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October 1997


Matt's Message
by Matt DeVries (

Phoebe Snetzinger, the undisputed champion of the birding world, recently recorded bird number 8,400. That is species, not starlings. This means that Phoebe has seen around 87% of the roughly 9,700 bird species in the world

I say roughly 9,700 species because the actual number depends on which classifications system is used and what recent splits or lumps have been made. Given the intricacies of taxonomy, I just stick with the 9,700 figure and let the experts haggle over the details. This means there are some 9,200 birds I have never seen. And, I want to see them all.

I fantasize about the birds I will someday see. Every article I read about new species and exotic places fuels my imagination. I want to observe all the birds of the world. I want to get to know each species in its habitat. I have developed intricate strategies and plans to accomplish my goal. Give me unlimited resources, and I am ready to go.

Recently, as I have plotted my overthrow of Phoebe Snetzinger, my plans have become somewhat sobering. I have realized that if I want to see all the birds of the world, I will have to start by seeing the ones that may be extinct soon. Many birds I want to see are now no more than museum skins or journal entries. Great Auk, Dodo, Carolina Parakeet, and Guam Rail are all extinct, along with many other birds. Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and Eskimo Curlew are likely extinct as well. Spix Macaw may soon join them along with dozens of other critically endangered species.

Even local birds are disappearing. I was shocked when Merlin Kilpack informed us that American Redstart and Yellow-billed Cuckoo were once common breeders along the Provo River. I have never seen either species in the state.

My passion for birds has grown exponentially as my knowledge of them has increased. But along with my passion, my fear has also grown. I have realized that when I finally have the time and money to search for the birds I dream of, some species will only be found in museums.


October Meeting
by Dennis Shirley

The October meeting of the Utah County Birders will feature Jay Banta, Manager of Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge. The meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 16. It will be held at BYU’s Bean Museum.

Future Programs

November 20: Don Paul, UDWR, "Birds of the Great Salt Lake"
December: Merrill Webb, Christmas Bird Count


Swasey Mountain/Sinbad Springs Field Trip
October 25, 1997

Reed Stone will lead a field trip to Swasey Mountain and Sinbad Springs on October 25th. Birders will leave from the Bean Museum at 6:00 a.m., returning at about 5:00 p.m.

9,000 feet in elevation, Swasey Mountain is three hours from Provo, located west of Delta. Sinbad Springs (at the same location) is a good place to bird, according to some of our birders who have visited recently.

Bring a lunch and warm clothes.


Utah County Birders Visit Northern California

by Ned Hill (, Field Trip Coordinator

On October 1, 1997, Utah County Birders took their second out-of-state trip. The opportunity of a pelagic trip was too much to pass up for us land-locked Utahns. While some ocean-going birds may visit the Great Salt Lake, most such birds won’t ever find their way to the Beehive State. If you want to see them, you must head out beyond the continental shelf which, fortunately, comes within just a few miles of the coast in Monterey Bay. So—armed with enthusiasm, soda crackers and anti-motion sickness medications—six birders embarked on a 4 day adventure.

The evening started auspiciously with a ticket mix-up that caused a minor stir in the entire Delta system and took over an hour to resolve. Undaunted, we left the San Jose airport and drove down to Monterey—a point of nostalgia for Ivan Call, Tom Williams and the Markhams who had all spent some military time in Fort Ord. Donna Peterson and her daughter Chris from Davis, CA, joined us for the boat trip. Early the next morning, we met Mark Bromley at Sam’s Fishing Peer. Mark, formerly of Utah County, now teaches at Waterford School in Sandy. He had chartered a boat for his AP Biology students and a few other friends and invited us to join him. The boat was captained by Richard Ternullo, a well-seasoned mariner who also does Debra Shearwater’s journeys on more than a weekly basis. He can spot a storm-petrel a mile off.

The day was bright and warm as we headed with great anticipation out into the Bay. Along the jetty we found dozens of lounging California Sea Lions. Life birds for most of the group started popping up immediately: Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants, Ruddy and Black Turnstones, Heerman’s, Western, and Herring Gulls. Brown Pelicans were everywhere. In the near shore waters we saw many balding Elegant Terns obviously having bad hair days and a few Pigeon Guillemots going into winter plumage. Soon Richard called out, "Jaeger!" We saw a larger, gull-looking bird harassing the terns trying to get them to give up a meal. What kind? "Parasitic," Richard said, "they’re the only ones who come this close to land to harass terns." That would not be the only jaegers we would see. We got several fairly good looks at both Parasitic and Pomarine Jaegers before the day was over.

It was difficult to get a good look at anything. It should be obvious that a scope is quite useless on a boat! The deck is constantly lurching up and down and side to side. The moving waves are changing the appearance of the water and birds keep disappearing. Some dive just when you’re about to get a good look. Others duck behind the waves and mysteriously disappear. Some fly off before the boat gets within viewing distance. Note also that there are no convenient points of reference like "third branch from the top of the tree, right hand side, two feet out." From a boat, one must use "3 o’clock" meaning directly to the right of the boat when facing forward, and "30 yards off" which is not that useful if you haven’t played football. Add all this to the salt spray that keeps building up on your glasses and binoculars. It’s a wonder that we got to see much of anything! But, with patience and persistence—and knowing which side of the boat to be on when a good bird is sighted—we saw quite a few pelagic birds and other sea wildlife.

A bit further out in the Bay we saw a Common Loon and a few Common Murres, both in winter plumage. Several times we got excited about a murre we thought might be a murrelet. Only the day before, Richard had seen four Craveri’s Murrelets—a bird none of us had ever seen and an unusual find for Monterey Bay this time of year. The warm weather caused by El Niño has caused some of the usual wintering birds to delay their arrival and kept some of the warmer weather birds in the Bay. Over the edge of the continental shelf, we began to see shearwaters. These are unusual birds that have learned to harness the energy of the waves to soar just as hawks use updrafts on the face of mountains. Shearwaters soar just a few inches over the waves looking for their food. We found Black-vented Shearwaters, then Sooty and later a few Pink-footed flew by the boat. We soon learned to differentiate shearwaters and gulls by their very different flight styles.

Mid-morning, a gigantic Blue Whale surfaced and spouted in front of our boat! We circled and waited and finally re-found this largest of all mammals. Blues don’t come into Monterey Bay that often. Later our boat was surrounded by hundreds of Common Dolphin, racing, jumping and frolicking along side the boat. What acrobats! We found another school of dolphins later in the day.

Next came the cry, "Albatross!" A lumbering Black-footed Albatross flew across the bow of the boat and then circled around for all to see. Albatross are not as common in October as in warmer months. On a kelp patch we found a Rhinoceros Auklet feeding. Another individual came close enough for us to see the yellow streamers on his head.

It was surprising to us how some areas of the ocean were teeming with birds, others had not a single individual. That’s the way it is on land, but the ocean seems—to one who doesn’t think to carefully about it—to be more homogeneous. It is not. On the shelf’s edge the upwelling currents bring nutrients to the surface. Away from that edge, there is not as much food to support sea and bird life. Fish, too, move in schools—sometimes very large ones. At one point we saw thousands of gulls, terns, cormorants and other birds wheeling about what must have been a large school of fish.

We reluctantly headed for the dock. The large storm-petrel flock Richard had seen yesterday was not to be found today. They must shift around the bay following schools of fish. We didn’t see all we had hoped for—but then we rarely do. We did get a good taste of pelagic birding and resolved to return for more in other seasons when different birds can be found. The real success was: none of us became seasick, although a few of the students learned firsthand about that ailment.

In the late afternoon we drove to several spots along the coast south of Monterey Bay. We found: Black Oystercatcher, Black-bellied Plover, Willet, Whimbrel, Marbled Godwit, Red-necked Phalarope, and Great Egret.

The next morning, we left Monterey and drove around the bay to Elkhorn Slough, a protected area of marsh and estuary. Here we found a few land birds: California Towhee, Scrub Jay, Northern Mockingbird, and Black Phoebe. We also saw more shorebirds: Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper and Long-billed Curlew, and found a large flock of Red-necked Phalaropes, plus Black-necked Stilt, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night-heron, American White Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Forster’s Tern, Northern Harrier, Song Sparrow, and Wrentit. The latter was "heard only" until later.

Up the coast we stopped several times and located Golden-crowned Sparrow, Bewick’s Wren, Eared Grebe, and finally got a Wrentit to come out and pose for us about 3 feet away. We tried to talk ourselves into thinking a blackbird with only red shoulders might be a Tri-colored Blackbird—but we finally gave up. East of Pescadero, we visited the Phipp’s Ranch, an attractive private farm open to the public. We searched in vain for the reported Yellow Green Vireo but did manage to find a couple of beautiful Townsend’s Warblers and got great looks at Anna’s Hummingbird. We also found many White-crowned Sparrows. But the best find of the day was Duarte’s Restaurant in Pescadaro—an out-of-the-way place with great food. We’d go back there again anytime.

In Año Nuevo we saw a Purple Finch from the parking lot, and then we hiked down to see about 300 young Elephant Seals on a protected beach. These endangered mammals, we found out, are favorite meals for the Great White Shark. We also saw Loggerhead Shrike, Sanderling, White-tailed Kite, Surf Scoter, Ruddy Duck, and got close looks at some of the shorebirds we had seen earlier. Leaving the coast, we headed up towards San Francisco (we found a Red-shouldered Hawk on a pole but couldn’t stop for the traffic). Heading through the big city in early evening, we tried tuning in KSL radio to hear the BYU-Utah State football game. We were quite surprised we actually found it. Unfortunately, the signal got lots of competition from a mariachi band. Was that a competing station or had the BYU marching band changed its image? The game faded during the most exciting moments so we had to call home to find out the happy result.

From our hotel in Santa Rosa we left the next morning to visit Pt. Reyes National Seashore. We learned the meaning of "slow cookin’" at Denny’s. Pt. Reyes is a large area with a wide variety of habitats. In the wooded area we found Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Band-tailed Pigeon, Brown Creeper, Acorn Woodpecker, Western Wood-pewee, Red-shouldered Hawk, Townsend’s Warbler, California Towhee and Sharp-shinned Hawk. A drive down to the Oyster Factory and surrounding marshlands produced Glaucous-winged Gull, other gulls and many shorebirds. Our next stop was Drake’s Beach where we found a flock of Elegant Terns roosting on a sandbar along with a variety of gulls and shorebirds. Lunch at the café there was delicious—especially the oyster dishes. In the thick trees near the parking lot, we found some birders pointing up into branches. We scanned the trees and soon found a roosting Great-horned Owl. The best find of the trip was at our next stop—the short grass fields up from Drake’s Beach. Junece spotted some birds flying near grazing cows. A scope view proved the birds to be plovers of some kind. They flushed over a hill and out of view—then back again but closer. A careful study showed not one but two kinds of plovers: American and Pacific Golden Plovers. Another van of birders stopped and confirmed our conclusion. These were new birds for several in our group.

The wind was howling so we decided to skip the lighthouse area. We went to the fish docks where Blackpoll Warbler had been reported but we found few small birds in that strong wind. We did see a Horned Grebe and got good looks at Common Loon and Surf Scoter. At Five Brooks we found a Wood Duck pair, Steller’s Jay, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Turkey Vulture, Common Raven, and Spotted Towhee. We searched in vain for Red-breasted Sapsucker; but at Bolinas Lagoon we did find Northern Pintail, Least Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, American Avocet and Marsh Wren and other shorebirds. The town of Bolinas seemed to be the 1960’s frozen in a time capsule—many residents seemed to be left over Vietnam War protesters complete with VW bugs

The next day we made a quick tour of Bodega Bay where we found hundreds of shorebirds. They were being watched over by a Peregrine Falcon perched on a low stick. We also saw Western Kingbird and California Quail but the wind was too strong for good birding. We then drove south stopping at the Marin headlands where we got a breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco skyline. At the Palo Alto Baylands on San Francisco Bay we visited the wintering home of many ducks and other waterfowl. We found Pied-billed Grebe, Greater Scaup, Surf Scoter, Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Belted Kingfisher, American White-Pelican. Unfortunately, we missed the Black Skimmer’s being reported there. From the visitor’s center boardwalk we heard the elusive Clapper Rail and got to study differences between Western Sandpiper and Least Sandpiper. In addition, we got definitive looks at Long-billed Dowitcher. Altogether our trip list totaled 111 birds. Our only regret was we couldn’t stay longer in these legendary birding hotspots of California.


Membership in the Utah County Birders is open to any interested person. Dues are $12 per year, although no one will be excluded if unable or unwilling to participate. Send dues to Beula Hinckley, 2067 N. 420 E., Provo, UT 84604

Executive Committee

President Matt DeVries ( 226-0958
Past-President Robin Tuck ( 377-8084
President-Elect Merrill Webb 224-6113
Secretary-Treasurer Beula Hinckley ( 377-3443
Programs Dennis Shirley 423-1108
Field Trips Ned Hill ( 375-2417
Membership Barbara Whipple ( 226-3931
Newsletter Weldon Whipple ( 226-3931

Telephone Hotline: 375-2487, 377-8084
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