Utah County Birders Newsletter
Upcoming Field Trips
Field Trip Report
- Antelope Island - August 26th, 2006
Backyard Bird of the
Wed, September 13th.
A Brazilian Birding Adventure
Ned Hill and Ivan Call present a
photographic report on their recent trip to heart of South America where they
birded the Pantanal (the largest wetlands in the world), the Mato Grosso
Rainforest (on a tributary to the Amazon River) and the Chapada (a drier area
much like Southern Utah). They encountered nearly 350 bird species, 10 species
of monkeys, other mammals, snakes, reptiles, and, fortunately, very few
Meet at 7:00 PM in the Bean Museum Auditorium on the BYU Campus.
Saturday, September 9th
Meet at 7:30 am at Sam's club parking lot in East Bay in Provo. We will go
either to River Lane or the Provo River Walkway by the lake, or both,
depending on where migrating warblers have been seen.
By Alton Thygerson
Becoming an Expert
Pete Dunne, one of the better known birding experts, was the featured
presenter at the Western Birding Symposium and the Utah Ornithological Society
Fall Conference at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge Education Center in
Brigham City. It was well worth my time to hear him present "The Art of Pishing"
and to have a couple of short one_on_one conversations with him. Incidentally, I
highly recommend his recently released book by the same name as his
presentation—The Art of Pishing.
However, it’s my opinion that you didn’t have to go to Brigham City to see
and hear a birding expert. I believe we have many bird experts within the Utah
County Birders’ membership. I won’t start naming names since I might forget
someone. However, in one sense every member of the UCB is an expert when
compared with the general population.
One dictionary defines an expert as "someone widely recognized as a reliable
source of knowledge, technique, or skill whose judgment is accorded authority
and status by the public or their peers."
The key to success as a birding expert comes when you develop your passion of
birding. Start with what you already know, and then develop a strategic program
for enhancing your birding knowledge, techniques, and skills.
Becoming proficient at identifying birds is not all that hard. All you have
to do is practice, practice, practice! All you really need to do to improve
yourself as a birder is to—watch birds.
Here are suggestions for becoming better at birding:
1. Know how to use a field guide. Spend time looking first at the
bird, not at the field guide. The field guide is always there, but the bird
isn’t. Most field guides have a quick_reference index which can shorten the time
searching in a field guide for the bird you just saw. You must also use the
field guide regularly to become familiar with it. Nevertheless, it’s better to
be outside looking at real birds rather than merely pouring over a field guide’s
2. Know how to use binoculars. Skillful use of binoculars comes from
practice. Hunters perfect their aim with target practice. Basketball players
shoot warm_up shots before each game. I am re_establishing my golf game after a
10_year lapse, and I’ve seen what practice on a driving range can do for my golf
swing. Practice putting your binoculars on an object by: (a) locking your eyes
on a distant object (e.g., top of a tree or corner of a house) and (b) slowly
bring the binoculars up to your eyes, without moving your neck, head, or eyes.
Practicing this can make you faster at getting your binoculars on birds.
3. Know bird songs. Because you may hear a bird before you can see it,
listen to bird song recordings—concentrating especially on those species you
expect to see on a field trip. Some birders identify many of the birds they
record on a field trip by their vocalizations without seeing the birds. In fact,
some birds are most readily identified by their vocalizations. One example is
the group of drab gray_green birds known as the Empidonax flycatchers.
These flycatchers are so similar in appearance that most birders rely on the
calls of each for positive identification. When these birds are encountered,
birders usually do one of three things: (a) make an educated guess, (b) list the
bird only as an Empid, or (c) sit and wait patiently for the bird to make a peep
which can be matched with a description in a field guide or by listening to it
on a recording.
4. Try pishing. Pishing is named for the sound it makes, a pish, noise
made when you hiss through clenched teeth. Pishing is meant to attract the
attention of curious birds, and it sometimes does. Pete Dunne demonstrated and
we, the audience, practiced duplicating various pishes and other sounds (e.g.,
basic, variations of the basic pish, pish with a stutter, imitating a Screech
Owl, Northern Pygmy Owl and Barred Owl, squeal, simple chip, sequential chip,
whisper pish, knockdown pish). There is a limit to how much you should pish,
just as there is when using recorded songs to attract birds.
Anyone can become a birding expert if he or she just puts in the time and
focuses on becoming such. And it’s never too late to do so. So, there are no
excuses for not being an expert at any point of time in your life.
by Glenn Barlow
The Western Birding Symposium (WBS) was held August 17-19, 2006, at the Wildlife
Education Center of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. In conjunction with
the symposium, the Utah Ornithological Society held its Fall Conference.
This symposium gave those who attended an excellent opportunity to see and
experience this excellent new center that was dedicated and opened this Spring.
The principal driving force behind this wonderful event was Betsy Beneke.
One thing about the symposium that intrigued and delighted me from the minute I
read the symposium brochure, was that Pete Dunne, a world renowned birder, would
be present for two days. He would speak to the attendees on at least two
occasions, and participate in a field trip. My plans were suddenly made! It is
not often we have an opportunity to bird with someone of his expertise, although
I am not diminishing in any way the expertise of our local birders. Pete Dunne,
as many of you know, is the vice president for New Jersey Audubon, director of
the famous Cape May Observatory, and a contributing editor for Birder’s World
magazine, where he writes a monthly column.
When I reviewed the brochure I noticed there were three days I would be able to
attend, and thus, there were three field trips in which I could participate. The
field trips I attended were: (1) the pre-symposium field trip on Wednesday,
August 16th, to the Uintahs, with Mark Stackhouse; (2) the field trip to Bear
River Refuge (behind the gates), on Thursday, August 17th; and (3) the field
trip to Antelope Island on Friday, August 18th, would include Pete Dunne. All
three trips were well-attended.
On the Uintah trip everyone in the three vans had requested to see an American
Three-toed Wood-pecker, Gray Jay, Pine Grosbeak, and Clark’s Nutcracker. Those
were our target birds and we were not disappointed. It was not only great to see
these birds, but being in the Uintahs with the clean air, relatively cool
weather, and great scenery, was its own reward. On the Highline Trail, behind
the Mirror Lake Campground, we saw Red Crossbills, Three-toed Woodpeckers,
Clark’s Nutcrackers and Gray Jays. We found the Pine Grosbeak in the campground
where a female and juvenile were busy eating buds on the ground.
There is one important thing to remember, when participating in a field trip
when Betsy Beneke is in charge. You will always have GREAT mid-morning snacks
and plenty to eat at lunch. These were a wonderful addition to our trips, and
helped overcome the fact that each field trip started from the Refuge
Headquarters at 5:30 a.m.
On Thursday it was Bear Refuge, behind the gates. We entered the refuge from the
City of Willard, and if I remember right, Betsy told us the road we were on was
somewhere between 10-13 miles long. Right away we started seeing fantastic
birds. The shorebirds were the first of the season for me, and included Marbled
Godwits, Long-billed Dowitchers, one Short-billed Dowitcher, Black Terns,
Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper,
Blue-winged Teal (a female with ducklings), Virginia Rail, and the surprise of
the day, spotted by Betsy, a Common Moorhen with two young. I was able to see a
total 53 species, but the Sora eluded me, although others were able to see
That evening we participated in a social with hors d’oeuvres and beverages. We
were able to visit with Pete Dunne and he graciously signed his books for those
who wanted. Following the social we went to the auditorium, where Pete spoke
about his new book, The Art of Pishing. Alton later told me, after reading the
book, that his talk was just like the book, which will make it very interesting
and entertain-ing to read. Pete Dunne is a very interesting and knowledgeable
speaker. It was very informative and enjoyable. Some things I remember him
saying were: pishing is best done in a sequence of three, the angle of the chin
is important, and for the call of the Northern Pygmy Owl pitch isn’t important.
He then demonstrated various calls such as the squeal call, various chips,
whisper pishing. and finally the knock-down pish.
On Friday, August 18th, it was off to Antelope Island, with Lee Shirley as our
leader. We had three vans, with Jolene Hatch, DWR Biologist at Antelope Island,
in the lead. Pete road with her. I thought that he would be in the first van, so
most of the night I carefully planned how I was going to be in the same van with
Pete. To no avail! Donna Thorum and some other ladies from Salt Lake were able
to enjoy that pleasure. Then I decided I would ride with Lee Shirley, until he
asked me to ride in the second van, because I was aware of the layout of
When we arrived on the causeway we were immediately greeted with many birds.
Fortunately the peeps had arrived. We could have spent the entire time on the
causeway, but knew better. Among others, we saw Black-bellied Plovers and Baird
Sandpipers so close you could easily see the wing extension beyond the tail. We
also saw Semi-palmated Plover, Wilson’s and Red-necked Phalaropes, a Lesser
Yellowlegs, and the resident Long-billed Curlew. It was very interesting to
witness Pete look at a group of flying peeps and announce: “The sixth bird is a
Baird’s! We saw Chukar and Burrowing Owls at the Visitors’ Center and along the
road to Garr Ranch we saw a circling Swainson’s Hawk.
At Garr Ranch we were greeted by many flycatchers, including Western
Wood-Peewee, Cordilleran and a Hammond’s. The surprise at Garr Ranch was a
White-winged Dove on the wooden corral fence, just north of the spring area,
which was spotted by Lee Shirley. As we were preparing to leave the ranch we
stopped by the Spring area for one last look and were able to see the previously
reported Northern Waterthrush. The Rufous Hummingbirds at the feeders on the
porch of the ranch house were also a pleasant surprise. On this trip I was able
to record a total of 42 species, of which several were new for the year. Back at
refuge headquarter a few of us were greeted by a Common Yellowthroat in the
reeds along the entrance way to the center. At the last minute I decided to
participate in the evening’s Dutch Oven Banquet, and was glad I did. The meal
was delicious. Pete then gave a very interesting talk on the subject of
“Twenty-three Things that Changed Birding. He wrote an article with a similar
title (“Twenty Things. . . .”) that appeared in a previous Birder’s World
magazine. The 23rd item on his list was “have fun!” We certainly did!
I should also mention that beginning at 1:00 p.m. in afternoons of Friday and
Saturday there was a series of speakers and presentations. I only attended on
Friday, and found all the presentations to be very informative. Two of our club
members, Merrill Webb and Josh Kreitzer made excellent presentations on Friday.
Merrill gave his presentation on “Owls of the West - With Emphasis on Utah.” He
was assisted with a PowerPoint presentation which Milt helped put together, and
by his wife Lynnette, who played the various owl calls at the appropriate time.
Josh gave his presentation on the “Birds of Southern Utah.”
This was an excellent symposium and many thanks goes to Betsy Beneke and the
staff, including volunteers, at the Bear River Migratory Refuge Education
Center. Let’s hope this will become a regular event and we can have more
participants from Utah. Birders from California, New Mexico and Idaho were in
attendance. I think I can honestly say that all who attended found it to be a
very enjoyable and informative experience.
Field Trip Report
Antelope Island - August 26th, 2006
by Glenn Barlow, trip leader.
A view from the Antelope Island visitors' center - Aug
photo by Eric Huish
Utah County Birders at the Antelope Island visitors'
center - Aug 26, 2006
photo by Eric Huish
Early this morning 15 UCBers met first at the Orem Park & Ride, then at the
Kaysville Park & Ride, where I joined them, for a trip to Antelope Island. After
some problems with my directions (the number of the exit had changed from 331 to
328), we set off at about 7:30 am. The first bird was a juv. Swainson’s Hawk
just south of the Kaysville Park & Ride.
We were anxious to see the many shorebirds being reported along the causeway,
as well as any possible new fall-outs at Garr Ranch. We were not able to see the
previously reported (last week) Northern Waterthrush or White-winged Dove.
However, we were rewarded with many shorebirds along the causeway and warblers
and flycatchers at Garr Ranch. Along the causeway we joined with Cindy and Steve
Sommerfeld and benefited from their expertise. This brought out party to 17! The
group saw a total of 71 species of birds. (This would have completed Davis
County for anyone needing the county.)
The plovers and sandpipers were found on the north side of the causeway prior
to and after mile marker #6. Start looking as soon as you see the water on the
right side (north) of the causeway. There seemed to be a major gathering of
Red-necked Phalaropes along the south side of the causeway, closer to the
island. In one group near the last bridge there appeared to be at least a
thousand or more, although it was had to obtain an estimate, because whenever we
looked there seemed to be more.
At the Visitors’ Center we saw many Chukars and Burrowing Owls in the area
west of the Center. Burrowing Owls were also seen on the road to Garr Ranch.
There was also a Prong-horn Antelope bedded down west of the Visitors’ Center.
On the road to Garr Ranch the surprise sighting was a Prairie Falcon on a
rabbit in the road, and further on a flight of 3 Northern Mockingbird chasing
each other. The Prairie Falcon flew to a tree for a few minutes, so all got
great looks at it. Upon arriving at Garr Ranch we were greeted by the wonderful
sight of a Peregrine Falcon flying to the west and south of the picnic area.
Everyone’s target warbler was a Townsend’s, which was spotted right away in the
trees on the west side of the picnic area, along with many flycatchers. The
Wilson’s Warblers were in abundance, wherever we went around the ranch house and
in the spring area. They were in the trees, bushes, and on the ground.
Townsend’s were also flying to the ground to eat.
On the return trip from the ranch we were greeted with the sighting of many
Bison. Some of the Bison we accompanied by cowbirds. Other sightings are listed
The birds seen (in taxonomic order) were:
Before the Island
Canada Goose, Swainson’s Hawk, White-faced Ibis.
Eared Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Snowy Egret (flyover), Black-bellied
Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet,
Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet, Spotted Sandpiper, Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit
(flyover), Sanderling (1), Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Least
Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, Wilson’s Phalarope, Willet, Red-necked Phalarope,
Franklin’s Gull (many), Ring-billed Gull (many), California Gull (closer to the
island), Loggerhead Shrike, Common Raven, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Savannah
Great Blue Heron (north, along the shore), Chukar, Burrowing Owl, Tree
Swallow, Violet-green Swallow, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow.
Road to Garr Ranch
American Kestrel (later chasing the), Prairie Falcon, Rock Wren, Northern
Mockingbird, Sage Thrasher, European Starling, Red-winged Blackbird, Western
Meadowlark, Brown-headed Cowbird.
Ring-necked Pheasant, Peregrine Falcon, Virginia Rail (west of spring area),
Mourning Dove, Black-chinned Hummingbird (at feeder on ranch house porch),
Rufous Hummingbird (same), Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Wood-Peewee,
Hammond’s Flycatcher, Gray Flycatcher, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Cassin’s Vireo,
Warbling Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow Warbler, Townsend’s
Warbler, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Western Tanager, Chipping
Sparrow, Brewer’s Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Black-headed Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting,
Happy Birding to All!
Backyard Bird of the
Steve Carr - Holladay
California Quail - Parents and lots of chicks, several times a day
KC Childs - Provo
Common Nighthawk - second time ever.
Flora Duncan - Orem
Black-chinned Hummingbird - The neighbors have a large trumpet vine that
attracts the birds to my tree.
Eric Huish - Pleasant Grove
Osprey - Flew right over, just above the treetops.
Milt Moody - Provo
California Quail - a late batch of little puff balls.
Tuula Rose - Provo
Warbling Vireo - The only new yard bird so far this year.
Margaret Sanchez - Provo
Male Western Tanager - in full sunlight!
Mark Stackhouse - Salt Lake City
Belted Kingfisher - cruising the creek out back.
Reed Stone - Provo
Belted Kingfisher - An immature glanced off my picture window as a
Sharpie in hot persuit zoomed over the house.
Merrill Webb - Orem
Lark Sparrow - first for garden, 49th yard bird.
Bank Swallow - 50th Yard Bird!
Bonnie Williams - Mapleton
California Quail - taking dust baths in my garden.
We would like you to share your favorite backyard bird each
month. Please send your favorite bird at the end of the month to
email@example.com or call 360-8777. If you would like a reminder at
the end of the month e-mail the above address.