the moonlight. We could hear several kinds of tinamou whistling and may have heard a Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl. As we boarded our river boats for the 45 minute trip back to Puerto Maldonado, bright yellow Social Flycatchers fluttered about on a dead tree and Snowy Egrets flew along the bank. In Puerto Maldonado, a House Wren sang vigorously from a tree as we waited for the busses.
At higher elevations, the bird life changes completely. In Cusco (elevation 11,000 ft.—yes, some in the group got altitude sickness) we saw the ubiquitous Rock Dove and House Sparrow—much like you would see in any city in most parts of the world. But in the mountain slopes of Pisaq we saw the most colorful hummingbird of the trip, the Sparkling Violet-ear—an iridescent green and blue. An American Kestrel hovered overhead trying to find a rodent to pounce upon. Brown-bellied Swallows darted over the impressive Inca terracing. From the train carrying us along the Rio Urubamba we could see Torrent Ducks who love to feed in the rapids. White-capped Dippers could also be seen standing on rocks near the shallower rapids. At the world's most impressive archeological site, the Incan stronghold Machu Picchu, Rufous-collared Sparrows were calling everywhere. Blue-and-white and Andean Swallows streamed past us as we walked the ruins. Green- and-white Hummingbirds buzzed around and sometimes perched for us.
Back down at sea level, at the oasis of Huacachina near Ica, we found Common Moorhens on the pond, House Wrens near the buildings and a beautiful hummingbird with a black hood, chestnut belly and green back. None of the field guides show such a bird. We hope we can find it when the new Peruvian guide is published later this summer. We had the same problem trying to identify some of the doves we found in the area of Lima and Ica. Our beautiful hotel grounds in Ica were home to Vermilion Flycatchers, Blue-and-white Swallows, Scrub Blackbirds, Spot-breasted Woodpeckers and various hummingbird species. On the Lima Temple grounds we found a small bird tentatively identified as a Black-faced Grassquit.
The Paracas Peninsula and Ballestas Island were alive with birds! From the shore we saw large Peruvian Pelicans cruising around—they are very similar to the Brown Pelicans we see on U.S. coasts. Before we boarded our small boats for a tour we could see Gray- headed, Kelp, Band-tailed and the uncommon Gray Gull. A Peruvian Booby flew over the boat—we were to see many more of these birds out on the rocky islands. Along the shore of Paracas Bay we saw both Black and American Oystercatchers and Neotropic and Guanay Cormorants (the latter the main source of Peruvian guano exports). Ballestas Island and neighboring rocks are home to thousands of seabirds. The surging seas have cut arches through many parts of the island. We found one colorful Red-legged Cormorant and a colony of delicate Inca Terns. Peruvian Boobies were everywhere and the boat captain took us to a high beach on which a dozen Humboldt Penguins were perched—probably at the northernmost range for these typically Antarctic birds. Seeing my first ever penguins in the wild helped me forgive the captain for running out of gas on the return trip.
Attached is a complete list of the 92 birds—not counting the hummingbird and condor the ancients depicted on the desert floor of Nazca—we were able to identify during our trip. We saw several additional but unidentified species and took careful notes about them. We await the long-promised Field Guide to the Birds of Peru by Clement. The publisher said it will be August—and I am assuming that means 2001.
Our Peruvian adventure gave us a tiny sampling of the variety of birds residing in this intriguing country. It kindled in me a desire to return and try to discover even more of these hidden avian jewels of Peru.
PERUVIAN BIRDS IDENTIFIED Peru – May 3-17, 2001 Ned Hill
Little Tinamou (H)*
Undulated Tinamou (H)*
Anhinga Peruvian Pelican*
Greater Yellow-headed Vulture*
Gray-necked Wood-Rail (H)*
Mealy Parrot* Hoatzin*
Tropical Screech-Owl (H)*
Species Identified -- 92
(H) = Heard only * = Life bird for NCH [Five more birds to be identified when Peruvian field guide is available.]