Utah County Birders Newsletter
September 2004


SEPTEMBER MEETING:

Wednesday, September 15th.

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

Patti Richards, a Wild Life Rehabilitator, will be our speaker. She plans to describe what she does, the kind of wildlife she works with and the kinds of injuries or afflictions they have. She also is planning to bring some of her "patients".
 


FIELD TRIPS:

Saturday, September 18th
Meet at the Orem Center Street Park & Ride off I-15 at 7:30 a.m.

Destination and target species will be determined by the hotline reports.
 


Reedís Ramblings
by Reed Stone

I find it most difficult to really leave the garden for long. It needs so much attention this time of year. The tomatoes have passed their peak. The potatoes are mature and taste good. Banana squash are about three feet long and nearing maturity.

The procession of birds continues to move along and the weeds are forever. The garden attracts ROBINS that forage for insects and worms. CALIFORNIA QUAIL forage, graze and most importantly, to them, dust bath in the open dry spaces. It is amazing how much dirt and dust they can "pump" up through their feathers. I watch the chicks mimic the bathing techniques of the adults. While these activities are going on the dominant male places himself in some strategic location, ever watchful for danger.

Following the quail, HOUSE SPARROWS, much to my consterna-tion, follow suit and take their dust baths. They all leave depressions or cavities where they "bathe".

A pair of MOURNING DOVES built a nest on a horizontal branch straight out from our bay window. I watched as they would gather material and create their flimsy looking nest. Later I was privileged to watch the young fledge.

I garden for the birds also. One day while weeding I thought I heard the call of a SCRUB JAY. I paused, listened and watched and I was soon rewarded by its approach to my one and only small Burr Oak tree. The acorns were well formed but not mature. I am not sure if it actually ate or gathered any but it did work the tree either for insects or possibly beads of sap. I see or hear it most every day now somewhere in the neighborhood. The other morning it was calling from the top of my neighbors fir tree.

As the fruit on the Hawthorne tree approached maturity I noticed an increased interest by the birds. The berries of he Hawthorne are about 3/8ths of an inch in diameter and look like a miniature apple. As they ripen they turn from green to a deep purple. The birds seem to keep a watchful eye on them and flock to the larder when they are fully ripened. While waiting for a watering turn on the garden I noticed several birds in the dead limbs at the top of our Elm tree. They were backlit and all I could see was a shimmering silhouette. Their behavior caught my eye. I was quite sure they were CEDAR WAXWINGS. This was verified later when I was able to make out the crest and the yellow tail band. Also the way they perched, quite erect, their size and the way they flew like miniature rockets from tree to tree, all confirming their identity. Occasionally they zip out and catch an insect. It is really interesting to observe these behaviors. One morning I went out to the river (Provo River is part of my back yard) to remove some dead carp before they would foul the air with their decaying carcases. To my delight and surprise, I saw a hawk perched on the railing of my riverside deck.

Over the years I have learned how to approach wildlife in a way that is non threatening. I do not look at it directly. I walk obliquely around or past it. Having a rake in my hands helped make me appear as something other than a predator. By applying these techniques I was able to approach this large buteo to a point about 12 feet from it. To my surprise and great pleasure I verified it to be a BROAD WINGED HAWK. This not only made my day, it was my 118th yard bird and a new bird for the year. Man oh man do I enjoy "gardening"!!
 


One Small Chickadee. . . . .
by Cheryl Peterson

Ten years ago, my husband and I took our small children picnicking on the right fork of Hobble Creek Canyon. While the children were playing, I sat on a blanket, relaxing and watching a Black-capped Chickadee foraging in a nearby tree. That was the beginning of an obsession. My mother had always fed birds in our yard and I did the same thing when I got married. I enjoyed the birds coming to the yard, but I never even thought about going out and looking for them. Now, after the many miles and tanks of gas, late

dinners because I just had to go chase a rarity, more time spent birding than I would even dare add up and the expense of equipment and bird books and magazines, I'm sure my family wishes that we had never gone picnicking that day in May. I prefer to think of the many things that I have gained as a result of birding. I have met the most wonderful people, especially the members of the Utah County Birders. Everyone has been so kind to my children whenever they decided they wanted to join us on a field trip. I have learned a lot from other birders that I may have not learned otherwise (or as easily).

Being out in nature has a calming effect on the soul. I have seen the most beautiful sunsets, meadows, forests, cloud patterns, etc. After my mother died, I had a really hard time. I was able to just go out birding, feel close to her and cry as much as I needed to. As I have observed birds and gained a little bit of knowledge, I am truly amazed by them. I can't believe how simply beautiful many of them are. Who hasn't caught their breath as they saw the brilliant blue of a Mountain Bluebird flitting around in the sunlight? Yes, birding has enriched my life. I am surely glad we went picnicking that day in May.
 


My Hook Bird
By Bill Fenimore

Many birders can tell you the bird they saw that got them "hooked" into birding. The hook bird of the late Roger Tory Peterson, famous bird illustrator, artist and original author of the modern day bird identification field guide was the Northern Flicker.

My own interest in birds started at a very young age. Before I knew what was happening to me, I had a hook bird too. We lived in southeastern Pennsylvania. My dad's family was from Delaware and the eastern shore of Maryland. Much of my childhood was spent along the creeks, rivers, ponds, lakes and wetlands of the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays.

 Ever since I can remember, I had an interest in birds. My mother would throw bread crumbs out in winter for the "snow birds," as she called them. Later in life, I learned these "snow bird" were properly called Snow Buntings. Many days of my youth were spent attempting to lure a House Sparrow with bread crumbs spread under an orange crate propped up by a stick with Mom's clothesline attached.

One summer day, at the age of 9, while fishing at a nearby river, I became aware of a strange looking bird standing on a nearby log. At first, I had to convince myself it was real; it stood motionless.

Without warning, the bird suddenly darted his head into the water and captured a minnow. Holding the minnow tightly in its bill, the bird flew off, across the river, uttering a hoarse croaking call, as it flew out of sight. My mind was filled with wonderment over what I had seen. No one else was with me to recall or even verify the exotic bird and its amazing minnow catching feat that I witnessed. I quickly picked up my fishing gear and headed home.

A nearby neighbor was a biology teacher at the local high school. I knew that he had an interest in birds, since he fed them in his backyard. Ringing his door bell, I anxiously waited. As soon as the door opened, I began to ask him questions about this strange bird.

Being a good teacher, he gave me a field guide to look through to identify the bird. As I began to leaf through a 50ís version of the Golden Field Guide, I was first struck by the thought of how many different birds there were. At that age, I could have told you what a Robin, House Sparrow, Starling and Rock Pigeon were but that was the extent of by bird knowledge. The illustrations were beautiful and depicted so many wonderful birds. The second thought that I had was how neat it was that someone had taken the time to create a Field Guide for identifying birds.

Slowly turning the pages of that Guide, I methodically worked my way through it, not skipping a page. Hopefully, I would find the bird that I had seen. My heart beat increased, as I began to worry whether I would remember the details of the bird, since I had never since such a bird before. It was so different from any of the birds that I was familiar with. At last, I saw it. It was drawn perfectly, as my mind remembered it and my eyes had seen it. I showed my neighbor and he said, "A Green Heron, it's a fine bird." They are fairly common he told me. Well, it was the most uncommon bird there ever was I thought, since I had never seen one before.

Later at dinner, I couldn't wait to tell my Dad what I had seen that day. It was his tradition during dinner to ask each of us kids what we had done that day. Fortunately, this was summer and school was out, so I had no explaining to do about what trouble I had gotten into at school. "During my fishing trip," I proudly announced, "I saw a Green Heron catch a minnow." My Dad asked, "Whatís a Green Heron?" I couldn't believe my ears. How could I know something that Dad did not know, I thought to myself? Dad surely knew everything. I showed him the Green Heron picture in the field guide and Dad said, "We always called them mud hens." "Nope, they're Green Herons," I answered with authority. Later, I thought that I might be onto something, knowing the proper names and other stuff about birds, especially if Dad did not know all about them.

Later, while studying the pictures in that Field Guide, I saw another exotic looking bird. It was the Black-billed Magpie. Next Saturday, I thought to myself, I will go out and find a Magpie. There were many fruitless Saturdays, spent looking for the elusive Magpie in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. Little did I understand at that young age about bird ranges and that the Magpie did not occur there but lived out West.

Thirty-three years later, business required me to make my first trip to the Intermountain West. I was picked up at the Boise Airport and was being driven to a meeting. Suddenly, I yelled to the driver to pull over and stop the car. He did so, while I grabbed my binoculars from my brief case. While I was gazing through the binoculars, the driver asked me nervously, "What are you looking at?" "A Black-billed Magpie," I happily told him. He thought that I was crazy, even after I had explained that I had been searching for this bird for a long, long time.

Years later, during a trip on North Carolinaís outer banks, I saw a Peregrine Falcon and mentioned to my birding acquaintance that it was the first time that I had seen a Peregrine in the wild. He mentioned how neat it was to get a new bird for my "life list." "What is a life list," I asked? Well, this will have to be another story . . .

Bill Fenimore retired and opened the Layton, Wild Bird Center, so that he could pursue his birding interest, especially educating the public about birds and their critical habitat needs. Bill gives free seminars, workshops and leads field trips on nature, with a bird focus through the Wild Bird Center. Visit the Wild Bird Center web site at www.wildbirdcenter.com/stores/lay.