Utah County Birders Newsletter
August 2002


 September Meeting:

Wednesday, Sept. 25th.

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

We will tour the Pheasants and Waterfowl of the Word exhibit
being shown at the Bean Museum.


September Field Trip:

Hawk Watch and Warbler search

Saturday, September 21st.

Meet at the Sam's Club parking lot in Provo (near the University Exit
to I-15) at 7:00 AM. We'll return around noon. Should be fun!
 


“MY SWANSONG”
from a Birdbrain to all you Wise Old Owls
by Tuula Rose

FOREWORD: I have always marveled at the rich variety of idioms in the English language and the ability of native speakers to “pun” spontaneously. Indeed, if you are lucky to get a couple of punners in the same vehicle on a long birding trip you can get a duel going for the merriment of all. Since this linguistic phenomenon is rare in my native tongue I lack the ability to do it on the spot and off the cuff like some of you do so well. It must be in the genes.  Thinking about this a while ago, I started, just for a lark, jotting down every idiom and saying that came to mind having to do with birds. Surprisingly my list soon grew to three figures. Here is an effort to put some of them into a narrative. It is pure fiction and any similarities to real persons near and dear to us is accidental. Especially it is not to be taken as autobiographical (please!). I had a hoot doing this and hope you get a chuckle or even a cackle out of it.

Phoebe Martin was excited. She had just checked the Birdline and Chuck Wills reported seeing an Eared Quetzal, her nemesis bird. She had goose bumps thinking that this time she might succeed, but she had to hurry. No time to check the mailbox this morning. It would most likely be bills and more bills anyway. She looked in the mirror while tying her lucky scarf into a big red knot under her chin. She noticed how the little laugh lines around her eyes were rapidly turning into sizeable crows feet and how her formerly smooth swan neck now sported a healthy wattle. That Dove soap was not living up to its advertized promises. She had to admit she was no spring chicken anymore but she still resented the nickname the girls at the club had given her. They called her a tough old bird behind her back. Enough to ruffle anyone’s feathers, especially when they all looked like pigeon-toed scarecrows themselves. But she better not brood about that, not today. Too nice of a day to feel henpecked.
   She grabbed her binoculars and practically flew down the front steps. The neighbor kids were flocking in her front yard, flying a kite. It soared for a moment and then came down in a tailspin. She had to duck down fast to avoid being hit on the head with this strange UFO. She almost ended up spread eagle on her own lawn. The kids were hooting and hollering, disappointed with the near miss. “You all deserve to be tarred and feathered”, she jokingly yelled at them. “You’ll end up jailbirds for the rest of your lives!” They just laughed and challenged her to their customary race down the sidewalk, her waddling, the girls goose stepping, the boys at turkey trot, accompanied by the loud “ruff, ruff, ruff” of Mr. McGillivray’s golden retriever. “ The last one to the corner is a rotten egg!”
   She loved these kids and had them at her house often for Orioles and milk, Mother Goose stories and Roadrunner cartoons. Sometimes she’d try to sneak in a video of Swan Lake or the Nutcracker Ballet, but they preferred the old Partridge Family tapes she had saved from when her own children were young. The stork had visited their family five times, bringing four girls
and a boy. The three older girls, Lucy, Grace and Virginia were exceptionally good singers. Her youngest, Anna and her son Allen didn’t sing too well, but they would hum along anyway. Allen was an eagle scout and ruled the roost among the children. Now that they were all gone from under her wings, having the neighbor kids around eased the pains of her empty nest and kept her from going cuckoo in the loneliness.
   Her husband Jay had flown the coop three years ago leaving her to wing it on her own. He had been hatching his plans for his adventures around the world for months without even a peep about them to her. From the way he was preening himself while dressing that last morning, she suspected a hot young chick to be waiting for him somewhere. Phoebe got a peck on the
cheek and a postcard from Turkey two weeks later saying that he was happy as a lark and not to worry. The nest egg they had been saving for 30 years would take him to all the wonderful places he had dreamed of. Phoenix, Arizona just didn’t cut it for him anymore and he felt pigeonholed at his desk job. She could keep the diamond solitaire neckless he had almost taken with
him. This crazy stint of his had been hard for her to swallow. She was mad for having been left to be a single parent cold turkey like that. If anyone ever asked her how she had met her husband she would say that she had won him in a contest. He had been the booby prize. He knew his goose was cooked and he would be a sitting duck if he ever came back to town, which he was most likely too chicken to do.
   Phoebe looked across the street to see if her friends were waiting. She craned her neck to see past the parked cars before crossing. She didn’t want to get a ticket for jaywalking. Chuck Wills was there with Dick Cissel. She was glad to get a ride with them since her old Thunderbird finally bit the last cloud of dust last winter. It had been a dream car in the days of LBJ and Ladybird, and Bogie in the Maltese Falcon at the drive-in, but turned into a booby trap in its later years. Dick and Chuck were hard core birders and had years of experience. In fact, to Phoebe they started to look like birds themselves. Chuck somehow resembled Big Bird in his yellow rain gear and Dick was a spitting image of the spokesman for Aflac in his white
down jacket and orange baseball cap.They headed down south on the freeway chatting away about the possibilities of getting this bird. “Are we going on a wing and a prayer for another wild goose chase, or can you pull this off for me?” Phoebe asked. “I think they are nesting so we have a good chance” replied Dick, “but don’t count your chickens before they hatch.” He had been nicknamed Hawkeye after he earned his wings in the last birding contest. “It will be another feather in your cap” she said, feeling goose bumps again. She hoped it was a good sign.


FIELD TRIPS
by Bonnie Williams

I have been thinking a lot about all the Field Trips I have been on and what I would do if I had to choose a favorite. I would have to consider all the owling trips, the one up Lake Fork when all we saw was a Poorwill (the only one I have ever seen) or the trip up Payson Canyon with the whole string of cars. It is no wonder we never saw the owl when the owl saw all those
cars. I couldn't leave out Zion's Canyon owling trip or our trip this summer when we (I should say Dennis) found the Flammulated Owl..
   I don't think I will ever forget our trip to Grand and San Juan Counties Where we saw lots of good Birds, had lots of laughs and our short-cut road that ended at an oil well. then to add to all this fun was the beautiful Redstart with the setting sun shining through its wings.
   I remember when the Utah County Birders first started and we would all pile in Robins big van and go on lots of field trips. Then there is Antelope Island, Ouray, Lytle, Fish Springs, Tempie Springs, Deseret Ranch, Big Day, Willard Bay and Our Boat ride at Strawberry to name a few I remember the times we ate together at Pack Creek Ranch near Moab, Bumbleberry Inn near Zion's or the carol Nelsons Café in St. George. The highlight of one trip for me was when we went to church together in Blanding.
   I am glad I don't have to choose a favorite or make a top ten list because they have all been fun fun fun!


The Great Australian Birding Adventure
by Ned C. Hill

Part 6 (Conclusion): Kiama and the South Coast

This is the sixth and final part of the birding adventure 15 Utah County Birders experienced in eastern Australia during two weeks of August, 2001. In this part we head south through Sydney and conclude our adventure by exploring the coastal and inland areas around Kiama.

South through Sydney

We awoke to a cold morning in the shearers’ quarters of Southampton Station, a sheep ranch in the Australian “outback” or at least as close as we would come to it. The proprietor, John Nixon, had built a roaring fire in the common room fireplace. Although there was frost on the grass, John told us he had seen only about two snowfalls in his seventy years here. We ate
a hearty breakfast and loaded our luggage into the trailer. The day was spent driving over rural roads to the coast and then down the freeway towards Sydney—all through lush green, rolling countryside. Well-kept farms dotted the land interrupted by eucalypt forest and fingers of ocean that penetrated inland at various places. Wind and rain showers punctuated the day. So
far we have been fortunate in that our birding days have been perfect. We stopped a few times to stretch and have lunch but the birding was difficult in the wind. At one park we found one new bird, a Red Wattlebird—a common resident of the southern coasts and another of the honeyeater family.

By mid-afternoon we crossed the famous Harbor Bridge into downtown Sydney, catching a glimpse of the remarkable Sydney Opera House. We learned there were no freeways leading around Sydney—the road traveler must go through on slow city streets. In a rare deviation from Richard’s usual custom, we stopped at a McDonalds for a snack. We arrived in Kiama, near the industrial city of Wollongong about two hours south of Sydney. All of us were amazed at Richard’s skill in backing the bus and loaded trailer from the busy street down into the narrow driveway next to the apartment complex. We checked into
some very nice apartments where, for the first time, we had TV and could watch CNN and catch up on the outside world.

Kiama, Bomaderry Creek, Bass Point and Windang Beach

The forecasted rain did not materialize but the wind was still strong. We decided to do our mainly coastal birding today and hold our forest birding tomorrow with its lessening chance of wind. We stopped briefly at the bay around which Kiama is situated. We saw some Australian Gannets over the water and then spotted a Hump-backed Whale just a few hundred yards out. As we got the scope on the huge animal, we saw a second, smaller spout—a calf became visible by the side of the larger whale. What an unexpected treat!

We drove down to Bomaderry Creek State Park, a top birding spot on the south coast. Just from the parking lot we found several honeyeaters before breakfast: Yellow-tufted, White-naped, and Yellow-faced were almost abundant—all very strikingly beautiful. Some saw Red Wattlebird for the first time. Roz had prepared a full English breakfast for us after our
initial birding. We then went to search for the specialty of the area—the only endemic of New South Wales: Rock Warbler, a small brown and rust-colored bird that nests in the rock walls. Some of our group remained on some benches above the canyon while the rest of us followed Roz and Richard down into the shaded gorge. We thought we heard the bird several
times but could not find one. We managed to see a number of birds we had seen before but not the target. Of course, as often happens in the birding world, the outcome was unexpected: Those who rested on top saw at least four of the warblers much to the consternation of those who huffed and puffed their ways into and out of the canyon.

We then went to Bass Point Reserve, a point of land that sticks out into the ocean. Along the rocky shore, we found Eastern Reef Heron and Sooty Oystercatcher. We also spotted shearwaters flying low over the waves. We could see some white and black on them—Richard said they were likely Fluttering Shearwater. As we ate lunch, Superb and Variegated Fairy-Wrens were common in the grass around us. They have become our favorite little jewels. A Red-whiskered Bulbul sang from a bush near the picnic area—the same species that was successfully introduced into Florida.

At Windang Beach Richard spotted a Double-banded Plover, a migrant that winters here away from its nesting grounds in New Zealand. The beach also held Kelp Gull, Red-capped Plover, Black Swan, and White-necked Heron among the usual cormorants and shorebirds. The tall grasses near the beach usually harbor Golden Cisticolas, small sparrow-like birds, but the high winds kept them low and out of sight.

After a great dinner at Silo’s, we turned in, looking forward to our final day of birding in Australia.

Jamberoo, Barren Grounds, and Budderoo NP

We were sorry to leave these very nice and comfortable apartments. But we had planned some exciting birding for our final full day of our great adventure. The day was perfect—no wind or rain. We drove up to Richard’s home on Misty Lane in the woods above Jamberoo—a small town in the hills west of the coast. Claralyn and I had stayed here with Richard for three days of birding in 2000. That was where the idea for this excursion was hatched. Large trees and an abundance of birds surround the yard: Bassian Thrush, Pied Currawong, Crimson Rosella, Rainbow Lorikeet, Eastern Whipbird, Brown Cuckoo-Dove, and many more.

After breakfast, we drove a few miles up to the Barren Grounds Reserve, a large wooded and grassy area created by Richard over a period of eight years for the Australian government. The tracks (trails) through the area often produce the rare Eastern Bristlebird but we failed to even hear one—the first time Richard ever struck out on that species on this track. We did see a striking Beautiful Firetail, many New-Holland Honeyeaters and got glimpses of Southern Emu-Wren.

We drove to the bordering Budderoo National Park. In the low grasses, Southern Emu-Wren were easier for the group to see. We formed a long line across a tall grass field and started walking from one end to the other. Suddenly a greenish parrot was flushed and flew low with frantic wing beats off to the side. It was difficult to find the Ground Parrot. Most parrots, of course, are tree-dwellers. This one spends most of its life hiding in thick grassy areas. Its close cousin, the Night Parrot, is thought to be extinct. The body of one was found a few years ago in Queensland so Richard and other birders have spent many nights trying to find a live one—no success. After the excitement of finding the Ground Parrot, Richard spotted
a beautiful Scarlet Robin for us, one of the most desired birds of the trip. We got to see a male in full breeding plumage. We stopped at Carrington Falls—and we thought we had a Rock Warbler on the rocks below. It turned out to be a White-browed Scrub-Wren, a more common bird.

Stopping back at the Barren Grounds headquarters, we purchased some CDs of Australian birds and other momentos of our trip. Outside, we heard a Pilotbird but did not manage to get it to come out in the open for us to see.

Minnamurra Rainforest

After lunch back at Richard’s we drove a short distance to the Minnamurra Rainforest. The walk through the main trail went along a creek surrounded by huge trees including gigantic Strangler Fig. In the creek we found several Waterdragons. After much searching, we finally spotted our target, the Superb Lyrebird—a very unusual bird that can mimic the song of almost
any other bird of the forest. Some people even claim it mimics songs of man-made things but these assertions may be exaggerated. The bird was scratching around in the leaves and let us get very close. Yellow-throated Scrub-Wrens were following closely benefiting from the insects scared up by the Lyrebird. We also heard the characteristic call of the Wonga Pigeon but failed to see one. As we were gathering to board the bus, four more Lyrebirds were just off the parking lot—amazing to see them so close and unafraid. Richard heard the call of a Rose Robin again but we searched in vain.

Homeward Bound

We bade farewell to Roz—our talented cook, driver, fellow birder and new-found friend. Richard drove us into the heart of Sydney where we checked into a hotel for the last night of our great adventure. Richard and Roz had worked very hard to make our trip a success. They had attended to our every need during these two weeks. The flight back to the US the next morning was strange indeed—we actually arrived in San Francisco (after a 15-hour flight) a couple of hours before we left Sydney. Of course, the International Dateline helped with that magic. We had seen 260 birds—most of them lifers for those who had not been in Australia before. And we had visited some of the most beautiful parts of that great country. We had become better friends with each other and had taken away memories that will linger in our minds for decades to come.