Utah County Birders Newsletter


         October 2022

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



Thursday Oct. 13th, 7 pm

The Big Sit Big Review

Join us either in person at the Bean Museum, or online via Zoom, for a casual meeting where we'll go over what a Big Sit is, a little bit of history of our Sit Circle, the craziest birds ever seen on our Big Sits, and how our sit went this year! We may also review some winter species ID tricks and maybe talk about a few other fun bird-related things.

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

       Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022
       Big Sit - Provo Airport Dike

Dawn 'til dusk
Look for the sign up sheet. If you plan to attend there will be certain time periods. You may sign up for more than one. We do need to make sure to add the make and model of your.car so they will allow you to drive to the SW corner of the dike where we will have our circle marked. It is a really fun day! We usually begin at 6 am and go til dark.

       Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022
       Wayne County Fieldtrip Capitol Reef

We will meet in Fruita in the parking lot by the park at 9:30 am!!

       Google map

We will start birding around the area, then head up the road by the river and campground. We will also drive the scenic drive a little ways through Capital Reef. We hope to find our 22 species. If not we may have to search some more areas outside the park. There are a couple campgrounds around Capital Reef, or you could stay in Torrey. Another option is you could drive down early to meet us. I'm excited to show you around! We will be staying overnight in the motorhome. Bring a lunch!

            | Upcoming Fieldtrips for 2022 |


President's Message - Oct 2022


          by Machelle Johnson


Alpine Loop
by Merrill Webb 
©Merrill Webb


September didn't disappoint! It was a beautiful month, maybe a little too warm, but the colors! Blue, blue sky, green and purple mountains, leaves turning red, orange, and yellow, every morning it looked more beautiful! Warm days, cool nights, I just love it!

I didn't see any of the reported rarities but I did get one more county checked off, so I'm up to 20 now. Thanks again to Suzi and the field trips she's planned and led.

October is the time when we start thinking about the new year. We won't do a challenge next year, so if you have any field trip requests, or meeting topics you are interested in bring them up at our October meeting. We would love your input and to have lots of participation.





The 2022 Birding Challenge

Prinout with the details
(PDF file)





 Pinyon Jays

(Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus)

by Keeli Marvel


A close relative of the scrub jay, the Pinyon Jay is both a highly visible but equally elusive member of the corvid family. When you get lucky enough to spot them, they are unmistakable and are usually found in large noisy family flocks in pinyon pine and juniper woodlands across the central and southwestern U.S.. The scientific name of pinyon jays, Gymnorhinus cyanocephalis, directly translates to “bare or naked nose, blue head”, and is a direct reference to the fact that pinyon jays’ bills are featherless at their base. This unique adaptation prevents them from getting all sticky when they are digging out pine nuts from sappy pinyon pinecones. Their main food source is the Pinyon Pine (Pinus edulis) nut, and because of the variability and seasonality of pinyon nut production, pinyon jays can have large and wide-ranging foraging and home ranges. When a nut source is located, a large family flock can cache millions of pine nuts, and are, together with scrub jays, the main means by which pinyon pine trees disperse their seeds to grow new trees.

Photo ©Joachim Bertrands, The Macaulay Library

Cornell’s Allaboutbirds.org and Birds of the World

Pinyon Jays are distinguished from similar corvid species such as scrub jays and Steller’s jays by being a fairly uniform dusty blue across their entire head and body, like a much larger and longer-billed version of a Mountain Bluebird. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to see them, you know their call is distinctive and sounds kind of like a nasal laugh. I spend a lot of time commuting through their preferred habitat out in the West Desert, and I always feel lucky when I see them sporadically moving in large flocks across the landscape.

Pinyon Jays as a species have recently become a topic of increased concern and management within the wildlife conservation and management community as their populations have been estimated to have declined by about 85% over the last 50 years. Historically, large areas of pinyon-juniper forest were converted to grazing lands. Fire suppression, wildfires, and continued grazing pressures have also reduced the amount of available habitat. Greater sage-grouse management efforts by federal and state agencies in the last few decades have also focused on removal of juniper in certain areas to improve sagebrush habitat for sage-grouse and other species. Because of their population declines, pinyon jays were recently petitioned for listing on the Endangered Species list and are currently a focal species and species of conservation concern for state and federal wildlife management efforts.

For birders hoping to catch a glimpse of this species, my best advice is to spend extensive time in their preferred habitat. Their nomadic nature makes it hard to pinpoint a given location they might be found in, but the more time you spend in pinyon pine and juniper forests, the better your chances are of seeing them. I’ve seen them fairly consistently moving across the 5 Mile Recreation Area west of Fairfield, in the foothills near Ophir, and also down south while camping in Kodachrome Basin State Park.

Happy Birding!

       [See past Bird of the Month articles

Field Trip Reports  


Piute, Garfield and Kane County Fieldtrip

17 Sep 2022

by Suzi Holt

Haha me!!

On Saturday September 17th we met at 5 am and headed off to meet a few others at Big Rock Candy Mountain. Our first stop was Piute Reservoir. It was 47° and I had gotten up so early I'd put my pants on backwards. In the chill I tried putting on my socks with my sandals but the birds were more exciting...so I was a sight. So was the reservoir! It has seen better days, but the sunrise was spectacular!

The lady playing the organ in Sevier canyon

Piute Reservoir SP

American White Pelicans

There were lots of American White Pelicans, California Gulls, Canada Geese, Northern Shovelers and Green-winged Teal. We also had a flock of noisy Pinyon Jays and Brewer's Blackbirds flyover...that was exciting! A few different swallows made a appearances, we had Cliff, Barn and Tree. A lone Spotted Sandpiper was seen along the shoreline bobbing its tail end. We had White-crowned and Brewer's Sparrows and a group of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers as well. We also saw a Caspian Tern, Say's Phoebe, Turkey Vulture, Common Raven and Black-billed Magpie putting us at 24 species and completing Piute County!

Pinyon Jays

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

White-crowned Sparrow

Down the road just outside of Circleville on 89 you enter Garfield County. We stopped at Butch Cassidy's boyhood home and it was quite a productive stop. We had a Eurasian Collared Dove welcome us, a flock of happy Lesser Goldfinch on the trees surrounding the cabin and in the field to the East we had Western Bluebirds, White-crowned and Brewer's Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, Brewer's Blackbird, Chukars and Black-billed Magpie. We saw a few raptors, Golden Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk and a American Kestrel and had a Western Wood Pewee fly catching. A little farther down 89 we saw more Pinyon Jays and another American Kestrel. At the ponds before Panguich we had a Great Egret, Sandhill Cranes, Northern Shoveler, Cinnamon Teal and American Coots. We also had a few Barn Swallows flyover and a pair of Golden Eagles in the big trees. At the Bear Valley gas station we decided to eat lunch and they had a Hummingbird feeder. There were 3 Black-chinned hummers fighting over a spot at the feeder and one nice Rufous hanging out on the pine tree keeping watch over his lavender patch. We also saw 2 straggling Sage Thrashers, a Mourning Dove and a Swainson's Hawk. Check Garfield County off the list!


Jess and I at Butch Cassidy's boyhood home

Western Bluebird-Butch Cassidy's

White-crowned Sparrow-Butch Cassidy's

Chukar-Butch Cassidy's

Great Egret

Golden Eagle

Black-chinned Hummingbird.

Rufous Hummingbird

Sage Thrashers

Swainson's Hawk

Sandhill Cranes-Garfield County

Mourning Dove-Garfield County

Such a cool sharing Ponderosa-
Alton, Kane County

We headed straight down 89 to Kane County. First stop Alton reservoirs. Sadly, all but one are dried up. The best birding was at the middle one where it was completely dried up. We had lots of Western Bluebirds, Turkey Vultures, Pine Siskin, White-throated Swift, Violet-green Swallows, Stellar's Jay, Chipping Sparrow, Mountain Chickadee, Western Tanager, a surprise Nashville Warbler and Peregrine Falcon. Up the road the next reservoir was mostly dry but a few mud puddles where a couple Bank and Violet-green Swallows and Mountain Bluebirds were bug catching. We also had multiple Woodhouse's Scrub Jays and a couple American Robins, a first for the day!


Western Bluebird-Alton

Townsend's Solitaire-Alton

Pine Siskin-Alton


Mountain Chickadee-Alton

Western Tanager-Alton

Golden Eagle-Alton

Western Bluebird-Alton

Vesper Sparrow-Alton

Plumbeous Vireo-Alton

Gray-headed Junco

White-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

On the way out we saw a family of Black-necked Stilts and a couple Vesper Sparrows at the first reservoir. We still needed some more species so we decided to go to Duck Creek Village. At a hotspot named Eric's Cabin we found Dark-eyed Junco, White-breasted and Red-breasted Nuthatch, Clark's Nutcracker, Plumbeous and Warbling Vireo, Williamson's Sapsucker and Hairy Woodpecker. At the lake we found Mallard, Gadwall a Northern Flicker and a couple juvenile ducks putting us way over 22 and completing Kane County. It was a long day but so much fun!! I am so grateful for those that join and share in our excitement for all things bird!!

Williamson's Sapsucker
Duck Creek Village



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