Utah County Birders Newsletter


         May 2022

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



Thursday, May 12th , 7pm

Bird collection tour of the Bean Museum:
We're resuming in person meetings and taking it back to the Monte L. Bean museum on BYU campus this month! We'll start by gathering in the orientation room behind the front desk (where we used to meet) to go over monthly announcements, and then we'll get a behind-the-scenes look at the bird collection where they house thousands of bird specimens from around the world. After our visit to the collection room, we'll finish the meeting with a self-tour of the rest of the museum. Visitor parking is available but may require a parking pass which you can pick up upon arrival at the museum front desk.

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

   May 6, 2022  (Friday)

Meet at 7 am at Payson Walmart in the parking lot to the west of the Quick Quack Carwash.
We will do our route to prepare for the GSL bird festival fieldtrips. It is a long day. Please bring a lunch.

   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!

Coming up next month

      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.


President's Message - April 2021


            by Machelle Johnson


My office view of Squaw Peak

It was fun to see some of you on the April field trips, and at Noah Strycker's presentation. I'm so glad we are able to meet in person more now. I've talked to several of you who are doing great with the challenge, getting out there to see the birds in so many counties. I'm loving all of the Facebook posts as well. Spring is such a great time for birding in our state! Out my office window I see a lot of birds this time of year. I watch Crows, Turkey Vultures, Cedar Waxwings, Woodhouse's Scrub Jays, Robins and House Finches. A nesting pair of Coopers Hawks patrol the area as well. My 'yard' list at work is up to 31, I saw 3 Sandhill Cranes fly over about a month ago, and a Bald Eagle flew by in January. I've had House Sparrows, House Finches and a Black-chinned Hummer sit on the window ledge or hover near the window to admire themselves in the reflection. I'm glad I have the opportunity to see out windows even when I'm stuck at my desk all day!

In other news, I saw this article pop up on my Facebook page and thought it was really neat. Nature is astounding and lovely and fierce and gentle all at once. I love living in Utah, near the mountains and the lake. I love the 4 changing seasons we experience, and being able to enjoy so much of it on a daily basis. I love the friendship and fellowship of the birding community and meeting such great people along the way.

I think this article caught my eye because I'm getting excited to start planting in my garden and flower beds. I hope you enjoy these cool flowers, and I hope to see you all in May, we've got some fun field trips planned and we'll meet at the Bean Museum for our May meeting!

Flowers that look like birds, Unique Resemblance: 10 Flowers That Look Like Birds - EarthWonders.co



The 2022 Birding Challenge

Prinout with the details
(PDF file)


    Sneaking in Some Lifers in Texas

                     by Keeli Marvel

Work sent me down to San Antonio last month for a recertification course for a pesticide applicator and program manager certification I have to maintain as the Pest Management Coordinator on my installation. As with most trips I go on, I checked eBird a few weeks before my trip to see if there were any species I had not seen yet that were possible to get while I was down there. Barred Owl was top on my list and has been a nemesis bird for awhile. I've tried a few times, but as you all know, owls are sometimes hard to track down, unless you happen to know where they are nesting. I did some sleuthing and found a few ebird records of an owl being reported pretty consistently at a particular location.  So, the first day I flew into San Antonio, I picked up my rental car, dropped my stuff off at my hotel, and set out on a bird hunt. My search took me to a really cool network of trails on the northwest end of San Antonio called the Howard S. Peak Greenway Trails System.

 The trails connect a series of parks and access points, and it was at one of these along the Leon Creek Greenway that I found a pond where I tracked down my lifer Barred Owl. I wandered around the pond checking all the trees until I spotted one that looked right sized to house a cavity nesting owl, and as I glassed the tree I could just barely see an owl face peeking out at me from a crack in the trunk. I whispered a triumphant yessssss to myself, snapped a couple quick digiscoped photo through my binos, sent off a celebratory text or two, and continued my circuit around the pond. Other cool birds I spotted around the pond included Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Black-and-white Warblers (one of my favorites), White-winged Doves, and plenty of Northern Cardinals.

After being stuck in training all week, and taking (and passing) my recertification exams, I was ready to hit the road again when they released us on Friday. I packed up my stuff and hit the road for the coast. After a quick stop to photograph Scissor-tailed Flycatchers on the drive down, and a bbq lunch in Corpus Christie, I headed out to Mustang Island State Park where I went for a walk down the beach. Along the beach there I spotted five different species of terns, most of them all in one mixed flock on the beach - Least, Caspian, Forster's, Royal, and Sandwich. I also saw what felt like a million Sanderlings, laughed at (and with) some Laughing Gulls, and got up close and personal with a Snowy Egret who I much enjoyed watching hunt for crustaceans and fish in pools along one of the jetties. 

From there, I drove up to Port Aransas, hopped the ferry to Aransas Pass where I dropped my luggage off at a little airbnb, and headed to Ingleside Live Oak Park where I got my second lifer of the trip: Fulvous Whistling Ducks! I'd seen them reported on eBird at a pond at Live Oak Park, and sure enough, I parked, walked to the pond, and there they were! Talking to some local birders the next day, I guess they move through the area in the spring and I'd just gotten lucky on my timing and was able to see them.

My last lifer of the trip was not a guarantee, and in fact, earlier in the week I'd been convinced it might not happen. Whooping crane populations were very nearly wiped out by habitat loss and overhunting, and back in the 1940s there were only 15 left in the wild. With the help of conservationists, captive breeding programs, and some creative strategies, their population is slowly recovering, so it was a real treat to get to try and see them. I've never seen Whooping Cranes before, and Bryan and Suzi had both suggested to me I book one of the boat tours that goes up into Aransas NWR to see them. So, with a couple days left before my trip, I booked a boat tour out of Rockport with Rockport Birding and Kayak Adventures and Captain Tommy and crossed my fingers. During the week of my training the captain had emailed us and said most of the cranes had left to head north, and it wasn't a guarantee that we would see them, so I was trying not to get my hopes up.

The morning of the boat tour was overcast and I boarded a small boat appropriately called the Skimmer with about 20 other people. We cruised across Aransas Bay and up into the refuge, and saw sever fun species like American Oystercatchers, Dunlin, Long-billed Dowitcher, and Ruddy Turnstone, and as we pulled up into one of the waterways inside the refuge - we were in luck! The captain spotted a Whooping Crane foraging along the edge of the marsh for the Blue Crabs that make up their primary diet there. A little further up into the refuge we got even luckier and saw a family of three Whooping Cranes way off in the marsh. Success! Lifer #3! After that, the rest of the boat trip was icing on the cake. We cruised further north to some little island rookeries where hundreds of birds were nesting/roosting and saw bunches of Roseate Spoonbills (always a treat and one of my favorite birds), Reddish Egrets, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, terns, and a few other species. On the ride back to Rockport we had another treat - a pod of Atlantic Bottle-nosed Dolphins showed up to follow our boat and play in our wake for awhile. It was a real treat to go out on a boat trip with a captain who was very knowledgeable about the local bird species. Following my boat tour, I drove straight back to San Antonio and headed to the airport for my flight home thankful for a successful trip and the opportunity to add a few more species to my life list.

Happy Birding!

Keeli Marvel





   Bicknell's Thrush
(Catharus bicknelli

Compiled by Robert Parsons

This month, I wanted to write about a bird that I have never seen---but that was still found in the ABA area.  For years I have looked for Bicknell’s Thrush and despite several attempts to find one, never have.  So, I selected that species for our monthly report.

Photo from Bing.com

Like our other spotted North American thrushes, this bird is mostly found on the ground or perched in low branches or bushes.  Nearly identical, although slightly smaller, to Gray-cheeked Thrush, it is a medium-sized thrush, weighing about the same as a first-class letter.  It is mostly warm brown on the back, with heavy dots on a breast washed with buffy tones and a prominent pale buffy strip on the underwing.  The tail is dull chestnut.  The flight pattern is relatively swift and direct, with somewhat jerky wing strokes.  Difficult to tell apart from the Gray-cheeked Thrush, the best clues are breeding range and song (the Bicknell’s has a higher pitched song, with an ascending end, compared to descending on the Gray-checked).  The Bicknell’s lower mandible also has much more yellow than the Gray-cheeked and until 1995 it was considered a subspecies. 

Except for the Hermit Thrush, spotted thrushes in North America are usually found east of the Mississippi River.  The Bicknell’s Thrush is no exception, with a very limited breeding range in the far montane areas of northern New England and parts of Eastern Canada---primarily above 3,000 feet in the mountains of northern New York, Vermont, Maine and Eastern Canada (it can be locally common in these areas).   The wintering range is mostly in wet montane forests in Hispaniola (West Indies) and it may also winter in Cuba and Jamaica, although more research is needed.

This bird was named after Eugene Bicknell, an American amateur ornithologist (see there is hope for all of us), who discovered the species on Slide Mountain in the Catskills in the late 19th Century.  One interesting note---a group of thrushes are collectively known as a “hermitage” or a “mutation” of thrushes.  No idea where that came from!

Bicknell’s Thrush, a member of the Catharus genus, eats insects, especially ants and beetles, along with snails, moths, slugs, spiders, earthworms and even small salamanders, supplemented by some berries and fruit in the fall.  They forage on the ground, scratching with their feet to uncover prey or patiently watching and listening, much as American Robins do.  When feeding young, they will even occasionally be seen flycatching or hover-gleaning. 

Since the Bicknell’s Thrush was only recently recognized as a full species, no long-term population trends are available.   However, Canadian surveys have shown steep declines in populations since the 1960s and Bicknell’s Thrush have disappeared from numerous historic breeding sites.   Although the reasons for declining populations are not well understood, they may include airborne pollutants that harm the high-elevation forest habitats and contribute to higher levels of mercury. Warming temperatures may also be a factor. The Bicknell’s Thrush has an estimated population of 60,000-120,000.  The limited breeding habitat and habitat destruction in its wintering range, have raised conservation concerns, giving this thrush a Vulnerable status

Females apparently select the nest site and build the nest, usually near the trunk of a tree in dense stands of short or stunted balsam fir and often near a gap or edge in the forest. Nests are about five feet off the ground and made of fir or spruce twigs, with some grass or horsehair used to line the nest, which is about five inches across.  Clutch size is 3-4 bluish green eggs with light brown speckling, with a 9-14 day incubation period followed by another 10-12 day nestling period. 

Photo from Bing.com

Bicknell’s Thrush have a very unique mating and breeding system, in that there are not traditional pair bonds between males and females.  This behavior is unique among North American songbirds, with the possible exception of Smith’s Longspur.  Both males and females mate with multiple partners and most broods contain young from several fathers.  Males often feed nestlings in two nests at once (feeding nestlings that are not their own) and often more than one will feed young in any particular nest.  Males do not appear to defend classic territories but rather sing from a large home range that overlap with multiple active nests. Males sometimes chase other males, but not to the extent that other territorial male songbirds do. Females, however, regularly chase away other females from their smaller home range, which is centered around the nest area.  Occasionally, males will pursue females in flight, sometimes singing, and drooping or fluttering their wings when perched or singing quietly, presumably as prelude to copulation.

I still hope to find one of these beautiful, but somewhat elusive birds on a hike up the mountains of New England.  Want to come with me?



References, Notes and Credits

  1. Sibley Birding App.
  2. “Birds of the West Indies,” Herbert Raffaele.
  3. “The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America,” Donald and Lillian Stokes.
  4. “National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America,” Seventh Edition.  Jon L. Dunn.
  5. iBird Pro Birding App.
  6. Peterson Birding Field Guide App.
  7. Wikipedia, “Bicknell’s Thrush”
  8. All About Birds (allaboutbirds.org).
  9. “Where to Watch Birds in Ceneral America, Mexico and the Caribbean,” Nigel Wheatley and David Brewer.

       [See past Bird of the Month articles

Field Trip Reports  

Box Elder, Cache

& Weber County Fieldtrip

23 Apr 2022

by Suzi Holt

What a trip!!! Alarm clock at 2:00 am, 403 miles, a tank and a half of gas, 17 birders, 71 species of birds in 3 counties, and we finished 3 more counties with 22 species for the 2022 challenge.

Sharp-tailed Grouse-Box Elder


Sharp-tailed Grouse - Box Elder
photo by Amanda

We headed out of Utah County around 3 am. and headed for Box Elder county, the smart ones decided to get a hotel! Others were not so smart. Best bird of the day Sharp-tailed Grouse!!! What a treat to hear and to watch the "wind up baby toy" as Billy Fenimore would say. A priceless memory I will never forget! Today we saw 16 birds dance their little hearts out!  Box Elder County was amazing, we also saw American Kestrel, Red-tailed Hawks, Black-billed Magpies, "28" Swainson's Hawks and a Short-eared Owl! We also had tons of Horned Larks, Common Ravens, American Robin, Mallards, Northern Flicker, Western Meadowlarks, Northern Harrier's, Franklin Gulls, European Starlings, and Rock Pigeons.


Sharp-tailed Grouse-Box Elder

Sharp-tailed Grouse-Box Elder

Sharp-tailed Grouse-Box Elder

Sharp-tailed Grouse-Box Elder

Short-eared Owl-Pocatello Valley

Short-eared Owl-Pocatello Valley
photo by Jessie

Franklin's Gull-Pocatello Valley
photo by Jessie

   Swainson's Hawk-Pocatello Valley        Swainson's Hawk-Pocatello Valley
                   photo by Jessie

In White's Valley we saw Mallards, Rock Pigeons, Red-winged and Brewer's Blackbirds, lots of Loggerhead Shrikes with one vole impalement!! We also saw Vesper and White-crowned Sparrows, Mourning Doves, Killdeer, Black-billed Magpie, Red-tailed Hawks, a Golden Eagle and Gray Partridge. It's always a treat to see the Gray Partridges!

Shrike impalement-White's Valley
photo by Jessie

Gray Partridge- White's Valley
photo by Jessie

Western Grebe
Cutler Marsh Cache County


Next stop Cache County and Cutler Marsh. It began to snow/sleet as soon as we got there...but it quickly dissipated and we were able to quickly find more than our 22 species. We saw Red-winged and Brewer's Blackbirds, Canada Geese, Sandhill Cranes, Pied-billed Grebes, Western and Clark's Grebes, Mallard, Gadwall, American Avocet, Franklin's Gull, California Gulls, Double-crested Cormorant, American White-Pelican, Great Blue and Black-crowned Night Herons, Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, Swainson's and Red-tailed Hawk, Common Raven, House Finch, American Robin, Song Sparrow, Cliff Swallow and heard a Marsh Wren.

Cutler Marsh Cache County

We decided to check out the First Dam just for fun and we saw lots of Barrow's and one Common Goldeneye, Mallards, Bald Eagle, Gadwall, Greater Scaup, American Crow, House Finch, Pine Siskin, Lesser Goldfinch, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and heard a Broad-tailed Hummingbird!

Barrow's Goldeneye-First Dam Cache County

Ogden Bay WMA

Next stop Ogden Bay WMA North Parking Lot.
A great stop with Northern Shoveler, Mallard, American Coot, Red-tailed Hawk, American Robin, Red-winged and Brewer's Blackbird, Canada Goose, Northern Harrier, Green-winged and Cinnamon Teal, Canvasback, Red-breasted Merganser, Gadwall, Caspian Tern, Forester's Tern. We also saw Eared, Clark's and Pied-billed Grebes, Eurasian Collared Dove, European Starling, Sandhill Crane, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, American White Pelican, Killdeer, California Gull, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, White-faced Ibis, Tree, Barn and Bank Swallows, House Sparrow, some unidentified peeps and a Solitary Sandpiper!

                 Great Egret- Ogden Bay                                         Red-breasted Merganser                             Forester's Tern-Ogden Bay WMA Weber County
                  Solitary Sandpiper                                                                            Ogden Bay WMA Weber County
I think everyone had a great day, a few got new lifers and we all headed home happy and exhausted!! Thanks to all who got up early, that sunrise was totally worth it! And it wouldn't have been the same without you!

Tooele County Fieldtrip
                                   16 Apr 2022

                           by Suzi Holt

Red-tailed Hawk

We had a great afternoon fieldtrip today out in Tooele County. Our first destination was Clover Springs Campground. As we got closer we saw a nesting Red-tailed Hawk. As we entered the campground at Clover Springs it was so cold, the wind was blowing and cold rain was starting to fall. We saw a couple Common Ravens but decided we may have better luck finding our 22 species down in town. So we lined up to head out. Luckily we had given Alona, Kathleen and Lynn a radio. As we were leaving the campground they messaged us saying we think we have a Pygmy Owl!! So yes we carefully turned around, and sure enough it was a Northern Pygmy Owl! We all got good looks through the scope and watched it for about 20 minutes. We thought if we stayed for 22 minutes we could make our own new challenge rule and consider Tooele County done!

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy-Owl

But we decided to continue onward. On our way back to town we saw another Red-tailed Hawk, Western Meadowlarks, a American Kestrel and a few Turkey Vultures. We took a side road and found more Turkey Vultures, European Starlings, Red-winged Blackbirds, American Robin, Eurasion-collard Dove and a Ring-necked Pheasant.

Red-tailed Hawk

Mourning Doves

We then drove down Main Street in Rush Valley. We found Mourning Doves, White-crowned Sparrows, House Sparrows and a Vesper Sparrow. This was a great place to stop we also saw Sandhill Cranes, a couple Say's Phoebes, a Western Kingbird, Black-billed Magpie, Brewer's Blackbirds and a Killdeer. We then stopped by the water ski reservoir. There were a few Swainson's Hawks, Canada Geese, a American Coot, a Mallard, two Savannah Sparrows and a Loggerhead Shrike!

Vesper Sparrow

Say's Phoebe

Brewer's Blackbird

Swainson's Hawk

Long-billed Curlews

Our next stop was Fitzgerald WMA. In the parking lot we found White-crowned Sparrows and a surprise Lincoln's Sparrow. We had lots of American Coots, Canvasback, Ruddy Duck, Redhead, Eared Grebes and the Swainson's Hawks put on a great show. We also saw Osprey, Clark's Grebe, Double-crested Cormorants, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Red-winged Blackbirds, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Northern Harrier's and had five Long-billed Curlews fly over! There were Violet-green Swallows, and Canada Geese too.

Long-billed Curlews

It was a great afternoon trip and we were so grateful the weather finally cooperated. We also had a few new birders join us as well. Thanks for coming!

Birders in Tooele County -- they missed an exotic duck!

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