Utah County Birders Newsletter
January 2002


Wednesday, January 23rd. Meet at 7:00 PM in the Bean Museum Auditorium on the BYU Campus.

Dr Gaylon Cook will present: Birds and Mammals of Northern Peru. Dr Cook received his Doctorate and Masters at the University of Georgia and is currently teaching Ecology and Environmental Technology at UVSC.


Wednesday, January 30th We will have an afternoon bird walk on the BYU campus. Meet at the BYU Botany pond at 3:00 P.M.

Saturday, February 9th We will have a morning bird walk down by Utah Lake. Meet at the Provo Temple at 8:00 A.M. We should be back around 11:00

We are also planning a trip to Delta for the Snow Geese in the latter part of February. Date to be announced. -

2001 Was a Ruff Year
by Dennis Shirley

"It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." 2001 was a rough year. 200l was also a Ruff year. As we look back at last year and what transpired in our nation, it was certainly a rough year. But as far as Utah birding, I consider it a Ruff year. As we began 2001, many birders in the state set goals for "big years" or for various life lists, big days, big months, etc. As goals were set, it was interesting to note some of the birds that were discussed as possible new state records. One just happened to be a Ruff. And sure enough, it was seen twice--once in a farm pond near Glover Lane in west Farmington early in the fall, and, more recently, in December, west of Corinne. 
   With the great Salt Lake as a magnet for migrating shorebirds and water birds, it stands to reason that sooner or later most North American migrants should pass through Utah. The Ruff is just an example of a rare Eurasian accidental that occurs primarily along the Pacific Coast in the winter. But the tendency for it to occur here was manifested this year. I predict that in not too many years to come, we'll find other shorebird rarities like a sharp-tailed sandpiper, piping plover, and an absolute pacific golden-plover. 
   Anyway you start examining Utah birding and bird records, each year seems to bring bigger and better accomplishments. The Ruff just represents what's happening. Congratulations go out to those who accomplished whatever goal they had. I know a small group (including myself) who set a goal of having the best Utah state big year they ever had, with 300 species being the target. This was accomplished by four birders: Dana Green, Kent Lewis, Larene Wyss, and myself. Special congratulations are in order for Larene, who shattered the state record big year. Her record now stands at 326 Utah birds in one year--a tremendous accomplishment. Another active birder, Eric Huish, set a goal of exceeding the existing big year record of 230 for Utah County. He did it! The new record is now 235. It doesn't matter what your own personal goal and target was, the important thing was whether you gained a feeling of satisfaction in attaining it and, of course, having fun as you went along. Even if you didn't quite reach your goal, it was better to have tried than not. No one has more fun than an enthusiastic birder.
   Utah birding has come a long way in the time that I've been involved. When I started birding back in the 60's, there were just a handful of birders in the state. Phone calls were the only way to communicate one with another when a rarity was found. I think you could just about put all the active birders in one vehicle at that time. There was no way, back then, that anyone could possibly see 300 Utah bird species in one year. In fact, I can vividly remember discussions with Merrill Webb, Mark Bromley, and others about the feasibility of even getting 300 Utah species in a life time. How things have changed! None of the records that are being set now could be accomplished without both many birders in the field spotting the birds and many birders passing on that information to others. 
   To emphasize the point, Larene and I talked the other night about the tremendous year 200l was for birding. She noted that she had missed 17 additional birds that had been reported in the state, which would have made a total of 343 species. This represents a large percentage of all of the birds that have ever been reported in Utah. I've kept a rough estimate for the last several years of the number of birds reported in the state, and it keeps increasing each year. I think these numbers are a reflection of more active birders and more people taking the time to report what they see. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues. 
   Our world is built around statistics, data, records, and it's a part of birding. It's interesting to compare one year to another, one statistic to the next. But birds are more than just a number...they are a living, never-ending reason why we marvel at their habits, diversity, and beauty. Here's a toast to the Ruff year of 2001. Now let the 2002 games begin! 

CBC Report

The following is a complete list of the birds seen on the Provo Christmas Bird Count, December 15, 2001 plus the numbers of each. Some of the numbers for individual species may be different from what was given at the compilation due to additional feeder results received after the compilation. There were a total of 101 species seen which, I think, is highest in the state this year. We tied with St. George for high in the state last year with 108 species. * = first time on Provo CBC.

Pied-billed Grebe--29
Eared Grebe--1
Double-crested Cormorant--1
Great Blue Heron--11
*Great Egret--1
Black-crowned Night-Heron--3
Ross's Goose--1
Canada Goose--257
Wood Duck--3
American Wigeon--589
Cinnamon Teal--5
Northern Shoveler--55
Northern Pintail--62
Green-winged Teal--242
Ring-necked Duck--127
Lesser Scaup--41
Common Goldeneye--2
Hooded Merganser--2
Common Merganser--21
Ruddy Duck--15
Bald Eagle--4
Northern Harrier--52
Sharp-shinned Hawk--10
Cooper's Hawk--3
Red-tailed Hawk--40
*Ferruginous Hawk--1
Rough-legged Hawk--16
Golden Eagle--4
American Kestrel--65
Peregrine Falcon--1
Prairie Falcon--3
Ring-necked Pheasant--73
*Wild Turkey--16
California Quail--455
Virginia Rail--4
American Coot--437
Common Snipe--28
Ring-billed Gull--298
California Gull--18
Herring Gull--1
Rock Dove--828
Mourning Dove--5 Barn Owl--4
Western Screech-Owl--2
Great Horned Owl--3
Belted Kingfisher--7
Downy Woodpecker--17
Northern Flicker--218
Loggerhead Shrike--1
Northern Shrike--2
Steller's Jay--19
Western Scrub-Jay--101
Black-billed Magpie--280
American Crow--1097
Horned Lark--135
Black-capped Chickadee--182
Mountain Chickadee--20
Juniper Titmouse--1
Red-breasted Nuthatch--1
White-breasted Nuthatch--4
Brown Creeper--15
Canyon Wren--1
Marsh Wren--4
American Dipper--8
Golden-crowned Kinglet--3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet--27
Townsend's Solitaire--13
Hermit Thrush--2
American Robin--3106
Northern Mockingbird--2
European Starling--7162
American Pipit--329
Cedar Waxwing--488
Orange-crowned Warbler--2
Yellow-rumped Warbler--40
Spotted Towhee--45
American Tree Sparrow--14
Savannah Sparrow--1
Song Sparrow--196
White-crowned Sparrow--899
Dark-eyed Junco--635
Red-winged Blackbird--258
Western Meadowlark--221
Yellow-headed Blackbird--8
Brewer's Blackbird--149
Great-tailed Grackle--9
Brown-headed Cowbird--4
Cassin's Finch--12
House Finch--792
Pine Siskin--129
Lesser Goldfinch--29
American Goldfinch--171
House Sparrow--1515

   There were 43 observers in 18 parties who totaled 124 hours and 531 miles traveled, combining on foot and by car. One group braved freezing temperatures in the early morning to go owling. Thanks to all who helped. The Provo CBC for year 2002 will be Saturday, December, 21, so please reserve a place on your calendar. 
   Merrill Webb, Compiler 

Field Trip Report Visiting Feeders
Saturday, January 12th.

Our Field Trip began at Carol Jean’s House at 8:00 am where we all had a great breakfast as we watched Carol’s feeders. There were over twenty field trip participants and plenty of food to fill all. A family of California Quail hanging out below the feeders, a Scrub Jay and several Magpies constantly coming for peanuts and a flock of Crows out on the golf course provided entertainment while we ate. As we left Carols house there was a large flock of ducks circling high overhead, mostly Pintails. 
   Next we visited Loran and Sirpa Grierson's feeders (where legend has it a male northern Cardinal visits). Loran showed us some actual footage he took of the cardinal but we didn't see the actual bird. We did get a White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy woodpecker, Spotted Towhees, White-crowned Sparrows, and a Song sparrow. 
   After the Grierson's we visited the Hintze's. The first bird we saw was a beautiful adult Coopers/Sharp-shinned Hawk. The Hintze's had several feeders filled with a peanut butter mix which attracted dozens of Yellow-rumped Warblers and a thistle feeder with Lesser Goldfinches. 
   Our next stop was Junece Markham's house where we watched a Scrub Jay hiding food under the leaf litter, as well as Finches, Siskins, and Chickadees. Our last stop was at Bonnie Williams'. The group had dwindled but those who stayed to the end where rewarded with another White-breasted Nuthatch, a Beautiful Steller's Jay and a Brown Creeper. 
   We saw House finches, Gold Finches, Pine Siskins, Black-capped Chickadees, and House Sparrows at almost every stop and ended the day with a list of about 25 species. 
   Thanks to all those who welcomed us into their homes and special thanks to Carol Jean for breakfast.

The Great Australian Birding Adventure --  Part 1: Cairns
by Ned C. Hill 

Planning the Trip

In February 2000, my wife Claralyn and I were invited to go to Sydney, Australia, in connection with my assignment at Brigham Young University. When our very gracious host (Jonathon Fisher, a BYU graduate) asked us what he could do to make our stay more pleasant, without hesitation I told him we would like to do a bit of birding. After a few phone calls-the first to a zoo where he was told we probably didn’t want that kind of birding experience-he found a bird tour guide, Richard Jordan of Emu Tours. We ended up spending three full days with Richard in and around the vicinity of his home in Jamberoo, a couple of hours drive south of Sydney. We were able to see nearly a hundred Australian birds during those three days and we were completely hooked on the country, its people and its wildlife. Richard proved such a wonderful guide that we asked him to propose a tour we could share with Utah County Birders. When we suggested it to our UCB friends, many seemed interested in exploring Australia, too. After trying out various dates and itineraries, we finally settled on August to allow the maximum number of our friends to attend and to accommodate Richard’s busy tour schedule.

BYU’s Kerri Strout helped us find a great price on tickets through a consolidator. In July, we hosted a picnic at our home for all participants so we could talk about what to bring and how to prepare. We even learned the meaning of the words to “Waltzing Matilda” and listened to a few of the bird sounds we might encounter. We also pondered the fact that virtually all snakes in Australia are poisonous and that many of the spiders in the country are deadly. Australia also hosts the most toxic animal on earth-the box jellyfish. Hmmmm. In spite of these interesting bits of information, 15 brave souls had signed up by the time the tour began on August 8th.

The first leg of a trip to Australia is not too bad-just Salt Lake to San Francisco. But the next leg is one of the longest non-stop flights in the world: 15 hours from San Francisco to Sydney. Not only that, when you cross the International Date Line somewhere in the Pacific, you lose a whole day. Having had some business in Sydney beforehand, I had arrived two days earlier and met the group the morning of the 10th at the airport. They were easy to find-all of them had their binoculars up intently studying the grassy area between the runways looking for their first Australian birds: some Common Mynas and a few distant Cattle Egret. Some of the group reported they had enjoyed 8 hours of sleep on the way over. All were present and accounted for: Ivan Call, Milton Moody, Bert and Sylvia Cundick, Donna and Mary Anne Thorum (from Salt Lake), Ed and Beula Hinckley, Alton and Ardith Thygerson, Flora Duncan, Leila Ogden, Junece Markham and Carol Nelson. We boarded a flight to Cairns (pronounced “cans”) in the northeast part of the country, about a 2 hour flight.


Richard Jordan and his assistant Rozlyn met us with the soon-to-become-very-familiar brown Emu Tours bus-a 20 passenger Mercedes with a luggage trailer attached to the rear. All our luggage arrived safely and, as we exited the terminal, a Brown Honeyeater was noisily waiting for us in a flowering bush-one of the many species of honeyeater we would find in Australia. A Willie-wagtail walked around wagging his tail (how’d he get that name?) in the grass near the bus. The terrain around Cairns is much more mountainous than we had expected. It was very green and warm-realize that Cairns is as far south of the equator as Guatemala is north. The city is on the coast and has become quite popular as the place from which to visit the Great Barrier Reef and a favorite spot for backpackers on long vacations.

Before taking us to our hotel, Richard drove us through a cemetery. That seemed a little odd at first until we spotted the target bird he wanted us to see, a Bush Stone-Curlew (or Thick-knee), a large, rare shorebird only found in a few reliable places around here. We were to be quite impressed on this occasion and many more with the distinct advantages of a local guide who knows the area well! We also found Yellow Honeyeater, Brown-backed Honeyeater, and the very colorful Rainbow Bee-eater and Forest Kingfisher.

Our hotel was a mid-range one called “Inn the Pink, Hotel in the Round.” It was definitely both pink and round. After a brief chance to rest and wash up from the long trip, we boarded the bus and went to the nearby Centenary Lakes Park for birding and a picnic lunch. Lunch was always pretty much the same routine: Richard and Roz would prepare fixings for sandwiches and lay out canned vegetables, citrus drink, peanut butter, cheese, etc. They were always worried about providing herb teas for us but no one in the group had developed much of a tea habit. Richard is British and liked to set out a proper meal complete with tea. While they prepared lunch, we explored the park and located a Spangled Drongo that liked to fly down to the pond to catch insects. Richard joined us and showed us both Yellow (Green) Oriole and Olive-backed Oriole. High in the trees, we found Helmeted Friarbird, Varied Triller, White-throated Honeyeater and the improbably beautiful but common Rainbow Lorikeet. Our necks began to stiffen into a permanent upward tilt. Of course, we saw-as we did every day of the trip-Australia’s national bird, the Laughing Kookaburra. Many times we heard its uproarious laugh to cheer us on our way. But we did wonder, “What’s so funny?”

A Brahminy Kite soared over the trees and White-breasted Woodswallows, Welcome Swallows, Pied Currawongs and Common Mynas were on the poles and wires. The ponds held Pacific Black Duck, Dusky Moorhen, and Australian White Ibis. As we walked back to lunch in a picnic shelter, two Orange-footed Scrubfowl were walking along scratching at the undergrowth. We later learned that these unusual birds build huge mounds up to fifteen feet high in which to place their eggs. A large sign by the river near our lunch read: “Danger: Estuarian Crocodiles Inhabit the River.” None of us went swimming.

We drove over to the Esplanade or water-front near our hotel. The tide was out and we saw Far Eastern Curlew, Whimbrel, Great Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Great-crested Tern, Caspian Tern and the beautiful and ever-present Silver Gull with bright red feet and bill. We capped the day with a delicious barramundi (fish) dinner at Willey McBride’s. Everyone slept unusually soundly that night.

Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is 2/3’s the size of the entire state of California. It is one of the largest reefs in the world and the home to a huge diversity of sea life. It is also one of Australia’s most popular tourist attractions. We arose early, had a light breakfast in our rooms and then got on a bus for the Pier-a huge waterfront shopping center and jumping off point for reef tours. Richard did not join us for this day-he’s been on that trip on many occasions and he said he gets seasick. In addition, there are not likely to be too many pelagic birds to identify. Our vessel was a 90-foot catamaran powered by its own engines or sails. It held about 150 people and was close to capacity. We went out about 20 miles (2 hours) to Michaelmas Cay, a very small sandy island surrounded by parts of the reef. The sea was fairly calm but a few in our group were feeling a bit woozy by the time we arrived. We were amazed by the lack of bird life en route to the island. We managed to see a few Brown Boobies perched on buoys but no shearwaters, petrels, etc. Richard told us later that pelagic bird life is much better further south in colder waters. On the Cay, we saw clouds of Common Noddies and Sooty Terns. They nest on the island. Bridled Terns evidently come in later-we saw none. We also saw a Greater Frigatebird and tried vainly to make it into a Lesser (since many of us had seen the Greater in Hawaii).

From the catamaran, we boarded a semi-submersible craft that held about 20 people. This permitted a wonderful underwater view of the reef. We circled the island and saw a rich variety of coral, fish and other sea life. I was surprised that the colors seemed mostly brownish-I had expected a wider range.

After a sumptuous onboard buffet luncheon, we took the small launch or “Beach Buggy” ashore. We could get very close to the roosting/nesting terns and noddies. We studied the Common Noddies carefully looking for a Black Noddy. We finally found a likely candidate but they are so difficult to tell apart. This one had a thinner bill and seemed a shade blacker. There were many Crested Terns and Silver Gulls around, too. Our guide took us in the Beach Buggy around the island to see if there were any other kinds of birds. We found one Black-naped Tern. That excursion around the cay cost us the time we would have spend snorkeling so I missed one of my objectives of the trip. Milton Moody did manage to quickly change and get in the water to snorkel for a few minutes. On the trip back to Cairns, the wind picked up forcing most of us inside. As we came into the harbor, a juvenile Australian Darter was perched on the seawall. After a great Italian dinner at Al Capone’s, we all went to bed exhausted from our long day.

Next: We search for the prehistoric-looking Cassowary.