Utah County Birders Newsletter
August 2002


Wednesday, August 28th.

Summer Social - Pot Luck

Meet at 7:00 PM at Alona’s house
1195 South 700 East Springville

Bring Chairs and pot luck


River Lane

August 24th
7:30 AM

Meet at the Provo Sam’s Club parking lot

Backyard Habitat
by Dennis Shirley

    It seems I've been out of the birding loop this summer for the most  part.  It's all I can do to keep up with reading my E-mail ( I just scanned  over  the last several weeks and looked at 146 messages) Luckily, there was  no  earth shattering records. It appears most birding activities have been  centered around the beginning shorebird movements and the higher
mountain  areas.
    Hope you have all been summering well. It's time for a major  seasonal  change, and if you're like me it's more than welcome. The Fall is my  most  favorite time of the year. See you at the summer social on Wednesday  the  28th at Alona's. Lets make plans.

The Star-ling Story
by Milt Moody

On July 17th, I received an email from Weldon Whipple telling me that the log files, which keep a history of visits to the web site, were huge and that he was going to run a report to see what was going on.  The report for a 24 hour period revealed that there were over 80,000 hits on a starling story “Change is in the Air” which was posted on our web site.  Wow!!  That’s like one per second during that 24 hour stretch – absolutely incredible!
     The story had come to me from Glenn Barlow who had tried to send the story with five pictures to the birdnet, but since there’s a limit on size for birdnet messages, it bounced and I, as the webmaster, got a notice of the bounce.  I suggested to Glenn that he could send it to my personal e-mail address and I could post it on the web site and then send the address of the page to the birdnet.  So that’s what we did.  The address got passed on to some national chat groups I expect and I started getting e-mails about the story from all around the country and from the UK (the United Kingdom – not the University of Kentucky).
     The story (with 5 pretty amazing photos) was about some starlings that were trying to set up a nest in a change machine at a car wash and were clearing the quarter out, and putting them on the roof.  This caused some problems between the car wash owner, who was mysteriously losing money and the coin machine installer who was the prime suspect – a rush to judgement as it turns out.
     There were several discussions going -- some of the more interesting comments were posted on the web site -- about whether the photos were real – whether starlings would take use a change machine to set up a nest, etc.
     I checked the report that Weldon had set up to run every day (what a guy!!), and found that the number fell the next day (July 19th) to around 65,000 – still an outrageous number.  A couple of days later it was at 28,000 hits per day – a week later it was just under 7,000 and another week later it was at just over 2,000 hits per day – over one per minute.  That’s three weeks after the story was posted.  I guess that was our “15 minutes of fame” for the web site – fun while it lasted.
     It’s still on the web site if anyone missed it and it’s still receiving over 1,600 hits per day (I just check the report for 14 Aug 2002) – still over one hit per minute – not bad!! It’s a pretty cute little story.

The Great Australian Birding Adventure
by Ned C. Hill

Part 5: Iluka and Oakhampton

This is the fifth part of the birding adventure 15 Utah County Birders experienced in eastern Australia during two weeks of August, 2001. In this part we move into the state of New South Wales and bird the coastal area of Iluka and then inland to Oakhampton—close to the “outback.”

Leaving Lammington National Park we descended through the forests into the lowlands and headed south. We crossed from the state of Queensland into New South Wales. Pausing to stretch at a picnic area, Richard heard the distinctive call of the much sought after Rose Robin. We all searched the trees but came up empty. We did, however, see an exuberantly singing
White-throated Gerygone at the top of a tree. We stopped in Chillingham at a highway stand to sample Richard’s favorite treats: Sapote Ice Cream and Chocolate/Nut Covered Frozen Bananas. They sold all sorts of unusual (for us) fruits and vegetables, e.g., “Buddha’s Hand” (a citrus), a starfruit, custard apples and pomellos. In one town we glimpsed a huge plastic
prawn, perhaps 30-40 feet long, on top of a building. We finally arrived in Iluka, a retirement community on the estuary of the Clarence River. We began to see Galahs (large and common pink, gray, white parrots), colorful Eastern Rosellas, Crested Pigeons and Pied Butcherbirds. Australia has some of the most colorful “common” birds in the world. We checked into pre-fab trailer cabins in the Anchorage Tourist Park. Each pair of us has large rooms with lots of beds. Ivan’s bedroom has four bunks to choose from and I get a double bed. We even have a spacious kitchen and living room.

Before it got dark, Richard took us out birding near our park. We could hear but not see Striped Honeyeater. We did see quite a few Variegated Fairy-Wrens, a few striking Red-backed Fairy-Wrens, and some managed to see
a Crested Shrike-Tit. There are lots of Whistling Kites around us since we are so close to the estuary. After dinner at the local golf club, we went spotlighting. Nothing of note except for another Tawny Frogmouth.

At 6:00 am Richard took us birding behind our park and managed to scare up a difficult-to-see Tawny Grassbird. It generally stays hidden in deep grass. We also found more Red-backed and Variegated Fairy-Wrens, another Crested Shrike-Tit, Satin Bowerbird, Pied Butcherbird, and many other more common birds.

After a great breakfast, we headed down to the Iluka Nature Preserve, a littoral rain forest. “Littoral” means right next to the ocean (or a lake). Through our scopes we found Australian Gannets soaring over the waves and diving into the sea. In the tide pools we found Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, and Red-necked Stint. As we started our walk through the forest, we found
several Little Wattlebirds (another honeyeater) eating figs and saw many Figbirds. Lewin’s Honeyeater would become one of our most common birds the rest of the trip. Other common birds of the forest were Eastern Whipbird, Golden Whistler, Large-billed Scrubwren, and Eastern Yellow Robin.

We held a brief church service in our spacious cabin while Roz and Richard prepared us lunch. The afternoon was spent looking for water birds on the ferry from Iluka across the estuary to Yambo and back again. We saw a soaring White-bellied Sea-Eagle and spotted a Peregrine Falcon and an Osprey. On shore, we got to compare all four Australian cormorants:
Pied, Little Pied, Little Black and Great. On a sand bar was saw Pied Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit, Crested Tern, and other common shorebirds. We all enjoyed an ice cream sandwich at the ferry station.

Richard had seen Regent Bowerbirds here in the past. So we were very excited to have what we thought was one in our scope behind our trailer park. Alas, it turned out to be the more common Satin Bowerbird with a patch of sunshine on it. We did get great looks at White-cheeked Honeyeater and glimpses of Tawny Grassbird. At the end of the day, we relaxed to one of Roz’s best dinners: curried chicken, steamed cabbage and cauliflower with potatoes. Tasty!

Knowing we were leaving Iluka after breakfast, some of us did not want to give up on birds we hadn’t seen at all or hadn’t seen well. Ivan and I were up at first light but found that several others, Milt, Alton, Junece and Carol, had the same idea. We all tromped around in the wet, tall grasses until we got a decent look at Tawny Grassbird and Red-backed Fairy-Wren. As
we walked back to the park, we scared up a covey of Brown Quail from a burned patch in the field. Checking out the shrubbery around the park office, Ivan spotted some birds feeding on the hibiscus plants. They turned out to be Striped Honeyeaters, target birds for this stop. We quickly ran to get everyone to come and take a look. After a hasty breakfast, we
loaded up the bus and headed out. Just a short distance away, Richard hollered, “Emu, emu!” He slammed on the brakes and we looked out to see a very tall, ostrich-like bird sauntering along the golf course in the early morning sunlight. Richard said it was a juvenile but definitely a wild bird. It turned out to be the only Emu we would see on our Emu Tours trip—would
Richard really have refunded our money if he couldn’t show us an Emu? Did it birdie hole seven?

We spent much of the day traveling inland to a totally different habitat. We passed through Grafton, Glen Innes and Armidale. Stopping at Dangar’s Lagoon we saw Bluebill, a relative of our Ruddy Duck, and Hoary-headed Grebe. Also new for the trip was Musk Duck, a duck with a strange-looking leathery flap hanging down from the male’s bill. We found our first Australian Ravens whose voices sound like small children crying. Near Manilla we found a flock of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos with some Little Corellas mixed in. The Cockatoos would become quite common further south. The terrain became much more open and dry after we crossed the Great Divide Range (about 3,500 ft.). Kangaroos became more common. As the light faded, Richard had one of us ride “shotgun” to help him watch for kangaroos. They can do quite a number on a car or bus and they’re much faster than cows! We finally arrived at our destination, Oakhampton Station (a “station” is a ranch) operated by
John and Belinda Nixon. John’s family homesteaded here in 1847. We shared with John the significance of that year to Utahns—the year the Mormon pioneers came into the Salt Lake Valley. We stayed in “shearer’s quarters” where the shearers used to stay when they came through to shear the sheep. Being at a much higher elevation than we were in previous stops, the air turned quite cold after sunset. Our quarters had only one light and were quite rustic. The bathroom was in the next building. An electric heater kept us warm. In the lovely old mansion house we ate a sumptuous meal of lamb, chicken, salmon mousse and lots of vegetables. The home was originally built in the 1880’s but added to the 1930’s. It is now used basically as a “dude
ranch.” However, they lease out the fields for grazing sheep.

The next morning proved to be very exciting for finding new birds. As we stepped out the door Red-rumped Parrots flew into the yard, perched on the wires, and then fed on the frosty ground. The very common “Willie Wagtail” we found in a bush and almost skipped over without a glance turned out to be—thanks to Milton’s sharp eyes—a Restless Flycatcher. In the top of
the same tree were Little Lorikeets and then some White-plumed Honeyeaters flew in. In another tree we found dozens of colorful little Zebra Finches. Five lifers in about five minutes.

Local birders Russ and Jenny Watts joined us. They accompanied us to the Borah Reserve, an open forest with dry grass underneath. We found Brown Treecreeper and then a plain brown little “robin” named Jackie Winter. We heard Rufous Songlark but didn’’t get to see one for a few stops. One great find was the Turquoise Parrot, a subtly colored but shy bird of the open forest. Then we found the striking, black-and-white Hooded Robin and saw a Little Eagle soaring overhead. The latter finally landed in a tree where got good looks at it through the scope. We found yet another honeyeater, this time Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater. Common Bronzwings darted across the road (they are doves).

Our real target bird for this area is the Regent Honeyeater. They are endangered and feed primarily on the flowers of the Iron Bark Tree. Since this tree has been almost logged out of existence for fenceposts, the honeyeater is nearly gone, too, with an estimated population of only about 1,000. The Watts have worked hard to preserve this Iron Bark habitat. The birds are returning from migration right at this time. Five were reported in this area last week but, try as we might, we could not hear or see one. The “almosts” turned out to be Fuscous Honeyeaters. At our last stop for the Regent, we found a very small Weebill building a nest. This little guy is only about 9 cm—hummingbird size. As we were driving back to the station, Richard spotted some Yellow-rumped Thornbills in the field. As we got out for a look, a few of us got to see Speckled Warbler and hear its
distinctive song. I think I had 18 lifers today.

After trying out the showers—a bit cold before and after—we had a delicious spaghetti dinner followed by Jenny’s plum pudding (all requested her recipe). Tomorrow we have a long drive ahead of us as we travel down the coast to Sydney and points south.

Field Trip Report
Tooele County - July 27
by  KC Childs

  The Utah County Birders headed out to Eastern Tooele County for our field trip. We saw a total of 51 birds between the two cars. There may have been more, but that was my count. The best bird of the day was a Great Egret. This was seen on the south end of the James Walter Fitzgerald WMA near the town of Faust in Tooele County. Clover Creek Campground near Rush Valley held a lot of activity. There were Black Throated Gray Warblers, Yellow Rumped Warblers, Virginia Warblers, House Wrens, baby Coopers Hawks on a nest, and plenty of passerine action near the spring. A Long Billed Curlew at Rush Lake was fun too see. Rush Lake has excellent Mud Flats and should be watched carefully for shorebirds. All in all it was fun to be out with a great group of 7 people plus myself. Thank you everyone for coming.