Utah County Birders Newsletter


         March 2022

    Monthly Meeting
Upcoming Field Trips
    Bird of the Month 
    Special 2020 Challenge Report 
    Field Trip Reports

Young Common Goldeneyes leaving their nest.
by Eero Mustonen
    ©Eero Mustonen


Thursday, March 24th, 7pm via Zoom.

Nesting Ecology of Common Goldeneye and other cavity-nesting waterfowl in interior Alaska, a special presentation by Riley Porter, graduate student at Mississippi State University. Riley is going to talk to us about his work with ducks in Alaska, what they hope to learn from his research, and some of the fun experiences and challenges he’s had doing bird research in wild and remote places.

The Zoom link and passcode will be sent out via the UCBirders email the week before our meeting. Hope to see you all there! 

FIELD TRIPS:  (Please bring walkie talkies set to 5-0)

   March 5, 2022  (Saturday)
   Diamond Fork Canyon

Meet at 9 am at the Spanish Fork Chevron on Powerhouse Road (3601 E Powerhouse Rd, Spanish Fork, UT 84660)
 at 9:00 am.  We will drive up to Diamond Fork and see what birds we can find. We should be done around noon.


   March 26, 2022  (Saturday)
   Carbon and Sanpete County


UPDATE!!! I As of this past weekend the Emma Park Road was still locked. I also just talked to Bryan and we are worried about ice and snow at Scofield. So we are going to meet at the Spanish Fork Chevron (3601 E Powerhouse Rd, Spanish Fork, UT 84660) at 7 am. We will then drive down to meet Bryan at the Chevron in Fairview just as you come into town.
Bryan will take us to hus favorite spots in Sanpete County. We will be pretty close to Sevier County and thought we may as well get our 22 species there! Bring a lunch.

We do have a couple out of town challenge field trips planned.

     The first one is:

      May 20-21 2022
   Grand and San Juan County
On Friday we will meet at the Swanny Ciy Park 400 N.100 W. Moab at 11 am.
Our first birding spot will be by the Kane Creek OHV parking lot. I usually see a lot of birds here, hopefully we will get our 22 species for Grand County, if not we will stop at the Scott S. Matheson Wetlands Preserve and around town.
Please bring snacks, a lunch and water.

Then we will head to Devil's Canyon Campground to set up camp. Or if you want there are hotels in Monticello and Blanding. I would recommend getting reservations ASAP.
After setting up camp we can look for birds around the campground.
Saturday we will meet at 8 or 9 am depending on the weather to look for birds around the campground, drive to Recapture reservoir and if we have time go check out the Blue mountains. I love this area and I am excited to share it with you all. My favorite species down here are Acorn Woodpecker, Western Bluebird, Pygmy Nuthatch, Grace's Warbler and hopefully Red Crossbill! I have also seen Williamson's Sapsucker, Lewis's Woodpeckers and so many others!

Second field trip:

      June 3-4 2022
   Washington County

Friday we will meet at 6 am at the Bluff street McDonald's in St. George.
We will drive out to Lytle Ranch. We will spend a lot of time there. Please bring a lunch and water. After that we will see if we have time to go to the Gunlock area to look for Common Blackhawk, go to Snow Canyon and Tonaquint Nature Park.

Saturday we will meet at the Hurricane Walmart at 7 am. From there we will go straight up Kolob Terrace to Lava Point Lookout to look for California Condors. We will walk around the area there looking for birds, then drive around to a few other good spots.
If we have time we will check out Dalton Wash for Rufous-crowned Sparrows and hit Grafton. Plan on lunch that day as well.
Remember to book your hotels ASAP.

On your drive down Thursday please stop in Iron County to get your 22 species. My favorite spot is the trail along the river that goes up Cedar Canyon-Lower (aka Canyon trail) its a ebird hotspot, i also like Canyon Park. I would think you could find all 22 species in a few hours there.

The 2022 Birding Challenge

      Prinout with the details
                         (PDF file)





   Mountain Bluebird
(Sialia currucoides
Thrush Family (Turdidae), Order Passerines (Passeriformes)

By Lynn Garner

States in the US began choosing state birds in 1927, following campaigns by women’s groups and schools. Two states eventually chose the Mountain Bluebird (also known at the time as the Arctic Bluebird) as their state bird, Idaho in 1931 and Nevada in 1967. This bird is found in both states year around. They are migratory, nesting from Alaska and western Canada southward to mid-Arizona, mid-New Mexico, and northern California and wintering from mid-Nevada and southern Idaho south to central Mexico, and like some other thrushes, their summer and winter ranges overlap. Often the migration is simply a move to lower elevations. Individuals seen east of the Rockies are treated as accidentals.

Male, Box Elder Co.
 by Paul Higgins   ©Paul Higgins

Pair, Dividend, Utah Co.
by Milt Moody   ©Milton G. Moody

Female, Monticello area
by Lu Giddings   ©Lu Giddings

The striking light blue coloring of the male makes it one of the most beautiful birds in the west. The female is more brown or gray, but still has blue in her wings and back. The birds are about 7 inches long, with a wingspan of about 14 inches and weighing about one ounce. Their call is a soft descending whistle tru-lee, and their song is a series of low, burry whistles. The alert sound is a harsh, short chik or chak.[2]

Mountain Bluebirds are cavity-nesters, building their nests in tree hollows and crevices, often using nests abandoned by woodpeckers; they also readily use nesting boxes. Most studies of their behavior has been done on populations using nesting boxes. They typically lay 5 or 6 light blue eggs and raise two broods per season.[1] The male chooses the nesting territory, but the attracted female chooses the actual nesting site (rather than choosing the male) and does most of the nest building. The male brings food to the female during the incubation period of about 14 days and both parents feed the young during the next three weeks or so before fledging. Pairs remain monogamous.[3]

Mountain Bluebirds prefer nesting in high (5000+ feet) mountain grasslands or sagebrush with scattered trees and bushes, and where there is less competition for nesting places. I was told years ago that Mountain Bluebirds used to nest in Utah Valley, but when European Starlings arrived in the mid-1930s the bluebirds moved to higher elevations. In winter, they prefer pinyon-juniper woodlands but will occupy any open shrubland, grassland, or agricultural fields. They often hover over open ground seeking food, or will hunt from a perch like a flycatcher. Their diet consists mostly of insects and some seeds, but fruit is a major part of winter diet.[3]

It appears that the major predatory threat to Mountain Bluebirds comes from accipiters and Kestrels, and their nests are sometimes vulnerable to squirrels or other animals that can access the cavities. The oldest known Mountain Bluebird was 7 years old. In regard to conservation, the population of Mountain Bluebirds is increasing; population estimates are currently more than 5 million individuals.

[1] National Audubon Society, Birds of North America, 2021, New York: Knopf
[2] Sibley, Sibley Birds, V2 App.
[3] All About Birds and various other web sites.

       [See past Bird of the Month articles

Field Trip Reports  
Millard County- Snow Goose Festival fieldtrip.
                              26 February 2022

                         by Suzi Holt
We started our trip meeting at Payson Walmart at 8 am. I arrived at 7:45 and noticed I was in my slippers, so I ran home to get shoes. It was 5° degrees BRRR!

5° degrees

Bald Eagle

Common Merganser

We drove down to Nephi and headed west to Delta through Leamington and Lyndell, somewhere in that area my car was saying -5° yikes!

Just past the Millard County sign we saw a few Black-billed Magpies, Common Raven, 3 Bald Eagles, European Starlings and Eurasian Collared Doves, a Red-tailed Hawk, 4 Tundra Swans, Northern Pintail and Mallards.

From there we flocked this way to Gunnison Bend Reservoir. The Snow Geese had not arrived so we drove around Sherwood Shores. We found Euraisian Collared Doves, European Starilings, Canada Geese, Common Merganser, Redhead, Song Sparrow, House Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, Ring-billed Gull, Red-winged Blackbird, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Ducks and then a huge flock of Snow Geese flew in.

House Sparrows

Green-winged Teal

Ring-necked Duck

We raced over to one of the viewing areas and watched them land on the ice and water. What a sight. I will never get tired of all that sound and sight!

We set up our scopes and began to search for Ross's Geese amongst the Snow Geese. I estimate about 3500 geese a lower number than in years past. We also found some Blue Morph Snow Geese, and I always like to search for a Greater White-fronted Goose-check! As we were looking for more Ross's a Bald Eagle flew in and everyone lifted off the reservoir, circled around and landed too far out to search for Ross's. After that Esther took the others over to the east side of the reservoir while we searched for some lost birders, we stopped at Maverik for a break and forgot a car :-) not my first time to lose someone and probably not my last. Sorry Rex Hadlock. From there we broke up and some headed to Beaver County and the rest headed home.

White-fronted Goose

Tundra Swans, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Redhead and Mallards-Lyndell

        We stopped by Ashton Farms Burger Barn...the wait was horrible
        but the hamburgers were good!

        Till next time Delta Snowgoose Festival!


Sandhill Cranes-Lyndell

Snow Goose Festival - Gunnison Bend Reservoir, Delta, Utah



Farmington Bay

Farmington Bay WMA/ Eccles Education Center/Lee Kay Ponds Field Trip.
                              12 February 2022

                         by Suzi Holt   

Great Blue Heron Rookery at Eccles Education Center

Great Blue Heron Rookery at Eccles Education Center

Northern Harrier/Rough-legged Hawk-Eccles Education Center

We finished Davis and Salt Lake counties!
I put 32 birders on our checklists but I would dare say there could have been more. We began in the auditorium of the Education Center with Billy Fenimore. We love Billy! He gave us a good introduction about the center and the wetlands and also shared with us his love for birds. After a quick photo op we headed out to walk the trails. Some had stayed outside birding during the introduction and saw a American Bittern that had been hanging out by the Heron Rookery for a few days.

If you haven't seen the Heron Rookery it is worth the trip. There were atleast 24 Great Blue Herons!
We looked for the bittern again and looked for the White-throated Sparrow with no luck. We had plenty of Song Sparrows though! There were also Northern Shovelers, Canada Geese, American Coots, Pied -billed Grebes, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Ring-billed Gulls and Red-winged Blackbirds in the long pond. We walked the dike trail over to the boardwalk. Toward the end of the dike we encountered lots of ice in the ponds. But one pond had a small bit of open water and sitting on the ice were a pair of beautiful Wood Ducks and some Mallards. A few of us saw a Marsh Wren, heard White-crowned Sparrows. We had a flyover of some Red-tailed Hawks, a Prarie Falcon, an American Kestrel and lots of Northern Harrier's. We also saw a couple European Starlings, a lone Common Raven and a bunch of American Crows. We searched the trees for the Great-horned Owls with no luck, but did see a couple Dark-eyed Juncos. The best thing we saw was a "arial hawk dispute" a Northern Harrier was not having the beautiful Rough-legged Hawk invade her territory!


Song Sparrow-Eccles Education Center

Prarie Falcon-Eccles Education Center

American Kestrel-Eccles Education Center

    Northern Shovelers Great at Eccles Education Center


Northern Harrier-Eccles Education Center           

Wood Ducks- Eccles Education Center                      



Cute Tatum Nox!

We were sad that Kendall had something come up and he couldn't meet us out on the Farmington Bay WMA auto route. We found lots of ducks in the first pond. Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Bufflehead, Mallard, Redhead, Canvasback and Ring-necked Duck and lots of Canada Geese. Down the road a little farther we had more Canvasbacks, a Marsh Wren and a few Gadwall. We also saw some Red-tailed Hawks. After we passed Egg Island we saw lots more ducks, and added Ruddy Duck and Common Goldeneye to our list

Redhead-Farmington Bay WMA

Marsh Wren-Farmington Bay WMA


Canada Geese and Canvasback Farmington Bay WMA

Northern Pintail and Mallards-Farmington Bay WMA

Ring-necked Ducks and Canvasback-Farmington Bay WMA

Northern Pintail, Lesser Scaup abd Bufflehead-Farmington Bay WMA

Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Farmington Bay WMA

We finally got down to the gate and off to the left were a couple beautiful Lesser Black-backed Gulls, lots of Ring-billed Gulls and a few California Gulls. We also had Song Sparrows and another Marsh Wren.
I imagine because there is not much ice and the warmer weather there just weren't the huge numbers of gulls you typically see in the winter here. So we decided to go to Lee Kay Ponds. . At the first bridge there were at least sixty Pied-billed Grebes! Off in the distance we could see a huge white line of Tundra Swans, a few were closer to the road and we got some good looks at them.


Tundra Swan-Farmington Bay WMA


At Lee Kay everyone needed 22 species but Amanda and I, so we set out walking. The same gull situation was here as well. MIA! They were all over at the dump eating lunch while being harassed by Common Ravens.

Hooded Merganser-Lee Kay ponds

Merlin -Lee Kay ponds

We found a few on a small island. We were excited to see a Iceland/Thayer's Gull and a Herring Gull with a ton of California Gulls and a Ring-billed Gull.
On one of the telephone poles along the road sat a Bald Eagle and a couple poles down from it sat a Red-tailed Hawk, there were also a couple Northern Harrier's flying around.
On another island we saw 3 Great Blue Herons, some Red-winged Blackbirds, and Canada Geese.
As for ducks we saw lots of Hooded Mergansers, Common Mergansers, Gadwall, Ring-necked Ducks, American Wigeon, Common Goldeneyes, Redheads and Canvasback.
And don't forget the Pied-billed Grebe, American Coots and European Starlings. On the way back to the cars we saw a few Brewer's Blackbirds and a beautiful Merlin!

A big thank you to everyone who came! It was a beautiful day!


Iceland/Thayer's Gull-Lee Kay ponds

Herring Gull -Lee Kay ponds



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