Utah County Birders Newsletter


         December 2020   

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


According to the updated guidance from the governor’s office, our county is currently in High Transmission Status which means gatherings are restricted to 10 people or less and a 6 ft. distance must be maintained. We want to make sure we’re keeping everyone safe and complying with state guidelines so we will not be meeting again until our county transmission status drops back down to moderate or low. We really miss seeing all of you and we are looking at options for virtual meeting/online presentation options we can do in the meantime. Stay safe and happy birding!



Christmas Bird Couns

       December 19, 2020

The Provo Christmas Bird Count will be held on Sat. Dec 19th. Due to Covid, we will not be holding our regular December bird quiz/prep for the bird count. Also this year we will not be doing the post-bird count potluck and will ask everyone to email their results. Participants are encouraged to use separate vehicles if birding by car unless it is with immediate family. We should also wear masks when around other people in the field. Contact Bryan Shirley at bt_shirley@hotmail.com or 801-722-9346 for more info.

      January 2, 2021

The Payson count will be on January 2. This year we will not be meeting before the count like we usually do so
if you want to participate please contact me before the count to get an assignment.
Bryan Shirley


President's Message - December 2020

            by Machelle Johnson


At this time of Thanksgiving, an "Ode to Things I'm Thankful For in 2020":

2020 has been a strange year, quarantine, restlessness, even some fear.
Yet all in all there are many bright spots, I'll touch on a few here, a poet I'm not!

Birds, Birders and Birding, There's no finer lot. We're out and about, sometimes all converging on a spot

eBird - My Car - Binoculars and Scope, out the door and Hope, Hope, Hope.

The Chase - Success - and Even Skunked, I'd rather be birding than some other junk.

Utah - Blue Skies - Places to bird everywhere, Just look around, it's all out there.

My Health - My Job - My Family, of course, without all that life would be worse.

Facetime - Facebook - and even Zoom - staying connected in different rooms.

So Good-Bye 2020, you've Given a lot, but this year it's not what's been given, its about what we've got.





Rufous Hummingbird
by John Crowley   
©John Crowley

Broad-tailed Hummingbird
by Jack Binch   
©Jack Binch

Calliope Hummingbird
by Paul Higgins   
©Paul Higgins

Black-chinned Hummingbird

by Paul Higgins   
©Paul Higgins

       Homeland Hummingbirds

                by Dennis Shirley

     Covid-19 has turned everything upside down for birders, including not only international travel but travel among our states and even our counties here in Utah.  For those of us who have taken the Covid-19 pandemic seriously, we have spent an inordinate amount of time at home and in our yards.  My yard has never looked so organized and clean.  Because of our “house arrest” because of Covid, much of my birding has been in my yard.  I have entered several dozen yard bird lists in e-bird for the year and have a pretty good idea of the birds that frequent my yard.  In 2020 this included 65 species.  Of course one of the common birds seen almost every day from spring to fall is hummingbirds, and I have up to nine feeders going at one time. 
     One evening in late July, as I was sitting out on my back deck watching my feeders, a neighbor came over and joined me.  He has developed an interest in birding and is amazed at the diversity of birds you can get even in your own yard. The rufous hummingbirds had just arrived and, like they do every year, stirred up the normal feeding patterns of the resident broad-tailed and black-chinned hummers.
     Birders and non-birders have always been fascinated with hummingbirds.  Can you imagine living in Europe or Asia and never witnessing the flight of a hummingbird and then, like my birding friends in Japan, coming on a trip to America and seeing hummingbirds for the first time.  They were overwhelmed by these amazing jewel-like creatures being able to fly in all directions, including backwards.
     My neighbor started asking me questions about birds, and especially hummingbirds.   First off, he wanted to know about the migration movements of the hummers found in our yard.  That question led to more questions concerning relative numbers of each species and if I knew when they first arrived in the spring and how late they stayed in the fall.  He also wanted to know if they fed at the feeders at night, which was an interesting question.  These questions perked my interest in wanting to know more about the daily and annual activities of my hummers.  I began to wonder about what time the hummers began feeding in the morning and if and when they stopped at night, the effects of weather and temperature on feeding, and if there is a difference in individual species timetables.  I also wondered if there was a preference for one type of feeder over another since I had three different types of feeders among my nine feeders.  Other questions included:  preference for clear sugar water or red; is the presence of wasps or bees a hindrance to feeding hummers ; and does the presence of cover (shrub or tree) make a difference in numbers of hummers using that feeder.  As you can see, when you start studying something and have a question or two, the more you think about it, the more questions arise.  Such was the case with my hummers.  So beginning in late July, I started consciously working on the above questions.  I actually made a field form to record my observations and had such things as official sunrise and sunset, the beginning time when the first hummer was recorded in the morning and last hummers in the evening, the temperature, the weather, and the numbers and kinds of hummers.  It required me to get up well before sunrise and also to be at my feeders in the evening for the last hour or so of the day. 
     Here are some of the things I found out: 

When did the first hummers arrive in the spring and leave in the fall?  

Broad-tailed Hummingbird
by John Crowley   ©John Crowley

Rufous Hummingbird
by Jack Binch   ©Jack Binch

Calliope Hummingbird
by Jack Binch   ©Jack Binch

Black-chinned Hummingbird
by Marlene Foard   ©Marlene Foard

     April 23 was my first observation of a hummer at the feeders in my yard.  It was a broad-tailed male. 
     My first black-chinned arrived just three days later on April 26.
     For comparison, in 2019 the first broad-tailed was on April 21 and the black-chinned on April 25.   Going back and checking earlier years, my FOY records all fall in the last half of April. 
     My annual FOY hummingbird yard observations are always a few days later than the first records for Utah County. This may be due to my yard location on the higher oak/maple bench areas instead of lower down in the valley.
     The rufous hummingbird is markedly different.  It arrived in 2020 on July 18, which was a little later than usual, with most of my previous annual records being from the 4th to the 15th of July.  The first record is always a male, which is normal.  The females and young come later. 
     I did have a calliope hummingbird show up on August 21 and stay about a week until August 29. 
     In the fall, the last hummer observed was on September 30 and was a broad-tailed.  The last black-chinned was on September 27, and the last rufous was on September 21.  So in 2020, no hummers were observed in our yard after the 1st of October.   

What was the largest number of hummers at the feeders at one time?

     Trying to estimate the number of hummers using the feeders during one day is difficult, especially with the presence of the rufous hummingbirds, when there is always pandemonium, with hummers racing between the feeders trying to get a sip of nectar.  On the morning of August 28, I had 17 hummers at the feeders at one time, which was my high count.  But, between mid-August and the first of September, I often had 10 to 15 at the feeders both during the morning counting period and the evening. So between these dates was when the most hummers were in my yard. 
     The most activity at the feeders was during the early morning and early evening periods.  On most days, there was very little activity during the hottest part of the day. 

Do hummingbirds feed at night? If not, when does feeding begin in the morning and end at night? 

     This question required more time to answer than any of the others.  Of course, I didn’t spend all night watching my feeders, but I did spend darkness in the morning and in the evening watching them.  Not surprisingly, I never saw a hummer at the feeders after dark.  I spent 34 mornings and 27 evenings in August and September from before daylight in the morning and until dark in the evening recording the use at the feeders.  I would normally spend an hour or two during each observation period. 
     In the morning, 23 minutes before official sunrise was the average time hummers arrived at the feeders. Beginning times in the morning ranged from between 29 to 17 minutes before sunrise.  In the evening, hummers averaged 13 minutes after sunset as the last time they fed and ranged from 17 to 8 minutes after sunset.   Twilight is considered to be one half hour before official sunrise in the morning and one half hour after official sunset in the evening. So my hummers fed during twilight hours in the morning (slightly earlier) and during twilight hours in the evening.  One of the observations I also did was keep track of other bird species in the yard during the times I was watching hummingbirds.  Without exception, hummers were the first birds to actively feed in the morning and the last birds to feed in the evening.  Other birds must go to bed earlier than hummers. 

Other Questions

Most of the other questions I had, I could only superficially answer.  For the two months that I obediently watched the feeders, daily temperatures during observation times  ranged from about mid-40’s to mid-60’s in the morning and 60’s and 70’s in the evening.  Temperature seemed to have little effect on the numbers of hummers using the feeders. 

 Like temperature, weather seemed to have only minor effect.  However, during the observation months, no major weather changes occurred. 

 There were no noticeable differences in the use of the three types of feeders, and it seemed to not matter whether the sugar water was colored red or left clear. 

When wasps and bees were present in large numbers, hummers tended to use the other feeders and were often observed being aggressively chased away by wasps and bees. 

The presence of tree branches or other kinds of cover where the feeders were hanging did not seem to influence the use of the feeders by hummers.  I had four feeders hanging from our deck and a post right out in the open where no cover was close, and these feeders were used just as much as the ones hanging from our fruit trees, oak brush, and aspen. 

We’ve answered all of the questions, some more thoroughly than others.  It ended up being a good learning experience and a lot of fun.  It goes to show you, that even when our normal world is turned upside down, many of the world’s creatures still have a normal daily routine.  


Rare Birds of November in Utah County

     by Suzi Holt

November has been a month for rare birds in Utah County!

It started off with Joellen and Gary Herbert on November 3 calling to let me know they had a SNOW BUNTING at the end of the south dyke at Utah Lake SP! In the couple weeks that followed another bunting appeared so we had two!! These two birds had the paparazzi showing up for some incredible photo ops. While birders were there on the 4th a Red-necked Grebe was seen, on the 6th a Black Phoebe, and Red-breasted Mergansers were also seen. 


Snow Bunting


On November 4th Quin Diaz and Kendall Watkins found a Black Scoter on Sandy Beach at Utah Lake! Kendall texted me and we headed right over. Many birders were able to see this beautiful drake! 

Black Scoter


The Vermillion Flycatchers that Tammy Northrup found were still being seen on November 9th.

Vermillion Flycatcher

Vermillion Flycatcher

Vermillion Flycatcher

White-fronted Goose

Cackling Goose


On November 16th Jeff Hardy found SNOW GEESE, a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE at Mapleton Reservoir. The next day Bryan Shirley found a CACKLING GOOSE

On the 20th Bryan Shirley found a EURASIAN WIGEON at East Bay Golf Course. The PACIFIC LOON still continues at Spring Lake and that's a loony story. On the 20th Noel Zaugg had EVENING GROSBEAK.
On the 21st Shawn Miller found a GREATER SCAUP at Kuhni Wetlands in East Bay. And Jeff Cooper found a BLACK MERLIN in Highland. 

Pacific Loon


While finding the turkeys for the Turkey Trot up Payson Canyon Jessie and I saw two of the LEWIS'S WOODPECKERS. Lewis's Woodpeckers have also been seen on the Mapleton Bike Trail and at the Woodland Hills Hangout.

Lewis's Woodpecker


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

Turkey Trot - 2020

             21 November 2020
   by Suzi Holt
The TURKEY TROT was different this year because of Covid...but we found more than our share of turkeys! 169 of them up Payson Canyon. The toms were strutting their stuff as Jessie gobbled at them! Plus we got a two Lewis's Woodpecker bonus!!! We also saw a Stellars Jay, lots of Black-billed Magpies, a couple juncos and two Townsend's Solitaire's.

  Lewis's Woodpecker

Bald Eagle







    Southern Utah -  Hwy 20 & State Parks

   by Suzi Holt

       Challenge # 26
         Hwy 20  Continued

We got to spend Thanksgiving in Sand Hollow so we were able to finish Hwy 20 and a couple more State Parks! Jessie and I finished #26...20 species on Hwy 20 on the way down. I needed 6 species and Jess needed 7. We found BALD and GOLDEN EAGLES, Mallard, Northern Harrier Dark-eyed Junco and Mountain Chickadee and a extra House Finch for Jess. It was 38 degrees and windy or in other words freezing cold!!! But we finished it finally! That one was tough!!!

Bald Eagle

Golden Eagle

Northern Harrier

         Challenge # 7
         State Parks Continued


On Wednesday morning Jessie and I went over to scope things out and finished Quail Creek SP. We saw HORNED GREBES doing a dance! Some HOODED MERGANSERS hanging out by the dam. We also saw RED-BREASTED and Common Mergansers, there were Western, Eared and Pied-billed Grebes too. We had Say's and Black Phoebes and American Pipits by the shoreline and in a brush pile Ruby-crowned Kinglet, White-crowned Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos and a BEWICK'S WREN. We also found Rock Wrens, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Great Blue Heron, Common Raven, Ring-billed Gulls, DC Cormorants and a BALD EAGLE. We were also able to get a mile walk in!

Western Grebes

Common Merganser


Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Say's Phoebe

Rock Wren

Loggerhead Shrike

Sand Hollow SP was a piece of cake. We already had a few from our last trip so it didn't take us long. We found American Pipit, Loggerhead Shrike, Yellow-rumped Warbler, GREATER SCAUP, HOODED and RED-BREASTED Mergansers, Bufflehead, ROCK WREN and Pied-billed Grebe getting us to 20!!

On Thursday evening Amanda, Izzy and Tatum came down. Friday morning we went to Snow Canyon. We needed 5 more species. We got out and within ten minutes had a SAY'S PHOEBE, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER and a BEWICK'S WREN. We spent another hour and couldn't get the last two and needed to head back to Bruce and the girls. Snow Canyon remains unfinished.

Hooded Merganser

Rock Wren

After lunch we drove up Kolob Terrace. Jess and I needed 3 species and Amanda needed 6 in Zion NP, parts of Kolob Terrace and Lava Point Lookout are in Zion NP. We found Dark-eyed Juncos, Woodhouse's Scrub Jays and a NORTHERN FLICKER on the way up. We hit the jackpot at Lava Point and found MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH and DOWNY WOODPECKER. It was golden hour and the scenery was spectacular up there too!

Downy Woodpecker

On Saturday we went back to Sand Hollow and Quail Creek state parks for Amanda. We finished pretty quick cause Jess and I had the birds all scoped out. Yay! 3 more State Parks done!
Bruce, Izzy and Kenna headed home on Sunday and we decided to stay so we could go back and help Amanda get Hwy 20 finished. We got there a little after 10 on Monday morning and it took us until 12:30 to find 7 species. She got American Kestrel, GOLDEN EAGLE, Bald Eagle, ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK- a first Fall bird, Mountain Chickadee Song Sparrow and Northern Harrier! Yay!!! Now we need to head up North to a few more State Parks!


     If you have had any interesting field trips on your own this month,
feel free to write a report for the newsletter!

(Send it to: ucbirders@utahbirds.org)