Utah County Birders Newsletter
Vol. 4, No. 11 - November 1999

November Meeting

Wednesday, November 17, 7:00 PM, Bean Museum, BYU Campus, Provo, UT

"How to Attract Birds to Your Yard." We'll have some of our "Top 10" Yard listers, lead by Reed Stone, talk about bird feeders and bird habitat in your yards..

Bring your own questions and ideas. (I'd like to know how Reed attracted an Osprey to his yard – that's some trick!)

Also the regular "Bird of the Month" by Dennis Shirley

Field Trips

Saturday, November 20th
To Heber Valley
Leader: Dennis Shirley
Meet at the Bean Museum
Leave at 7:00 AM, be back at 1:00 PM

Saturday, December 11th
Pre-Christmas Bird Count field trip
Around Utah Valley
Leader: Dennis Shirley
Meet at the Bean Museum
Leave at 7:00 AM, be back at 1:00 PM

* Watch for Phone Tree / Birdnet announcement for spur-or-the-moment field trips to see unusual bird that might show up.

Birds in Literature

by Darlene Amott

Have you ever seen Dowry Ducks, or Omaha Dabblers, or Least Minitwits, or Spring Kites. I doubt it, unless you are a reader of things about birds. The books which tell of such birds are, Field Guides to Little Known and Seldom Seen Birds of North America, by the Sills. These books certainly are not good literature, but if you enjoy the clever and have a good sense of humor, they are fun to look at, and are good for a laugh.

Over the past several years I have had the opportunity to read several books which either talked of birds or used birds symbolically. Needless to say, the reading has been most enjoyable. Birds, by virtue of their beauty, their flight, their personality, lend themselves to use in many ways by writers and poets. Some of the books are serious, some are satirical, and some are farcical (ex.- the two books listed above.) One book on my shelf is entitled, The Folklore of Birds, by Laura C. Martin. In it are short tidbits describing over 100 birds. Again, it is not great literature, but the folk beliefs which are included are what make this book interesting. Did you know that the Snipe, according to the Hopi Indians, "is one of the cloud's pets and an important water symbol?"

The author tells us that the Romans used the breast bone of a goose to predict the weather. The Yellow-billed Cuckoo is noted in Europe. Wordsworth wrote: "O cuckoo! Shall I call thee bird? / Or but a wandering voice." The bird makes unusual sounds before summer storms, and is often called rain dove or storm crow. Cuckoos also were supposed to be predictors of the future. A Yorkshire nursery rhyme says:

Cuckoo, cherry tree,
Come down and tell me
How many years afore I dee?

If you want to know more, you will have to read the book.

On a more serious note, there are three books which I would recommend to anyone. One is Marie Winn's, Red Tail's in Love, A Wildlife Drama in Central Park. Have you ever thought that two Red-Tail Hawks would be the central figures in a sweet love story? A small group of nature lovers become ardent hawk watchers as they watch Pale Male woo and win his first mate. The story unfolds as the group watches the pair nest on a high ledge and begin to raise a family. The story is as funny as it is heartbreaking. As W. H. Hudson says, "The bird watcher's life is an endless succession of surprises."

Pete Dunne's Tales of a Low-rent Birder is a collection of essays which he has written and published elsewhere initially. The essays are stories of true birding experiences. One day while doing an aerial bird count, he saw hundreds of turnstones rising from the shore and "dancing and weaving a pattern contrived to confound the steel falcon screaming down on them from out of the sun." Several of you are familiar with this book and have enjoyed it as I did, I'm sure.

Finally, there is Terry Tempest Williams book, Refuge, which tells of the flood of 1983 which all but destroyed the Bear River Refuge. The flood story is used symbolically as it is intertwined with her own and her family's fight with cancer. Each of the books I have mentioned is worth reading.

Two thoughts from the poets as I end this article

"Hope" is the thing with feathers-
That perches in the soul-
And sings the tune without the words-
And never stops - at all-
- Emily Dickinson

Even yet thou art to me
No bird: but an invisible thing
A voice, a mystery.
- William Wordsworth.

Robin's View

by Robin Tuck
Seeing with new eyes.

As I recall bird life around me before I became a birder, I saw and yet did not see. I remember great waves of geese in their "V" formations migrating south in the winter and north in the spring, and I remember robins all over and ducks at a nearby lake. I remember little else and that is the way it was for many years. I never noticed the birds that surely had to be around me. I was blind.

When I was eleven, a watershed event happened to me; I got glasses. I remember being amazed as we drove home from the eye doctor because I could see the individual leaves on the trees. This was new to me and my eyes were opened and I saw. But in all my seeing, I still didn't see birds.

I guess it was eagles that started me seeing birds. The first one, a Golden Eagle flew over me while I was camping as a scout master. This eagle had a big fish in it's talons which it dropped on my van, probably thinking the van was a large rock that would kill the fish when it landed on it. This event made an exciting talk the next day at church. I'm sure everyone thought I was "just a little off." The second eagle, a Bald Eagle was not quite so dramatic, but caught my attention and soared away with it. I was driving south on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska and pulled over in a turnout overlooking the ocean. At the exact moment I came to a stop, a large Bald Eagle rose in an air current and looked me square in the eyes, not more than twenty feet away. I fumbled for my camera but the moment was over. But the moment is never over. I see that magnificent bird every time I think about it.

But I still didn't see the birds. Oh, I began to see them but I didn't have any names for them and even when I could look at them for a long time, I didn't know what to look for. I knew field books existed so I went out and purchased one. Weird. I couldn't imagine a worse organization for a field guide.

It took more special birds, a White-crowned Sparrow and a flock of American Goldfinches to finally get me going, and then only with the help of some special teachers. As I learned I began to see. I am still learning to see.

I have learned that seeing is inexorably connected with learning. I see when I know what to look for. I am thankful for the new eyes birding has given me. There is so much more yet to see and I am excited.

On the Birdnet
Just a Common Gull


24 Oct. 1999
I've just seen 2nd year Mew Gull at North Park in Spanish Fork, Utah...... My wife and I saw a comparably diminutive bird among the gulls in the parking lot. It is exactly like the picture #35 in the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds (Western Region).
[later] After consulting on the web with the Patuxent site I find that the Mew Gull I saw was a first year bird. I should have given a description to avoid the confusion. The bird I saw had a pink bill with a black tip and pink legs. It had black primary feathers that extended beyond a dark tail. The bird was much smaller than the ringbilled gulls in the parking lot. - Harold Clayson

27 Oct.
David Wheeler and I were able to see the Mew Gull yesterday, from about 11:30 am until we left at 1:45 pm. It was spending much of the time in the parking lot (it likes french fries better than popcorn), but was also loafing with Ring-billed Gulls and California Gulls by the pond. I was able to get some decent photographs. It's a first-winter bird, but resembles almost exactly the European subspecies _Larus canus canus_ (Common Gull), and not the North American _L. c. brachyrynchus_ (Mew Gull). I don't know how often this subspecies is seen here. The problem is that the first-winter plumage of this subspecies more closely resembles the first-winter plumage of Ring-billed Gull (there are several of these in the flock as well). This makes the bird much harder to find - it took me about an hour to pick it out. It's difficult to see that this bird is noticeably smaller than a Ring-billed Gull when it's amongst a bunch of California Gulls, which seems to be most of the time. The size difference is obvious when it's close to a Ring-billed Gull. The bill shape is also quite obvious. The Mew Gull's bill is a bit shorter (though there is a least one short-billed, first winter Ring-billed Gull there), overall a bit narrower, and tapers to a thinner, sharper point. The most obvious difference is in the culmen (the profile of the top of the upper mandible). On the Mew Gull, the culmen forms a smooth, uniform curve from the base of the bill to the tip, and on the Ring-billed Gull, the culmen is straight for the basal half (or more) of the bill, before curving down to the tip. This is the main difference that gives the Mew Gull the appearance of a smoother, more delicate ("prettier?") bill. The rounder head on the Mew Gull is sometimes easy to see, and sometimes not-so-easy, especially if there isn't a Ring-billed close by. Note also that this Mew Gull has a cleaner black tail band, with no barring above the black (but be careful, this bird has a couple of recently molted, and incompletely grown tail feathers). There is also no dark speckling on the rump, and has wider white borders on the tertials (the broad feathers which are above the rump when the wing is folded). - Mark Stackhouse

27 Oct.
This morning, Wednesday, the 1st year Mew Gull was still at the North Park parking lot in Spanish Fork. It has been observed by several individuals each day since first seen Sunday. This morning it was the first gull at the gate. Hope you all are as fortunate. There are a couple of California Gulls with the group (one with a bad leg) that are very similar. - Harold Clayson

27 Oct.
It appears that, if the "Mew" Gull is really a "Common" Gull, that this is indeed a very significant sighting. The "Common" Gull subspecies is the one that's seen as a vagrant on the east coast, but the information I'm getting is that there are no records of this form on the west coast, and maybe not even anywhere in inland N.A. Fortunately, the first-winter birds are more easily identified to subspecies than the adults. As I mentioned earlier, it appears to me that this bird more closely resembles the "Common" Gull. I'll be sending out my photos to a few knowledgeable folks to get their opinions on the matter. Does anyone else have any good photos of this bird? Would it be possible to post these on utahbirds.org, so that other people can examine them? - Mark Stackhouse

* There are 8 rather spectacular photos on our web site at www.utahbirds.org. The experts will be checking them out and we should have a verdict soon.

State Hotline Highlights

Mark Stackhouse; David Wheeler, Larene Wyss - A juvenile-plumaged YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER was seen at Lucin on Sunday, 10/17 (MS). It was seen again at the same location on Monday, 10/18 (DW,LW). Lucin is located west of the Great Salt Lake, about 40 miles north of Wendover. To get there, take exit 4 from I-80, go north about 3/4 mile until the road turns NE, and take the gravel road to the left at this point. Follow this road for about 40 miles to Lucin. This is the third record of Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in Utah.

Colby Neuman - On Sunday, 10/17, a PECTORAL SANDPIPER and two DUNLIN were seen at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge (CN, m.obs.).

Joel & Kathy Beyer - At Willard Bay SP, two WOOD DUCKS and a TOWNSEND'S WARBLER were seen on Sunday, 10/10. The Wood Ducks were in the wooded pond south of the campground, and the warbler was in the campground.

Todd Black - Another TOWNSEND'S WARBLER and a MERLIN were seen on Promontory Point on Thursday, 10/14.

Mark Stackhouse - Many BONAPARTE'S GULLS and at least three COMMON TERNS were seen on Sunday, 10/10, just north of the entrance to Harold Crane WMA, along the dirt road which goes around the west side of Willard Bay.

Mark Stackhouse, David Wheeler - A late DUSKY FLYCATCHER was seen at the north end of the campground at Willard Bay State Park on Sunday, 10/24. On the mudflats west and north of Willard Bay, several SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS, several COMMON TERNS, and large flocks of both MARBLED GODWITS and BONAPARTE'S GULLS were seen on Sunday, 10/24. These mudflats can be reached by taking the dirt road north from the entrance to Harold Crane WMA.

Mark Stackhouse, David Wheeler; Dana Green, Julie VanMoorhem - On Willard Bay, 2 COMMON LOONS were seen on Sunday, 10/24 (MS,DW). On the same day, about 50 BONAPARTE'S GULLS were seen flying over the bay (DG,JVM).

Dana Green, Julie VanMoorhem - A GREAT EGRET was seen along Forest St. (the road to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge (BRMBR)), just west of I-15, on Sunday, 10/24. Large flocks of MARBLED GODWITS were seen the same day at BRMBR (DG,JVM).

Mark Stackhouse, Elizabeth & Richard Vanderlip - A winter-plumaged male LAPLAND LONGSPUR was seen at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge (BRMBR) on Saturday, 10/30 (MS,E&RV). The bird was on road along the north side of the auto-tour loop, about 1/2 mile east of the northwest corner.

Mark Stackhouse, Elizabeth & Richard Vanderlip - Two NORTHERN SHRIKES were seen along the east side of the auto-tour loop at BRMBR on Saturday, 10/30 (MS,E&RV).

Keith Evans, Jack Rensel - Another NORTHERN SHRIKE, and 4 PECTORAL SANDPIPERS were seen at BRMBR on Thursday, 10/21.

Bob Atwood and others - A TRUMPETER SWAN was seen on the Logan Sewage Lagoons on Saturday, 10/23.

Joel & Kathy Beyer, David Wheeler; Larene Wyss - The juvenile PARASITIC JAEGER, which was seen at Farmington Bay WMA on 10/06, has been seen intermittently since then. It was seen on Friday, 10/08 at the parking area at the south end of the western dike road (J&KB,DW), and on Friday, 10/15, near the Goose Egg Island observation point (LW).

David Jensen - A SAGE SPARROW was seen at Antelope Island on Monday, 10/11 (DJ). The bird was along the dirt road which parallels the shore of White Rock Bay.

Dana Green, Julie VanMoorhem - HORNED GREBES continue to be seen in good numbers at Farmington Bay WMA. 6-7 of the grebes were seen on Sunday, 10/24, along the western dike road.

Carol Gwynn - A NORTHERN SHRIKE was seen at Farmington Bay WMA on Monday, 11/01. The bird was in a small tree along the east side of the entrance road, just past the maintenance sheds.

Bethany & Mark Stackhouse - An adult BALD EAGLE was seen in the dead trees just east of the Goose Egg Island observation point at Farmington Bay WMA, on Monday, 11/01.

Bethany & Mark Stackhouse - A MERLIN was seen flying over the neighborhood around 1900 East 1700 South in Salt Lake City on Monday, 11/01. This is the same area where a Merlin has spent the winter for the past several years.

Margaret & Mike Smith - A WESTERN SCREECH-OWL was seen roosting in Memory Grove Park on Sunday, 10/31. The owl was in the trees above the Freedom Trail Memorial.

Carol Getz (of CA), Mike Smith - On Monday, 10/25, a THREE-TOED WOODPECKER was seen at the Trail Lake Campground along the Mirror Lake Highway, and three PINE GROSBEAKS were seen at the Mirror Lake Campground.

Dennis Shirley - A THREE-TOED WOODPECKER was seen along the Nebo Loop Road above Payson Canyon on Sunday, 10/17. The bird was at the top of the canyon near the Nebo Bench Trail.

Harold Clayson - A first-winter MEW GULL was seen in Spanish Fork on Sunday, 10/24. The bird was feeding with Ring-billed Gulls in the parking lot of North Park. To get to North Park, take the US 6 (Price) exit from I-15, and go east to the first stop light before the K-Mart, and turn right. The entrance to the park is just past the stop sign, across from the church. This is the twelfth report of Mew Gull in Utah

Tuula Rose - An immature HARRIS'S SPARROW was seen along the Provo/Jordan River Parkway, just north of the Provo Boat Harbor at Utah Lake SP, on Sunday, 10/31. A MERLIN was seen along the Provo/Jordan River Parkway, just north of the Provo Boat Harbor at Utah Lake SP, on Sunday, 10/31.

Dana Green, Drucilla Seward - A LEWIS'S WOODPECKER was seen in Salem on Saturday, 10/30 (DG,DS). To get to where the bird was seen, turn off US 6 onto Woodland Hills Ave. north of town, go to 9550 South, and turn right. Look on the trees and utility poles in this area.

Josh Kreitzer - At the pond at Southgate Golf Course in St. George, a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, a SNOW GOOSE, and an AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN were seen on Saturday, 10/16.

Priscilla & Steve Summers A GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW was seen at Ash Creek Reservoir, along I-15 south of Cedar City, on Sunday, 10/24 (P&SS). Take exit 36 from I-15 to access the reservoir.

Josh Kreitzer - At Seegmiller Pond, near the Springs Estates subdivision in Washington Fields, a ROSS'S GOOSE and 3 COMMON MOORHENS were seen on Saturday, 10/30.

C.J. Grimes - A WHITE-THROATED SPARROW was seen at Ogden Bay WMA on Wednesday, 10/27. The bird was near the south entrance, in the brush by the second bridge as you enter the WMA.

Ingrid Paine - LEWIS'S WOODPECKERS have returned to the same area in Pleasant View where they were seen last winter, as reported Tuesday, 10/26. The birds are along 900 West about 1.5 miles north of town, where the road enters a gated community. Look in the dead trees near the gate.