Utah County Birders Newsletter


         February 2021

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


February UCB Meeting:
Wednesday, Feb 10 at 7pm via Zoom

The meeting this coming month will be:
Wednesday, February 10, 2021 7:00pm
Virtual Zoom Meeting

Robert Parsons will be our guest speaker and his presentation is titled:
 “Birding the Wilds of Papua New Guinea—-an Adventure Never to Forget”.

We hope you all can join us virtually for this fun meeting!

Machelle Johnson is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Utah County Birders
Time: Feb 10, 2021 07:00 PM Mountain Time (US and Canada)

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Meeting ID: 955 6573 1917
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  OXO                                OXO      
February 14th:                February 14th
For the love of birds let's try to get out on
February 14th Valentines Day
 and see 14 different species!!
Happy Valentines Day!!



President's Message - February 2021

            by Machelle Johnson


It takes time and effort to become really good at birding. Of course you don't have to be 'really good' at birding to enjoy it! Birding can be watching birds at your bird feeder to traveling the world to see birds, or being an expert on birds. Birding is for everyone at all levels.

Western Meadowlark
 by Paul Higgins   ©Paul Higgins

I got started in birding in my junior year of high school at Orem High. Al Davis and Cheryl Lewis taught a 3 hour per day block class called Unified Studies. One of the units we studied was Birds. I bought a Golden Field Guide and I read it like a novel. I really enjoyed learning about bird identification. At first I just wanted to know what the bird was. But the more I went out the more I wanted to know about them. I would say the Western Meadowlark was my 'hook bird'. That song, I still love it! I was an avid birder for about 10 years, but that was mostly just me and my sister going down to the lake or other local places for birding. I only say 'avid' because it was something I was really interested in and wanted to do often. Then priorities changed, I got married and started having kids. Kids change everything right? I think its great to see so many families and kids out birding with our group. Our family did a lot of camping which got me outside but small children need tending to so birding was just something I did when I could. Then I started working full time. Jobs change everything too right? I got pretty rusty with my ID's during the inactive years, but then I joined the Utah County Birders in 2012. I love being part of this group! I love the learning environment of the field trips and monthly meetings and newsletters. I love the friendships I've made, and meeting new people. So many in our group are so knowledgeable about birds, and not just ID, but molt, migration, breeding, nesting, etc. This group is so much more than just seeing birds.

American Robin
by Jim Bruce   ©Jim Bruce

Albino (leucistic) American Robin
 by Jack Binch    ©Jack Binch

Something I am working on this year is GISS or JIZZ, meaning identifying the bird initially by 'general impression of size and shape'. Was it the size of a robin? Did it fly like a robin, sound like a robin, did it look like a robin? It was probably a robin. If you don't know what a robin flies like or sounds like, you look for the brown back and red breast. If you don't know that a robin is brown and red then you take it one bird at a time and start with the colors. Soon you are able to know that a robin is different than a dove or a starling. You know that a robin is smaller than a dove and bigger than a starling. You know that a robin sounds different than a dove or a starling, it flies different, it does different things when it lands in a tree. Then you take this beginning and use it on other familiar birds, maybe comparing them to a robin for starters. You start to pay attention to the main song and call of the bird, to the way it flies overhead, and from tree to tree. It does take time, and it takes patience!

I keep my Sibley and NatGeo field guides handy and refer to them often, and I use the Peterson app on my phone. I also like Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion, Kenn Kaufman's Field Guide to Advanced Birding, and The Crossley ID Guides. These books go beyond the visual of the bird, and helps me get a better understanding of what a bird does during different times of the year, or the day even. They give more detailed habitat, migration and nesting information. They have multiple photos or drawings, showing the bird at different angles or in different molts. Pete Dunne's book doesn't have pictures, just very detailed information that is easy to read and understand. I've been accused of reading my field guides more than my scriptures...you probably have too!

Last year I spent more time birding alone that I have in a long time. It was good and bad. Good because I tried harder, and bad because I'm not as good as I'd like to be. I think the biggest boost to learning more is going out as much as possible. Seeing, observing, making notes or taking photos, whatever helps you the most.

Read Yvonne's article below, maybe we raise the bar and hit 2021 just as hard as 2020 hit us. (hehehe, I crack myself up..)

See you out there!




    Pacific Loon  (Gavia pacifica)

           by Kristin Telford

Pacific Loon
by Nichole Telford 
  ©Nichole Telford

2020 was a year I didn’t get out birding as much as some other years. Besides taking care of my school age children, I also had a baby that required a lot of attention. So beyond what I could see while on walks with the stroller or from the van, I didn’t see a lot. That being said, I still got some lifers that year.
Up until 2020, I had only seen common loons before, so I enjoyed the opportunity to see both a Yellow-billed loon (or two) and a Pacific loon that year, thanks to my husband who made sure I got out to see them… with the baby.
Loons are in the family Gaviidae. Of the loons I’ve seen, common loons (Gavia immer) are the most common in Utah, with Pacific loons (Gavia pacifica) being less common and Yellow-billed loons (Gavia adamsii) being the least common.
Since I got a pretty good look at a Pacific loon last year, I’d like to talk a little bit about it. For those that have seen common loons here in Utah, the Pacific loon is smaller overall but specifically with a smaller head and daintier bill proportionate to its body. Common loons can be found all over North America (hence the name) but Pacific loons like to stay more in coastal areas and will nest far to the North. They like to spend their time in the ocean but nest in freshwater lakes. Pacific loons will lay one or two eggs in their nests and like grebes (which we also get several varieties in Utah) will carry their young on their backs when the babies are very young.
Pacific loons are diving birds (and sometimes at the inconvenient time of when you want to take a picture) and can stay under water for quite some time (also inconvenient when you want to take a picture). They will dive to catch mostly fish to eat, though they will eat other things such as insects and even some plant matter from time to time. Like some other birds, they will also swallow pebbles to help grind the food they eat.
I’m glad I got to see a Pacific loon in Utah last year. It is a beautiful bird and I enjoyed getting to learn a little more about it other than just what it looked like.

References: National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Sixth Edition.
Alaska Department of Fish & Game website (https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/education/wns/loons.pdf)

Photo credit: Nichole Telford


Special Articles:    


    by Yvonne Carter

During our fun Virtual Meeting in January, as we reviewed our accomplishments participating in the 2020 Challenge, we started to talk about personal challenges during 2021 since it is an 'odd' numbered year.    I have been guilty of being one of those 'odd-year slackers' so named.    As I thought about the situation during the Covid restrictions in 2020, why not step up to a new year and change this bad habit I have had of being that 'slacker'.

At Gunnison Bend Reservoir

I have thought of making the challenge to match 2021.   For instance, why not 21 species in 21 counties, or 21 species on 21 reservoirs or lakes, etc.    This could be carried right through the challenge list we had.   I felt the challenge we had for 2020 was excellent because it pushed me into new areas in the state, which I think some of you mentioned as we 'virtually' reviewed the year.  There were areas I had never birded at before.

A couple of weeks ago, I was thinking of ideas which have been shared in the past by well-experienced birders that I have had the chance to go birding with.
One idea which would have to be accomplished perhaps through a couple of years at least is to complete a list of minimum 100 species in each of the 29 counties in Utah.    Now, there is something to really accomplish.

21 new species in our Utah county, or perhaps the state.  Or 21 new areas or hotspots in the state you haven't visited in our beautiful state.   Or ask yourself,  "Is there something I should be learning to do while birding that I keep putting off?"  For instance, I keep putting off learning how to attach photos I have taken with my camera to a list I am submitting to Ebird.    

It's a new year and hopefully we can soon be birding together.    But at the same time,  get rid of old habits and try some new ideas!!

Gunnison Bend Reservoir, Delta, Utah



                      Utah County Birders

                The 2020 Birding Challenge

Congratulations to all those who participated in the 2020 birding challenge! Here are pictures of a few of the birders who were able to join us to pick up their certificates and prizes. If we missed you, feel free to share a picture of you with your certificate on our facebook page. Thanks for another great challenge year!

                            List of Challege Award Winners

Katy Knight and her nephews:  Sammy, Milo, Asher, Van!

  Esther Duncan, Flora Duncan, Alona Huffaker

           Danny and Linda Nelson                                              Keeli Marvel, Suzi Holt

Geniel Simpson, Suzi Holt, Tatum Tinoco, Amanda Tinoco, Jessica Holt   -     Tatum and Amanda Tinoco
We are missing mom but such a fun 2020 challenge!! We went for gold and got it and had a blast!



White-faced Storm-Petrel - New Zealand

                   World Travelers contribute...

     Nine New Species in the Photo Gallery

                       taken by Joel Beyer

Nine new species of birds have been added to our Photo Gallery of US and Canadian Birds.

Most of these birds are very rare in North America but Joel & Kathy Beyer have traveled to many parts of the world where these birds are easier to find and photograph.

A lot of the photos were taken in different parts of Thailand, and one in relatively nearby Malaysia. But others were taken in New Zealand in the Southern Hemisphere, Colombia in South America, Spain in Europe and one was taken in "nearby"  North Carolina.  You can click on the links to see the pictures of the birds -- it's an easy way to take a birding trip around the world!

White-faced Storm-Petrel  taken on a Hauraki Gulf pelagic tour in New Zealand

Stygian Owl  at Rio Blanco Reserve in  Colombia

Northern Boobook at Kaeng Krachan National Park in Thailand

Spotted Flycatcher   at the Ebro Delta in Spain

Red-flanked Bluetail  (male - & female)  Red-flanked Bluetail at Doi Lang National Park in Thailand

Taiga Flycatcher  also at Khao Yai National Park in Thailand

Common Hill Myna  Sepilok Rainforest Discovery Center,  Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

Eastern Yellow Wagtail  Rangsit Marsh, Thailand

Citrine Wagtail  (male & female) at Bancsolai rice paddy, Thailand

Bachman's Sparrow  at Croatan National Forest, North Carolina


Thanks to Kathy and Joel for sharing these rare bird photos!


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

    Payson Christmas Bird Count Report          ((2 Jan 2021)

   by Bryan Shirley
The Payson Bird Count was a great success this year. We ended up with 91 species tying our all time high and smashing last year's count of 84 species. We had 2 species never recorded before - Cackling Goose and Chipping Sparrow. Also had a record 5 Say's Phoebe - probably due to the mild winter. Thanks again to everybody that participated!     



     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)