Utah County Birders Newsletter
April 2002


MEETING:

Wednesday, April 24th.

Meet at 7:00 PM
in the Bean Museum Auditorium
on the BYU Campus.


Milt Moody will present:
Birding in Finland.

Milt will report on his trip he took to Finland last year.


FIELD TRIPS:

St. George Field Trip
May 9th - 11th
Car Pooling and other details
will be discussed at the meeting on the 24th.

Interested parties should contact Carol Nelson by
e-mail cjn@burgoyne.com
or call 377-8208.


South Utah Valley Field Trip
Tuesday, May 21st.
6:30 A.M. at the Provo Temple.
(street parking area)
Return 12- 1:00 P.M.


Birders for the Ethical Treatment of People
by Dennis Shirley

I'm unemployed again, and it feels real good. Don't be alarmed--it's by choice. BYU classes just ended, finals are in progress, and grades are forthcoming. I teach one class per year at BYU during the winter semester. It's an introductory course to "Wildlife Law Enforcement." It's mostly senior and fifth year students. In the class, we discuss a number of topics relating to fish and game rules of law--arrest procedures, search and siezure, evidence, testifying in court, etc. Sounds like pretty heavy stuff,
but it really isn't. The students are pretty sharp. Near the end of the course, we turn to the topic of out-of-door laws other than wildlife law. There are rules and regulations that pertain to just about any type of outdoor activity from boating, snowmobiling, ORV, camping, rafting, and so on. As out-of-door enthusiasts, our activities can be inadvertantly damaging to the ecosystem and habitat. Even a few unethical individuals resort to valdalism, theft, and pillaging our natural resources.
     Christmas tree poaching, cutting firewood without permits, poaching catcus, digging up trees and bushes for landscaping, picking up rocks for gardens and fireplaces, are just a few examples of actions that impact our wildlands.
     In our sport of birding, there are rules of common sense, etiquette, and ethical behavior that should be followed. Even in our overzealous haste to see a new bird, sometimes our awareness of the needs of our feathered friends is overlooked or forgotten.
     Whenever a new bird is reported on the hotline or internet, precautions are usually included concerning the welfare of the bird or respect for other persons or property. Sometimes I think a new animal activist group ought to be started called "Birders for the Ethical Treatment of People" (BETP) because of the inconsiderate actions we witness by some of our fellow birders. Loud talking, moving in front of someone to get a better view, disrespecting private property, or destroying habitat in your effort to see a bird are just examples of a few of the common breeches of birding etiquette. Even more serious, as birders we lose sight of the disturbance we can cause to normal bird behavior at breeding sites , territories , and at nest sites at key times. My son, Bryan, recently found a long-earred owl on a nest. We decided not to let the word out until after the young have hatched and disturbance by birders won't be as harmful to the successful rearing of the nestlings.
     It's been said that we often "love our world to death." Just venture to any national park during peak seasons, and you'll know what I mean. The National Park Service's mission statement is to preserve areas "inimpaired parks, I'm not sure this is possible any more.
     As birders become more numerous, we must each strive to do our part to minimize impacts in our world and pass on ethical birding practices to new members of our fraternity.
 


The Great Australian Birding Adventure
by Ned C. Hill

Part 2: Cairns and the Atherton Tablelands

This is the second part of the birding adventure 15 Utah County Birders experienced in eastern Australia during two weeks of August, 2001.

The Cassowary Hunt

We arose early in our hotel in Cairns. We were at the esplanade (coastal walkway) at first light scoping the mudflats when our guide Richard became very excited. A Beach Stone-Curlew (Thick-knee), quite a rare bird, was standing just off the walkway. He hadn’t seen one for some time. A thick-knee is a large, heavy shorebird. We also added Great Egret (yes,
the same species we have in the U.S.), Striated Heron, Red-capped Plover, Red-necked Stint, and Common Greenshank to our list. In the trees we found the colorful Green Figbird and Varied Honeyeater. Near the Cairns airport is a boardwalk through a mangrove swamp. We walked it and saw a beautiful Mistletoebird — a brilliant black and red bird that is responsible for distributing the seeds of mistletoes throughout Australian forests. We also found a Yellow-bellied (Olive-backed) Sunbird, many Brown Honeyeaters, a Sacred Kingfisher and heard but could not see Mangrove Robin. After a buffet breakfast at McBride’s, we went to Centenary Lakes again and found a nice picnic area in which to hold a short Church service. It was a peaceful setting with the voices of birds all around us. The only new bird we added was a Black Butcherbird with a distinctive call.

Everyone wants to see a Southern Cassowary when they are in northern Australia. This unusually large, prehistoric looking bird is becoming quite rare. In previous years, Richard could almost guarantee a Cassowary at one of our later stops but that individual died recently — victim of a hit-and-run. That left Mission Beach as the only possibility for finding a Cassowary anywhere near our tour route. So, we all agreed to change our plans and head south about 70 miles.

Underway we saw fields filled with sugar cane and passed several mountains rising to about 3,000 ft. As we approached our destination, we encountered road signs warning motorists to watch out for Cassowaries crossing the road. We had lunch at an area designated “Cassowary Protection Area.” Above our heads we heard and then saw the very unusual Wompoo Fruit Dove. Its call sounds like a little old man in a puppet show and its colors are green and pink. A walk through the rain forest produced some great birds: Pied Monarch, a striking and rare find, Spectacled Monarch, Little Shrike Thrush, and Eastern Yellow Robin. We fanned out to look for the Cassowary with the instruction that anyone finding it would holler, “Coo-ee, coo-ee!” That is an old Australian signal I once read about in a Sherlock Holmes adventure. Several of us went across the road to look and we met a couple coming up the trail who said they had seen a pair of cassowaries a few minutes ago. We hadn’t walked far down the track when we heard the call from Richard, “Coo-ee!” We began racing back to the road where we found Richard reporting that someone had just seen the birds walking in the stream. We ran at varying speeds depending on physical shape until we met up with Roz and others——but no Cassowaries. They had sauntered up the stream and disappeared.

We drove to another cassowary protection area a few miles away. A determined walk through tracks in the area produced some warm cassowary dung but not the bird that left it! We did see a Spotted Catbird and heard its haunting catlike call. While several doves had to be listed as “heard only” that day, our Cassowary had to go down as “dung only.” It was dark when we
returned to our hotel. Birding is full of surprises: both the positive and negative kinds.

Atherton Tablelands

Ivan and I arose at 6:00 a.m. the next morning to get one last walk to the esplanade to look for shorebirds. In the beautiful sunrise, we found a colorful little shorebird, a Black-fronted Dotterel and a Caspian Tern. The others chided us for finding a new bird without them — but we found the dotterel a day or so later for all to see. We loaded up the trailer and headed up into the Atherton Tablelands above Cairns — a well-known area for birds. This was one of our very best days for adding new birds. The road rises steeply into the mountains. At one turnout, Richard stopped the bus and quickly heard the call of a Scarlet Honeyeater (Myzomela) in the trees. Everyone got a good look but me! Then a Fan-tailed Cuckoo perched on a low limb.

At Lake Barrine Australian Brush-turkeys awaited us in the parking lot as we climbed off the bus. These birds have bright red heads and bright yellow wattles and were quite tame in most of the areas we visited. Here we met our local guide Glenn Holmes, a true “Crocodile Dundee” type of fellow with a gray beard and ponytail who knows the woods and the birds better than he knows his own house. He quickly showed us a Wandering Whistling Duck, Lewin’s Honeyeater, and Large-billed Scrubwren. On the lake were Black Swans, Hardheads (White-eyed Ducks), Little-pied and Black Cormorants. A nice little tourist shop tempted many in our group to part with some of their spending money. Above the shop, several of us found Dusky
Honeyeater (Myzomela) and White-throated Treecreeper.

Glenn had Richard drive our bus to a hedge near an open field. In the hedge we found an unbelievable variety of Honeyeaters (Scarlet, Dusky, Yellow-faced, White-throated, White-cheeked). Richard, Roz and Glenn were so patient with us, making sure everyone got a chance to see each bird whenever possible. An Australian Hobby flew overhead — I dashed out of the bus to get a better look but by then it was gone. Sarus Cranes flew overhead and a Spotted Harrier did some acrobatics for us. Around the shores of Lake Tinaroo we found Comb-crested Jacana — with very long toes for lily pad walking — and two tiny geese: Cotton Pygmy-Goose and Green Pygmy-Goose. The rest of the group also got to see the Black-fronted Dotterel missed earlier along with a flock of striking Plumed Whistling Ducks. A small group of Scaly-breasted Lorikeets (or as Richard says, “Sky-lee”) were in a tree and we found our first of many Whistling Kites.

Stopping for lunch in a forested picnic area Glenn said he heard the distant call of a Riflebird — one of those very unusual Australian birds that sometimes poses proudly with head thrown back and wings drawn into a circle. We all hoped it would come near and Glenn built up our expectations by saying it often used a perch close to where we were eating. One species
of Riflebird up in New Guinea actually sounds like a rifle, he told us — but this one sounded more like a metallic rasp. The sound got nearer. After lunch we all walked to a grassy area and began scanning all possible open perches — the sound was very close. Suddenly Glenn pointed out a black-looking bird perched on an open limb not too far from us. We all got a
great look at a feeding male Victoria’s Riflebird with its subtle green and purple colors. A female came into view, too. Then we heard the unusual call of the Eastern Whipbird —“wheeeeeee-rip, chunk, chunk.” The first part of the call is the male and the answering “chunk chunk” is provided by the female. Generally they are very difficult to see since they remain in the thick undergrowth. But to our surprise, one bird walked right out on to the grass then got up on the picnic table! Richard and Glenn were amazed. From that grassy area surrounded by tall eucalypts we also saw Bridled Honeyeater, MacLeay’s Honeyeater, Rufous Whistler, and Rufous Fantail.

We checked into a little motel with lots of personality in Yungaburra, a small town on the Tablelands. Before dinner, Glenn took us on a walk down to a gently moving stream. In the fading light we saw a dark blue bird streak up then down the stream — an Azure Kingfisher. As we lined up along the stream very quietly to watch the water’s surface, a white-phase Gray
Goshawk flew by — evidently, from Glenn’s excitement, a rare find up here. We soon saw what we were looking for — the water started to ripple and a strange looking bill attached to a small head, dark body and flat, beaver-like tail
came to the surface and rolled back down below. It repeated this three times: a Duck-billed Platypus! It was only about two feet long and didn’t stay around very long. One of only two species of egg-laying mammals, this monotreme is nocturnal and lives in dens in the river banks. It uses underwater openings to the dens so it is seldom seen during the day. At dusk, this stream is one of the places one can reliably find the platypus.

We returned to a wonderful dinner made by the people who own the motel — we were their only guests. After dinner, we went through our nightly ritual of reviewing all the birds we had seen that day — about sixty species! I also reported on some of rare birds I had encountered but that were generally missed by the group: Black-faced Cookie Strike, White-centered Oreo, Victoria’s Secret Riflebird, French Friarbird, Peanut Butter and Honeyeater, Wampoo Fruit Bar, Strangled Drongo, Stoned Curlew, Scrawny-necked Ibis and the Duck-billed Platitude.

We tried “spotlighting” after dinner — where you drive around in the bus using a powerful spotlight to illuminate the trees in search of eyes looking back at you. No success except for a few Brown Bandicoots crossing the road. But the stars!! None of us had ever seen the Milky Way look as brilliant as it did out on that dark country road far from city lights.The next morning, breakfast was brought to our small patios right outside our rooms. The cacophony of bird sounds was wonderful: Helmeted Friarbird, Lewin’s, Brown and Scarlet Honeyeater and Yellow-bellied (Olive-backed) Sunbird. A pair of Nankeen (Australian) Kestrels were on the roof of a church across from the hotel and Bar-shouldered Doves perched on wires.
We packed up the bus and drove to the larger town of Atherton to pick up Glenn at his home. In his little yard he reported seeing some 220 species! He took us to a street where we could get good looks at Eastern Spinebill (another honeyeater) and White-faced Honeyeater. Then out into the country where he showed us the nest of a White-bellied Sea Eagle with the bird soaring nearby — far away from the sea. In the distance, we saw a huge flock of black birds — on closer inspection they were hundreds of migrating Red-tailed Black Cockatoos. As they spread their tails before landing in a tree, we could pick out the brilliant red on the tails. Over an open stubble field we flushed four Australian Bustards into lumbering flight. These are Australia’s heaviest flying birds. In that same field was a flock of the common Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and overhead was a circling Wedge-tailed Eagle. Suddenly the eagle plunged into the cockatoo flock and grabbed one of the birds. It flew up to a low limb and proceeded to devour its catch — something Glenn and Richard had not seen — and, of course, we hadn’t
either.

Next — we find a bird even Richard has never seen.
 


Field Trip Report
April 6th Field Trip
by Julia Tuck.


On April 6th, 2002, at 6:30 a.m., we met for a quick birding trip. I would like to welcome the two new birders that joined us — Karen and Deloy. We hope to see you often. Armed with our radios for communication, and 2 scopes, we wound our way down to the Skipper Bay Trail. This is the path just North of the Utah Lake State Park, on the north side of the camping
area. The trail meanders for about a mile along the lake.
     We enjoyed each other’s company, and we observed 32 species of birds, some due single-handedly to “Hawkeye Huish,” who is wonderful at sighting birds on the wing.

Birds seen:
Common Loon
Eared Grebe
Clark’’s Grebe
American White Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Cattle Egret
Turkey Vulture
Canada Goose
Mallard
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Gadwall
Osprey (complete with a fish in his talons)
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Ring-necked Pheasant
American Coot
Kildeer
Long-billed Curlew
California Gull
Loggerhead Shrike
Black-billed Magpie
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Mountain Chickadee
Marsh Wren
American Robin
Vesper Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow (at least 6)
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Yellow-headed Blackbird
House Sparrow.
We hope you’ll join us on our field trips. The company’s excellent, and the birds are always good.

Participants: Alona, Bonnie, Christian, Deloy, Eric, Junece, Julia, Karen, Lois, Milt, Reed, Robin, and Tuula.

Thanks for coming!