Utah County Birders Newsletter


         August 2020 

    Monthly Meeting
Upcoming Field Trips
    President's Message
    Bird of the Month 
    Field Trip Reports


Greetings friends and fellow birders! We usually have a club potluck in August and due to the uncertainty of the current situation and out of a desire to protect each other we have decided to postpone it for at least another month this year. As soon as we feel it is safe to resume meetings and our potluck we will do so, but until then, we want you to know we miss seeing all of you and we hope that you are staying safe and healthy and out there enjoying our avian world as much as possible despite our current limitations!



For the month of August our field trips can be to see how many counties or WMA or National Forests you can get to. Then send in a field trip report.

Challenge #4 in 2020 see 20 species in 20 Utah counties

Challenge #9 in 2020 see 20 species in 20 National Forest areas or Wildlife Refuges.

I miss all of you!!


President's Message - August 2020

            by Machelle Johnson

Fabulous Turkey Vulture/Kite ...   by Jeremy Telford

Closer look...              

I don't know about you but I hardly ever just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind when I see a bird...
"said Me never". Now that we have that out of the way, lets talk about mis-identification. Have you seen the Joshua Owls on the Beaver Dam Wash road on your way to Lytle Ranch? They are abundant, so are the Joshua Birds. How about the Greater or Lesser Debregret? The Bag Bird? The Stick Bird? They're everywhere! Look at this fabulous Turkey Vulture/Kite that Jeremy Telford saw recently.

When you're in 'Birding Mode' EVERYTHING that moves looks like a bird, airplanes, eye-floaties, balloons, falling leaves, etc. Even things that aren't moving can look like a bird. I could tell you about the time I stalked a stake in the water in Florida, thought for sure it was a Roseate Spoonbill....but no, I'd rather have you read David's Sibley's article about the time he turned a Great Egret into a Loggerhead Shrike, it makes me feel better about myself. His article is basically about the reported sightings of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker a few years ago, but his introduction story about mis-identifications is priceless:

Certainty in sight records - Sibley Guides

I enjoy birding, I enjoy being able to identify birds in flight, by their song, and perched. I enjoy trying to figure out what I just saw. And I'm wrong, a lot. Ask my friends, they question my ID's often. Sometimes I know, sometimes I'm assuming, sometimes I'm wishing, sometimes it's just a shot in the dark. But dang-it, birding is fun!

Bag Bird

Closer look...

by Machelle Johnson


Greater or Lesser

Closer look...

by Jeremy Telford

Don't let this virus get you down, keep doing what you love! Go with someone if you can, or just go out by yourself. Stay safe and stay active, and keep doing what you love!

See you out there! I'll wave from my car...

Joshua Owl

by Machelle Johnson

Resources :





Ringed Kingfisher    (Megaceryle torquata)

   by Robert Parsons


In selecting the bird species that I wanted to talk about this month, dozens of ideas flew through my head.    I wanted to choose a species that some birders have seen, that is possible to see in the United States, but not something that every birder has likely seen.  I also wanted something that I had photographed.   So, taking that all into account---let’s talk about the Ringed Kingfisher.


by Robert Parsons  ©Robert Parsons

The Ringed Kingfisher is the largest kingfisher in the Americas.  There are just over 90 kingfisher species throughout the world, but only six in the Western Hemisphere.  Most continents have one well-known kingfisher, such as the Common Kingfisher in Europe or the Belted Kingfisher here in North America.  Southeast Asia and New Guinea have the greatest diversity of kingfishers and of course the large and noisy Laughing Kookaburra is well know from Australia.  Most kingfisher species are similar in structure but differ primarily in size, plumage and habitat. 


Ringed Kingfishers measure about 12-15 inches in length and weigh about 8-9 ounces.  It is in the Alcedinidae family and is widespread throughout much of South America, Central America and Mexico, and just barely extending its range into southern Texas.


Most birders love watching kingfishers, sitting motionless on a perch staring intently at the water below for some morsel of food, diving with amazing accuracy to grab a fish in its large and stocky bill or chattering away as it flies quickly from perch to perch along some water source.  Like most kingfishers, Ringed Kingfishers are colorful, noisy and conspicuous birds, making a loud cla-ak call as they fly with choppy wing beats, in a quick and direct path but usually much higher than other kingfishers, from one perch to another.  The song is a low-pitched harsh rattling.  I saw my first Ringed Kingfisher in 2009, four years after I started birding during a trip to Costa Rica.   The pictures in this article were taken during a birding trip at Laguna Coba in Mexico earlier this year.


by Robert Parsons  ©Robert Parsons

Ringed Kingfishers are non-migratory, but territorial birds, staking out an area with good food sources and convenient perches along with a safe place to roost.  They live along deeper rivers, large streams, ponds and lakes with significant forested areas nearby.  They are also found around fresh water bodies in lowlands and in mangrove swamps along coastlines.    In Texas, they are most common along the Rio Grande, in areas where tall trees and brush border the river or in some of the deeper nearby ponds.   They appear to be expanding their range northward, further into the United States and although the first documented breeding record in Texas didn't occur until 1970, they have become increasingly common since then.  Although uncommon, populations appear to be stable and Ringed Kingfishers occupy a very large geographic range.   The IUCN lists Ringed Kingfisher as a species of “Least Concern.” 


Ringed Kingfishers hunt for food by perching higher than most kingfishers (usually 15-25 feet up) and watching the water, sometimes for long periods of time. When prey is spotted close to the surface, it plunges headfirst, sometimes up to 25 miles per hour, into the water, catching the fish in its stout bill. They often bob their heads before diving to help accurately judge the depth of the fish in the water.  Unlike some other kingfishers, Ringed Kingfishers seldom hover before diving.  The kingfisher’s diet consists of mostly small fish (5-7 inches long), but also small lizards, snakes, amphibians and insects.  They are most active in the morning and evening.


by Robert Parsons  ©Robert Parsons

The Ringed Kingfisher is crow-sized with an enormous bill and looks somewhat like a big uncle to our more familiar Belted Kingfisher.  It is mostly blue/gray, with a shaggy crest, white collar and a rufous belly.    Both species are similar, but while the male’s breast is entirely rufous, the female has a bluish gray band bordered by white.  Watching kingfishers dart along streams and rivers might remind us of the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins when he wrote of how kingfishers catch fire in the bright spring sunshine.


Like most birds, Ringed Kingfishers courtship is in the spring and the male will often approach the female with a fish in his beak. He will hold it so that the head of the fish is facing outwards and attempt to feed it to the female.  Pairs will sometimes perch together, alternating low chatters while raising and lowering their tails.  They build their nest by digging a tunnel, often along the bank of a river but sometimes in road cuts or piles of earth up to a mile from water. They may nest in loose colonies if a large appropriate areas is available.   This burrow can be as deep as eight feet with a large nest chamber at the end and although little nesting material is added, the burrow is sometimes lined with fish bones and scales from the food brought to the nest since they do not typically practice nest sanitation.    The female typically lays between four and five white eggs.  The incubation period is not well understood, but both parents help to incubate the eggs, often taking long turns of up to 24 hours each and also tend to the young once they hatch. Young birds leave the nest at approximately five weeks but continue to be cared for by the adults for several weeks.


There are many interesting stories about kingfishers.  For example, a kingfisher is said to be the first bird to fly from Noah's ark after the flood, and supposedly received the orange of the setting sun on its breast and the blue of the sky on its back. It was considered a symbol of peace, promising prosperity and love.    If true, I wonder who in Noah’s family was the birder and provided the positive identification.


Kingfishers are also considered “very lucky birds” and it is good luck to see one.   According to the ancient Greeks, kingfishers built their nests on a raft of fish bones and having laid their eggs, they set the nest afloat on the Mediterranean Sea and incubated the eggs for seven days before and after the winter solstice.

In order to help the birds with their nesting, it is said the gods always made sure that the seas and winds were calmed during this period. The Greek name for Kingfisher is halcyon, leading to the term ‘halcyon days’ which was originally a reference to the calm and fine weather at this time in Greece.   The term now use the term to refer to fondly remembered times in our past.

by Robert Parsons  ©Robert Parsons

The name halcyon itself comes from the Greek goddess, Alcyone who was married to Ceyx. According to legend the couple was happily married but made the mistake of calling each other Zeus and Hera, which angered the real god Zeus who in bad temper killed Ceyx by sinking his ship with a thunderbolt.

On hearing this, Alcyone, wrought with grief, threw herself into the sea and drowned. Out of compassion, however, the gods later changed them both into beautiful flashing blue halcyon birds named after her and recognized in the kingfisher’s scientific name of Alcedo, after Alcyone.

In Irish folklore it is said that dead kingfishers preserved in a dry place will never decay and if put among clothes and other articles, the dead birds will preserve the clothes from moths and give them a pleasant odor.   Another old folk tradition in Ireland and Britain describes how a dead kingfisher hung by a thread from a post will always have its beak pointing in the direction of the prevailing wind. Shakespeare refers to this in King Lear, when he wrote:

Bring oil to the fire, snow to their colder moods;

Renege, affirm, and turn their halcyon beaks

With every gale and vary of their masters

So, whether you can catch the colorful noisy Ringed Kingfisher along the Rio Grande River in Southern Texas, or sit and study our more common Belted Kingfisher, enjoy these wonderful birds as much as you can.



1.       South Dakota Birds, Birding and Nature.  Dakota Birding Blog.

2.       Audubon Online Field Guide—Ringed Kingfisher

3.       Texas Breeding Bird Atlas—Ringed Kingfisher

4.       Whatbird—Ringed Kingfisher

5.       The Irish News.  July 12, 2020

6.       www.allaboutbirds.org 

7.       “13 Bird Superstitions.” ca.audubon.org   July 13, 2012

8.       “Eight Facts about Kingfishers.” Scottish Wildlife Trust.  Scottishwildlifetrust.org  

9.       Birds of the World.  Cornell Bird Library on-line version. 

10.    The Sibley Guide to Birds.  Second Edition. Sibley.  Page 307.

11.    A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica. Stiles and Skutch.  Page 237.

12.    Complete Birds of the World.  National Geographic. Harris.  Page 178.

13.    The Crossley ID Guide—Eastern Birds.  Crossley.  Page 292.

14.    Birds of Peru.  Revised and Updated.  Schulenberg, Stotz.  Page 256. 

15.    Birds of Mexico and Central America.  Perlo.  Plate 52.

16.    Birds of Europe.  Second Edition.  Svennsson.  Page 238.

17.    Poems and Prose.  Gerard Manley Hopkins.  Penguin Classics.  1985.


Photos by 

Robert Parsons 
Executive Vice President and
Chief Financial Officer
Exclusive Resorts




Special Article:


Leena Rogers  -- behind the scenes


Glob-Mallow - Tintics, 2007

 Gray Catbird - Vivian Park

Cooper's Hawk - backyard

Highland Glen Park

January 20th - Lee Kay Ponds

In the Monte Cristo Mountains - west of Bear Lake
Photos from secret Finnish pages

With the passing of our friend, Leena Rogers, on the 12th of July, it is appropriate to remember some of the things she contributed to our group and to the Utah birding community.  Here are some things that a lot of people may not know.

She was officially part of the Utah Birds website staff for over 10 years and did a lot of the work on the monthly Highlights Reports.  She also took photos at field trips, meetings, and other events for the newsletters and to include in the website pages -- she sometimes would slip in a photo of a wildflower or something special to add a little beauty --  as in a report of a  field trip to the Tintintcs.  If you Google her name for the website, you'll find a lot of her photos of bird, places and people...and a few flowers too.

Most of the things she did we somewhat behind the scenes, but there was a secret, and well hidden, Finnish part of the website (with secret language and all) that was set aside exclusively for the "Finnish contingent" -- the website staff basically:-). Here's a report of a field trip with Aunt Helvi visiting from Helsinki and a three-county field trip report that were posted to the Finnish pages. (You can ignore the secret language -- nothing very important -- it's encrypted anyway! - makes it more fun! :-)

What was not so much behind the scenes was her work with the Utah County Bird Facebook page.  She welcomed people into the group and encouraged members with her comments and pleasant attitude.  The presently 1,167 member group is very active, fun and positive for a very diverse group of birders who participate and enjoy the many great photos and interesting comments that are made by all levels of birders.  It was probably Leena, who set the tone for this very pleasant and interesting group.

We were blessed to be able to share some great experiences, enjoyable moments and the love of birds and nature with such a caring and  generous sprit as Leena Rogers.

Thank you,  Leena.  Your influence will be with us for a good long time!

Thumbs up at Leidy Peak - 2004

Taken by Leena on a Skipper Bay Trail field trip.

* Link to Leena's Photographer Bio -- written quite a few years ago.
**Link to Leena's website staff tribute
***Link to her Field Trip Report 20 Jan of this year



Special Article:


Photo Gallery Expansion... and Cliff Miles  

The description of the Utah Birds Photo Gallery goes like this:

"The Photo Gallery posts pictures of birds in different plumages, from different perspectives, of different genders and ages, and in different activities (in flight, on a nest, etc.).  The goal is to have the best photos that "describe" each particular species of bird. We hope for a wide range of pictures having value in the areas of art, interest and education."

American Restart
Photo of the Month

by Cliff Miles  ©Cliff Miles

Cliff Miles has taken this description to heart and has submitted over 500 photos just in the last year or so to provide some of the photos we need to further this stated goal.

The photo on the left of an American Restart belting out a full-throated song during breeding season, was selected as the Photo of the month.

He got photos of young birds, which you don't see a lot -- you can only get these picture during short time the spring.  His photo of a  young Black-billed Magpie, looking like a punk rocker with an attitude, and some young Wood Ducks, looking pretty mellow, sitting on a log, show these newly arrived young birds facing a whole new world.

Since most photos are profile shots and face-on shots, Cliff has tried to get some photos from more unusual angles. He got some shots of the under- and back side of a White-rumped Sandpiper, the back side of a Long-billed Curlew at Bear River MBR, along with some unusual photos of an unusual bird -- Rose-breasted Grosbeak from the back and underneath and a striking photo of a Bunting from behind.. The rare shots of a rare Palm Warbler from underneath  are probably a more usual angle for a warbler -- sometime you only see the underside of the tail when you're trying to spot a warbler.

Sometimes you're luck enough to catch a bird at just the right moment.  Here's a shot of a Western Gebe with a fish wiggling in it clamped-down bill and some Cliff Swallows gathering mud to make their nests and a little something happening in a group of American White Pelicans, who usually lie around a lot.  It's hard enough to get a good picture of a Sagebrush Sparrow -- here one of a Sagebrush Sparrow eating a bug  and here's a rare Hooded Oriole preparing to launch into flight, and some Preening Band-tailed Pigeons in a Honey locust tree.

Clark's Grebes
by Cliff Miles  ©Cliff Miles

Since birds grow up quickly, a family photo is sometime hard to get.  Here's a family of Clark's Grebes taking the new baby for a "strole." -- they look like proud parents.  You see males and females pairing up when spring comes -- here's a pair of Black-bellied Plovers in breeding plumage and male and female Falcated Ducks at a mingle.

Some things you just don't see very often.  Here's a photo right in the face of a juvenile Sanderling and a close-up of a female Dusky Grouse and one looking in the eye of a Vermilion Flycatcher. So how do you get a picture of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet  with a view of the underbelly and the ruby crown on top of the head -- at the same time?!  Well, here it is.

A big thanks to Cliff Miles for his profound contributions to the Photo Gallery!  His photos can help us get to know these birds more intimately and  get a better feel for the character of the different bird species.



Field Trip Reports      (There are Individual Field Trip Reports on our Facebook Page)