Utah County Birders Newsletter


         January 2021

    Monthly Meeting
Upcoming Field Trips
    President's Message
    Bird of the Month 
    Special 2020 Challenge Report 
    Field Trip Reports


January UCB Meeting:
Thursday, Jan 14 at 7pm via Zoom

With a covid vaccine becoming available, the end of all this craziness is hopefully in sight, and maybe this year we’ll be able to meet in person once again. Until we can safely do so again we are going to resume our UCB meetings in virtual format. 

Our January awards ceremony will be held virtually via Zoom, an app you can download here:  https://zoom.us/  on most computers and smart phones, or join via the web link invitation below or alternatively (if you can’t join on the computer) through a call-in phone number (any of the ones listed below). For our meeting this month we will announce the names of those who completed the 2020 challenge and invite anyone who wants to share their favorite memories from completing the 2020 challenge. Hope to “see” you all there!

Machelle Johnson is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Utah County Birders
Time: Jan 14, 2021 07:00 PM Mountain Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting on your PC or laptop:

Meeting ID: 962 7605 8182

Passcode: 095279

Dial by your location (YOU CAN USE ANY OF THESE NUMBERS)
        +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
        +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
        +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
        +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington D.C)
        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
        +1 646 558 8656 US (New York)

Meeting ID: 962 7605 8182



Christmas Bird Count

      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 - January 2021

            by Machelle Johnson


So January 1st didn't magically change the world and rid us of the novel coronavirus, but I have been reflecting on things I've learned about birding by myself, and on some birding goals for the new year.

I don't mind birding alone, sometimes I prefer it, but I find that it is fun to go with one or 2 other people as well. More eyes and shared knowledge helps me learn about ID's and other field marks.

When I don't have to work my schedule around anyone else I can jump in the car and head out whenever works best for me. That was one thing that helped me reach the gold level on this challenge.

By needing to rely mostly on my own knowledge and using field guides, I was able to improve my birding ID and I learned a lot about what to look for in that first quick glance. I remember something Alton Thygerson told me one time when I mis-identified a juvenile Long-bulled Curlew as a Whimbrel. He reminded me to look for 3 identifiers to confirm an ID. I practiced that a lot this past year.

I've really missed field trips and going to new places for birding. I don't know how long it will be before we start having group trips again, but I'm looking forward to it.

Some goals I've set for myself this year are to get out as often as I can and to explore birding places that I haven't been to before.

I think I'll use that 'point system' challenge we used for the last challenge year as a guide for birding this year. It gives me a goal to work towards and gets me out of the house.

My other birding goal is to visit another state to see birds that we don't have here. I really enjoyed Florida and California several years ago. I'd love to go to Texas or Panama! A group field trip to a place like that would be awesome, maybe we can work that out!

All in all, I'm glad to see 2020 go and look forward to 2021. I don't think my life has or will change a whole lot, but I'm glad that I have this hobby and such a great group of friends to share it with.

I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous new year and I really hope to see you all soon!



Provo Christmas Bird Count – 2020

    by Bryan Shirley

Green-tailed Towhee
by Cliff Miles  ©Cliff Miles

In spite of a the challenges presented by covid we had a great count this year. We ended up with 104 species total and counted 37,370 birds. Our average is 92 and the best we have ever done is 108, so we had a good year. We benefitted from having lots of participants this year. That allowed us to really cover the areas better than normal. Thanks to everybody who participated. We added one new species never seen on our count before – a Green-tailed Towhee was located in Lindon. Other good birds were Lewis’ Woodpecker & White-throated Sparrow. In my area my best bird was Evening Grosbeaks – always a treat. Notable misses were Lesser Scaup & Golden Eagle – both are normally seen almost every year. More than the scaup and eagles I missed seeing all of you though. It was too bad that we couldn’t get together to tally the results over dinner and with good company, but 2020 is almost over and 2021 is sure to be better!

1. Canada Goose – 1,236 (781 average)
2. Cackling Goose – 1 (5th year recorded but only recently split)
3. Wood Duck 19
4. Gadwall – 119
5. American Wigeon – 1,451
6. Mallard – 1317
7. Northern Shoveler – 39
8. Northern Pintail – 43
9. Green-winged Teal – 161
10. Canvasback – 2
11. Redhead – 2
12. Ring-necked Duck – 10
13. Bufflehead – 2
14. Common Goldeneye – 65
15. Hooded Merganser – 3
16. Common Merganser – 5
17. Ruddy Duck – 55
18. Chukar – 3
19. Ring-necked Pheasant – 7 (average 102 but gets lower every year)
20. Wild Turkey – 53
21. California Quail – 203
22. Pied-billed Grebe – 57 (previous high of 38)
23. Great Blue Heron – 30
24. Great Egret – 3 (Only recorded 4 years. Last year we had 4)
25. Black-crowned Night-Heron – 15 (I thought this would be a new record but we had 21 one year)
26. Bald Eagle – 42 (previous high of 39)
27. Northern Harrier – 23
28. Sharp-shinned Hawk – 12
29. Cooper’s Hawk – 8
30. Red-tailed Hawk – 54
31. Rough-legged Hawk – 2
32. American Kestrel – 42
33. Merlin – 12 (previous high of 11)
34. Peregrine Falcon – 1
35. Prairie Falcon – 3
36. Virginia Rail – 13
37. American Coot – 1037
38. Sandhill Crane – 9
39. Killdeer – 6
40. American Avocet – 1 (only the 7th year recorded)
41. Greater Yellowlegs – 3
42. Least Sandpiper – 2 (only the 5th year recorded)
43. Wilson’s Snipe – 12
44. Ring-billed Gull – 496
45. California Gull – 9 (average of 68)
46. Rock Pigeon – 350
47. Eurasian Collared-Dove – 726
48. Mourning Dove - 93
49. Barn Owl – 1
50. Western Screech-Owl – 2
51. Great Horned Owl – 5
52. Belted Kingfisher – 11
53. Lewis’s Woodpecker – 1 (only the 5th year recorded)
54. Downy Woodpecker – 28
55. Hairy Woodpecker – 1
56. Northern Flicker – 158
57. Say’s Phoebe – 3 (only recorded 2 previous years and 3 tied the high)
58. Black Phoebe – 1 (recorded for the first time last year. Not the same location this year)
59. Stellar’s Jay – 9
60. Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay – 207
61. Black-billed Magpie – 266
62. American Crow – 88
63. Common Raven – 11
64. Horned Lark – 26
65. Black-capped Chickadee – 184
66. Mountain Chickadee – 36
67. Juniper Titmouse – 9 (Only 11th year recorded. Recorded by several groups this year)
68. Bushtit – 13
69. Red-breasted Nuthatch – 19
70. White-breasted Nuthatch – 7 (Seen on less than half of previous years. recorded by several groups this year.
71. Brown Creeper – 20
72. Canyon Wren – 1
73. Marsh Wren – 10
74. American Dipper – 14
75. Golden-crowned Kinglet – 2
76. Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 21
77. Townsend’s Solitaire – 25
78. Hermit Thrush – 3
79. American Robin – 834
80. European Starling – 19,512
81. American Pipit – 166
82. Cedar Waxwing – 80
83. Orange-crowned Warbler – 1 (only seen on about half of the counts)
84. Yellow-rumped Warbler – 20
85. Spotted Towhee – 111
86. Green-tailed Towhee – 1
87. American-Tree Sparrow – 28
88. Song Sparrow – 169
89. Lincoln’s Sparrow – 1 (16th record)
90. White-throated Sparrow – 1 (11th record)
91. White-crowned Sparrow – 485
92. Dark-eyed Junco (no subspecies) – 306
a. Oregon – 204
b. Gray-headed – 4
c. Pink-sided – 8
d. Slate-colored – 8
93. Red-winged Blackbird – 4844
94. Western Meadowlark – 62
95. Yellow-headed Blackbird – 5
96. Brewer’s Blackbird – 130
97. Great-tailed Grackle – 270 (almost a new high but not quite)
98. Cassin’s Finch – 2
99. House Finch – 427
100. Pine Siskin - 5
101. Lesser Goldfinch – 74
102. American Goldfinch – 28
103. Evening Grosbeak (only recorded about half of the years)
104. House Sparrow – 770






    The Common Raven  (Corvus corax)

           by Lynn Garner

Common Raven
by Lynn Garner 
  ©Lynn Garner

One of the most widely-distributed birds in the northern hemisphere is the Common Raven (Corvus corax), a bird that seems to invite human comment wherever it is found. Edgar Allen Poe made one famous, and it is reported that one raven raised as a pet was taught to say the word, “Nevermore!” Legend has it that if ravens ever leave the Tower of London, the British nation will cease to exist; warders constantly maintain a small flock of their beloved birds, not wanting to test the legend.
Natives of the northwestern coast of North America describe the raven as an inveterate trickster.The predatory nature of the raven has also earned it the literary reputation of ill omen.
       The Common Raven is often seen in Utah along the highway and in the farmlands, mountains, canyons, and deserts, perched on posts and outcrops or soaring smoothly through the sky. Ravens sometimes perform aerial acrobatics; All About Birds reports that a raven was seen flying upside-down for a half mile or so! In the western states, ravens occupy almost all habitats outside urban centers. Ravens are very territorial, aiming to keep all other ravens away from their nesting site throughout the year. The nest itself can be quite varied, usually made of sticks, up to five feet across, and is often lined with soft rubbish or even colored paper; the clutch is 3–7 mottled greenish, olive, or bluish eggs. Ravens can be found where other birds might not find much support; a report of one Christmas count in Newfoundland consisted solely of six Common Ravens.
       Ravens are sooty-black, larger than a crow, about 24" long with a wingspread of about 53" and weighing about two and a half pounds. Their call is an echoing croak that is unique and extremely varied. They are truly omnivorous, eating whatever is at hand, such as scavenging roadkill, raiding nests, hunting insects and small animals, and visiting landfills. Their intelligence, similar to that of other smart Corvidae, enables them to learn and to act in concert with the flock. Ravens have been seen to team up, one distracting brooding seabirds so another can snatch eggs or young from the nest. They have been reported to gather to the sound of a hunter’s gun, hoping to find a carcass, but not responding to other loud noises. In winter, a young raven finding a carcass will invite others to share it with him, apparently hoping to outnumber the proprietary ravens of the territory.
       There is a story from medieval Hungary that during a conflict between nobles, the hero was captured and left to die in a pit. A raven (holló) came and dropped a stone (kö) into the pit and continued doing so until the prisoner could climb the pile of gravel and escape. The town where this took place (about 80 km northeast of Budapest) is now called Hollókö and sports a heroic-sized statue of a raven at the entrance to the town.



The 2020 Birding Challenge

Utah County Birding Group

    Report by:  Robert Parson

Overall---in a challenging year, this turned out to be a life-saver, lots of fun and very different than originally anticipated.  Kept me going and provide an incentive to bird more and in different ways than I would have otherwise.  Completed 30 of the 36 challenges.  Missed #6 (20 species on the 20th) by two months, #25 (Turkey Count) and #5 (20 Life Birds) by one, all of which I should have been able to do.

Over-all Report—saw 504 species during 2020 in three countries, 23 states, one district and two territories.  In 2020, saw 238 species in Utah, 188 in Utah County—both new records for me by a considerable margin.  Saw 19 new life birds (only one in the United States) and 29 new species for Utah.  Well below my 2019 count for total species seen and lowest over-all total seen in six years, but pleased with results for 2020.  By far, my best, most fun and educational birding year ever in Utah.

Most Challenging—Birding in 20 States.  I was able to go birding in 23 states, one district and two territories during 2020.  Ending up driving to 17 different states, flew to six.  Definitely not the way I planned to bird in 2020, but quite the experience and we saw 15 National Parks on the way.

Most Rewarding---Birding in 26 of the 29 counties in Utah.  Missed Morgan, Sanpete and Weber. After living out of the state for almost 40 years, it has really been fun to come back and start to learn Utah.  Visited all National Parks, dozens of State Parks, lakes, cities and towns.  This is one amazing state.

Most Educational---Tie between #33 (20 species in 20 trees) and #13 (20 species in 20 towns).  I used an app to help me with the trees, shrubs and plants.  I can’t believe how much I enjoyed learning more about an area that I new so little about, despite loving the outdoors so much.

Most Satisfying---After a long hike up City Creek Canyon, in freezing weather, and then looking for two hours with absolutely no luck, deciding to leave and hiking back down the canyon, and then telling myself to hike back up to the noted campground just one more time, then giving myself another deadline to  leave, but then deciding to stay just 15 more minutes---for the third time, and then—finally--- having two Acorn Woodpeckers fly in just above my head and put on a show!

Most Tenacious---Completed at least one eBird submission on every day of 2020!  Going for 500 consecutive days---then will probably take a break.  Have about 70 days to go.

Most Exciting—As part of #5 (20 New Life Birds), finally finding a Pacific Wren in Utah.  Although I missed getting 20 new life birds for the first time in my birding career, I was absolutely thrilled to finally find a Pacific Wren---after dozens of efforts throughout the state.

Biggest Nemesis---Chukar.    Tried a dozen times in multiple locations (Antelope Island, west of Utah Lake, Lehi area and more), including two hours on December 30 and two hours on December 31.  Maybe next year.  That’s what keeps us coming back for more!  That is the challenge.  That is birding!!!!


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

Provo Christmas Bird Count
           (19 Dec 2020)

   by Suzi Holt

Provo Christmas Bird Count was a success! Thanks Amanda Holt Tinoco and Tatum, Jessica Holt and Carol Hatch Harris for coming with me! A fun Christmas tradition!

Prairie Falcon

Sharp-shinned Hawk

American Pipit on our front porch a firt for us

Canvasback and Pied-billed Grebes


Canada Geese

Cackling and Canada Goose


Song Sparrow

Great Egret

House Sparrow

Mourning Dove

Great-tailed Grackle 

American Pipit

Ring-billed Gull

You always have to find one of these!!!

    (See Report of the whole Provo CBC above)

    Looney at Deer Creek  (11 Dec 2020)

   by Suzi Holt

I must be looney!!! We found a Yellow-billed Loon yesterday at Deer Creek!!! We also finished 2 more State Parks! Deer Creek was tough and so was Wasatch Mountain SP! But we had a blast and got yummy cinnamon rolls at the Midway Bakery! A awesome day for sure!!! Sorda ironic the first looney story was a Pacific Loon, next while chasing the YBLO at Willard Bay SP we found a RTLO and not the YBLO then now finding a YBLO!!! 2020 isn't too bad after all especially for birding! Thanks Maximus Michael Malmquist and Bryant Olsen for your help on the ID!!

Yellow-billed Loon  -Lifer!

Downy Woodpecker

Mallards and a Gadwall

The fattest cat I have ever seen

Common Goldeneyes

Black-capped Chickadee

Ring-necked Duck and American Wigeons



     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)