Utah County Birders Newsletter
June 2002


JUNE MEETING:

Wednesday, June 26th.
Meet at 7:00 PM in the Bean Museum Auditorium on the BYU Campus.

Adam Kozlowaski
In 1994 a disease previously known only to infect domestic fowl was discovered in the eastern house finch population in the Washington D.C. area. Infected birds were observed with swollen or crusty eyelids and impaired vision. Identified as mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, the disease quickly spread through the finch population on the eastern seaboard and has started working its way westward. Geographic restrictions imposed by the great plains and continental divide have slowed the advance of the disease, but Utah is positioned on its advancing edge and represents an important monitoring station for the infection's progress. When will the disease make the jump between east and west house finch populations? Is the eastern epidemic an example of what we should expect when conjunctivitis gets to Utah? What role have individual human and landscape level decisions had on the spread of the disease and what lessons can we learn? Concepts in genetic, evolutionary, ecological, and invasive species biology will be touched upon to help tell the story of this back yard epidemic.
Bio:
Adam Kozlowski grew up in upstate New York and completed his undergraduate degree in Ecology and Systematics at Cornell University. He then proceeded to work on the invasive brown tree snake in Guam, on birds of prey at the Cleveland Natural History Museum, on white-tailed deer and grey wolf ecology in Northern Minnesota, and on the biological control of invasive weeds in Switzerland. He is presently putting the finishing touches on a master's degree at Utah State University investigating the competitive interactions of coyotes and kit fox on Dugway Proving Ground, Utah and was newly hired by the Division of Wildlife Resources as one of four new non-game biologist for the state.


FIELD TRIPS:

Yellow Billed Cuckoo
Tuesday, July 2nd
7:00 A.M.
Meet at the Shopko Parking Lot
Main Spanish Fork Exit

Eastern Tooele County
July 27th
6:30 A.M.
Meet at the Orem Center Street Park and Ride
 


Robins
by Dennis Shirley

This month's column is about robins. No, I don't mean our founder and past president. 
     First, a joke: Two robins were looking for something to eat. They came upon a mound of worms in the grass and gorged themselves. "I'm so full," said the first robin..."I don't think I can even fly up into that tree."  "Me too," said the second robin. "Why don't we just lie here and bask
in the sun and rest for awhile." Soon both birds were fast asleep. Along came a hawk and ate the two robins. "I just love baskin' robins" said the hawk.
     Second, a current event. I have my own "baskin' robins." We have a nest of baby robins in an ornamental tree beside our driveway. I've been following their progress for several weeks. The eggs have now hatched, and the parents are actively feeding their young. This morning, I was in my garage, along with 1700 dozen nightcrawlers (don't ask if you don't already know why I was in the garage with 1700 dozen nightcrawlers. That's another story). I noticed the mother robin out in the driveway eyeing my activities. If a bird could salivate, she would have been drolling all over herself. This gave me a fun idea. So I picked out a nice, fat, juicy nightcrawler, dangled it in plain view of her, and then walked to the middle of the driveway and dropped it on the cement. I had hardly turned around to leave, when she swooped down, grabbed the worm, and flew to a perch. I watched her pulverize the poor critter and then fly to the nest and feed it to her young. I've repeated this process many times during the day, and she and I are starting to be good friends, not to mention that the four baby robins have got to be the best fed birds in the neighborhood. It's going to be fun to see how this turns out.
     It kind of reminds me of Reed Stone's story of his friend the roadrunner who developed a liking for meatballs. We don't have to go to exotic places to have an enjoyable birding experience. As many of us know, simple, memorable experiences are as close as our own backyard.


Field Trip Reports

2002 Utah County Big Day
June 1 - all over the county.
by Robin Tuck

County Big Day sponsored by the Division of Wildlife Resources, Springville Office. Perhaps as many as 30 birders started the day at 6:00 am, continuing all day quitting at 10:00 pm with at least 15 birders holding out.  
     We started from the Springville DWR Office, went to Bridal Veil Falls up Provo Canyon, thence to Vivian Park, then up South Fork 3 miles to the city park, then to Salem Pond, next to the Barn Owl Silo, then to Spring Lake. We stopped for a break in Santaquin, visited Santaquin Reservoir, drove thru Warm Springs, then to Goshen where we went north several miles and waited out a heavy rain and wind storm. After the storm we visited Phil Green's Pond (sometimes called Secret Pond) then looped back to where the storm hit us. Next we went west almost to Eureka where we turned onto the Dividend Road. Here we lost half our group, meeting them an hour later coming up as we went down. Rejoining forces, we returned to Goshen where we went south into Goshen Canyon. With the day almost over, we headed for Payson Canyon with a stop at the Payson City Park (aka Beer Can Flat) and Maple Flat. We ended the day at the Payson City Park with great looks at a Western Screech Owl.

List of birds seen: 1 Pied-billed Grebe, 1 Western Grebe, 1 Clark's Grebe, 1 American White Pelican, 20 Double-crested Cormorant, 15 Great Blue Heron, 1 Great Egret, 3 Snowy Egret, 6 Black-crowned Night Heron, 6 Turkey Vulture, 1 Canada Goose, 4 Gadwall, 8 Mallard, 10 Cinnamon Teal, 20 Green-winged Teal, 8 Redhead, 1 Ring-necked Duck, 3 Ruddy Duck, 3 Osprey, 1 Cooper's Hawk, 3 Swainson's Hawk, 1 Golden Eagle, 1 American Kestrel, 1 Ring-necked Pheasant, 10 American Coot, 1 Sandhill Crane, 8 Killdeer, 8 Black-necked Stilt, 20 American Avocet, 10 Willet, 1 Spotted Sandpiper, 8 Long-billed Curlew, 1 Marbled Godwit, 1 Common Snipe, 4 Wilson's Phalarope, 20 California Gull, 6 Forster's Tern, 20 Rock Dove, 5 Band-tailed Pigeon, 20 Mourning Dove, 1 Barn Owl, 1 Western Screech Owl, 10 White-throated Swift, 2 Black-chinned Hummingbird, 5 Broad-tailed Hummingbird, 1 Northern Flicker, 1 Olive-sided Flycatcher, 1 Gray Flycatcher, 1 Dusky Flycatcher, 4 Western Kingbird, 8 Eastern kingbird, 1 Plumbeous Vireo, 4 Warbling Vireo, 2 Western Scrub Jay,
10 Black-billed Magpie, 2 Common Raven, 1 Horned Lark, 1 Tree Swallow, 5 Violet-green Swallow, 10 N. Rough-winged Swallow, 3 Bank Swallow, 30 Cliff Swallow, 10 Barn Swallow, 2 Juniper Titmouse, 1 Rock Wren, 2 Bewick's Wren,
2 American Dipper, 1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, 1 Swainson's Thrush, 10 American Robin, 5 Gray Catbird, 2 Northern Mockingbird, 5 European Starling, 1 Cedar Waxwing, 2 Virginia's Warbler, 8 Yellow Warbler, 1 Black-throated Gray
Warbler
, 1 Yellow-breasted Chat, 2 Western Tanager, 2 Green-tailed Towhee, 1 Spotted Towhee, 1 Chipping Sparrow, 2 Brewer's Sparrow, 3 Lark Sparrow, 3 Savannah Sparrow, 2 Song Sparrow, 3 Black-headed Grosbeak, 1 Blue Grosbeak,
3 Lazuli Bunting, 2 Bobolink, 10 Red-winged Blackbird, 5 Western Meadowlark, 10 Yellow-headed Blackbird, 2 Brewer's Blackbird, 3 Common Grackle, 10 Brown-headed Cowbird, 5 Bullock's Oriole, 1 American Goldfinch, 3 House Sparrow.

St. George Field Trip
May 9th - 11th
by KC Childs

The locations were Zions National Park, Red Hills Golf Course, Virgin River Parkway, Mathis Park, Oak Grove Campground, Lytle Ranch, and the cities of Bloomington, St. George and Washington.

Bird List: Clark's Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Turkey Vulture, Canada Goose, Mallard, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Common Black-Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Wild Turkey, Gambel's Quail, American Coot, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, White-winged Dove, Mourning Dove, Inca Dove, Greater Roadrunner, White-throated Swift, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Western Wood-Pewee, Willow Flycatcher, Hammond's Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatcher, Gray Flycatcher, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Say's Phoebe, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Cassin's Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Bell's Vireo, Gray Vireo, Plumbeous Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Western Scrub-Jay, Pinyon Jay, Common Raven, Tree Swallow, Violet-green Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow, Juniper Titmouse, Verdin, White-breasted Nuthatch, Cactus Wren, Rock Wren, Canyon Wren, Bewick's Wren, House Wren, American Dipper, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Crissal Thrasher, European Starling, Phainopepla, Orange-crowned Warbler, Lucy's Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Townsend's Warbler, Hermit Warbler, Grace's Warbler, MacGillivray's Warbler, Wilson's Warbler, Painted Redstart, Yellow-breasted Chat, Summer Tanager, Western Tanager, Green-tailed Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Abert's Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Black-chinned Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Black-throated Sparrow, Brewer's Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Black-headed Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Bronzed Cowbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Hooded Oriole, Bullock's Oriole, Scott's Oriole, Cassin's Finch, House Finch, Pine Siskin, Lesser Goldfinch, House Sparrow.


Uinta Mountains Field Trip
June 15th
by Dennis Shirley

Thirteen Utah County Birders met at the Upper Provo River Falls on saterday June 15th for a daylong birding outing in the Mirror Lake/ Bald Mountain vicinities of the Uinta Mountains. We targeted a half dozen or so high elevation specialties, including ; Northern Three-toed Woodpecker (4 seen at Mirror Lake, Butterfly Lake, Hayden Pass), Williamson Sapsucker (a pair at the usual tree near Upper Falls), Pine Grosbeak (2 females near Mirror Lake), Clark's Nutcracker (a single at Lost Lake Camp Ground), Gray Jay ( not seen by group- but 2 seen early AM at Butterfly Lake by one who camped previous night), Black Rosy-finch (5 males seen at summit of Bald Mountain on friday evening by one). Approximately 20 other species were seen during the memorable day.


The Great Australian Birding Adventure
by Ned C. Hill

Part 3: Mareeba, Kingfisher Park and the Daintree River

This is the third part of the birding adventure 15 Utah County Birders experienced in eastern Australia during two weeks of August, 2001. In this part we are still in the higher lands west of Cairns in northeastern Australia.

Mareeba

On a warm, sunny day, we stopped in Mareeba, a moderately large town in the Atherton Tablelands. Here we saw our first Blue-winged Kookaburra, the tropical and much less common Kookaburra. It flashes azure blue patches on its wings. In the middle of the municipal golf course, we were delighted to see our first wild kangaroos—a couple of dozen Eastern Grays. They were leisurely resting under some trees and let us get quite close. They are fairly tall, perhaps about five feet. This was evidently a family gathering as there were some little ones also. Near the kangaroos, we saw a small flock of Apostlebirds—so named because they go around in groups of about twelve. A pair of Gray-headed Babbler was up in a tall tree.

Under that same tree, our guide Glenn showed us the bower (house) of a Great Bowerbird. These unusual birds create a display area on the ground by forming a "runway" lined with tall grass stalks and then decorating it with any white, silver or yellow things decide to strew on the ground leading up to the runway: screws, shells, pebbles, buttons, plastic, feathers, etc. The bower is developed under a bush and is calculated to be quite an attraction to lady bowerbirds. A female chooses her mate based in part on how fancy the bower is. The nest is made elsewhere up in a tree. Each species of bowerbird—there are eight in Australia—is attracted to different colors. The Satin Bowerbird common further south is partial to light blue trinkets. I guess we humans aren’t the only ones who try to attract mates with material offerings.

Along the streets of Mareeba we observed many Aborigines—but, like most of our Native Americans, they appeared to have been assimilated into the local society, wearing modern clothes and Michael Jordan basketball shirts. Aborigines arrived in Australia perhaps as long as 50,000 years ago—no one knows their origin. They drove off the first explorers in the 1500’s but could not resist the British who settled in the Sydney area during the late 1700’s. Their history has paralleled that of our Native Americans. Aborigines now have seats in parliament and one even won a gold medal in the recent Sydney Olympics.

Pausing for a proper British picnic lunch in Mareeba, we found a tree literally filled with Flying Foxes or fruit bats. They dangle from branches during the day and then forage for fruit at night—no, they don’t drink human blood in spite of their ominous appearance. We also got a look at a Pacific Baza (a raptor) flying over the picnic area and finally saw several Great Bowerbirds. Before leaving Mareeba we found one of our favorite birds of the trip, Pale-headed Rosella with a lovely blend of yellow, blue and white with a touch of bright red under-tail coverts. Driving along the highway, we stopped at Lake Mitchell where we found Glossy Ibis (same species as in the eastern U.S.), the striking Magpie Goose and Yellow-billed Spoonbill. At the Abbotour Swamp we walked along a boardwalk to a blind. There was not much out on the water, but we found a Northern Fantail in the trees. Then Richard spotted a Gould’s Bronze Cuckoo and a Lemon-bellied Flycatcher for us. Most of us got good looks at the colorful and melodious Rufous Whistler.

Kingfisher Park

Late in the afternoon our Emu Tours bus carried us to one of the most memorable stops of the trip: Kingfisher Park, a lodge catering almost exclusively to birders. The owners have maintained several acres of rainforest and also set out various kinds of feeders that attract birds. Before even checking into our rooms, we found the large and beautifully colored Blue-faced Honeyeater frequenting one of the feeders. We just sat sipping lemonade at a table in the shade and watching the display. Graceful Honeyeaters were also plentiful. The owner called us over to see check out a drip tube where he had scattered seeds and small bits of cheese. It was near some dense shrubs. Tiny Red-browed Finches came in flocks, but the real treat—the rarity of the entire trip—was a Red-necked Crake. This secretive rail is almost never seen as it inhabits thick marshes. Our guide, Richard, who has seen virtually every bird in Australia, had never seen this bird until that afternoon. As we watched—almost not breathing—the crake cautiously walked into view and carefully pecked at the cheese bits allowing us to get a picture. An Emerald Dove was perched in our outdoor dining room. Glenn led a walk around the rainforest grounds where we found another great bird: Noisy Pitta. This bird of improbable colors (green, yellow, red, brown, black, blue, and white) was walking in the grass like a robin and gave us great looks. Glenn also showed us a Metallic Starling nest surrounded by several birds that had just returned on migration. In an old, overgrown orchard on the property, Milton found a star-fruit tree and had us all sample its sweet citrus taste. At dinner an Agile Wallaby (a small-sized kangaroo) scampered around under our tables begging for food.

After dinner most of the group was ready to call it a day. But a few hardy souls joined Richard and Glenn for some spotlighting and owling just a short distance from the lodge. Our main target was perhaps one of the rarest owls in Australia—if not the world—the Lesser Sooty Owl. This owl is related to the Barn Owl and is one of the only owls Phoebe Snitzinger (who saw over 8,000 birds in her lifetime!) did not see—although she visited Kingfisher Park for five days. Richard is fundamentally opposed to using tapes; but, thankfully, he is not opposed to whistling. So Richard and Glenn stood under some very tall trees next to a playing field and whistled a perfect Lesser Sooty Owl call. They tried for several minutes and we finally heard a reply in the form of very strange hissing, electronic sounds penetrating the darkness. More whistling. More strange sounds from the trees. Glenn shined his flashlight up through the trees and finally located the owl very high in the treetop. We all got a great look but could not get it to come any closer. What a great find! Glenn and Richard are magicians. For most of us, this day provided the highest life list total of the trip. Before departing for our rooms we bade farewell to Glenn, truly an amazing man with a sixth sense for birds.

Daintree River

We left Kingfisher Park very early for the drive down to a much lower elevation north of Cairns. As we approached the Daintree River the night sky was just beginning to lighten. In the twilight, we saw dozens of Spectacled Flying Foxes heading for their daytime roosts. Casting lots, half of the group went on the early river cruise with Chris Dahlberg while the other half went with Richard to look for Lovely Fairy-Wren and other birds. We failed to do more than hear its call but we did find Osprey (yes, the same species we have in Utah), Little Friarbird, Mistletoebird, Fairy Gerygone, Spectacled Monarch and Yellow (Green) Oriole. After a hearty English breakfast—with a month’s supply of tasty cholesterol—we greeted the returning, early group and learned they had been successful in finding a rare Little Kingfisher. The wind picked up as the second group started the cruise. Chris is an engaging, energetic guide and able pilot of our 20-foot river craft. We left the roughness of the main river and went off into a calm tributary and were very excited to find above our heads a Papuan Frogmouth (an owl-like bird) sleeping on a limb looking very much like part of the tree. We also found Shining Flycatcher, plenty of Azure Kingfishers and a pair of Pacific Baza—but we failed to find the Little Kingfisher. As we passed under a fat tree limb, Alton spotted a large python curled around a large knot right above us—it was not there when we returned a few minutes later (that’s a bit disconcerting). We found Water Dragons and even a small crocodile along the shore. The river was most picturesque and relaxing. We were sorry to have to return to the dock—especially after missing the kingfisher and our only shot at Great-billed Heron. Near the dock, another boat signaled to Chris where to find a large crocodile. We changed course and got to see a 12-foot Estuarian Crocodile sunning itself on the shore. Word has it that they are very fast when they want to be. We did not test that theory.

We drove back to Cairns and tried birding at Centenary Park but the wind was strong and the birds few. Richard took some of us over to the mangrove walk near the airport. We whistled the simple call of the Mangrove Robin and finally heard a response. We kept whistling and the call would seem to come closer then back off. Finally, a few of us got to see the bird before it flew back deeply into the mangroves. What an elusive little fellow!

We returned to our hotel "Inn the Pink" and turned in earlier than usual. We were all a bit exhausted from the long and exciting days we’ve had lately. Tomorrow would come early as we have an early morning flight for Brisbane. Poor Roz was tasked to drive the bus down the coast the necessary 1000 km but the rest of us got to fly. She would catch up with us in a day or so.

Next: Part 4, The Brisbane Area and Lammington National Park