Utah County Birders Newsletter
Thursday, April 8, 2010
World Bird Families - Bryan and Dennis Shirley - A look at the worlds' bird diversity as shown by the 220 or so bird families - from ostrich, tinamous and penguins, to flycatchers, warblers and tanagers. Will be fun.
Meet at 7:00 PM in the Bean Museum Auditorium on
the BYU Campus.
Beginning birders and nonmembers are welcome.
April 17, 2010: Ophir Canyon and Rush Valley. We’ll begin by visiting Ophir and the south end of the Oquirrh mountains, and then loop south through Rush Valley through Vernon to Eureka and Goshen. Leave Provo East Bay Sam’s Club at 7:00 a.m. Field trip will run from 7:00 a.m. to1 p.m. Bring a lunch and something to drink.
May 8, 2010: Fish Springs, Callao, and Delta. Leave Payson WalMart at5:30 a.m. This will be an all-day trip. Bring a lunch and something to drink.
May 13-17, 2010: GSL Bird Festival. Details TBA but preliminary information may be found at http://www.greatsaltlakebirdfest.com/.
June 2010: Antelope Island - in search of grasshopper sparrows and other specialties. Details TBA.
June 24-25, 2010: Great Basin National Park. Plan to arrive at headquarters at 10:30 24 June. Camp at Lower Lehman Creek the night of 24 June. Contact Flora Duncan at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
We are actively recruiting people to lead local half-day field trips, any time, any place. If you would like to lead a field trip or if you have any ideas for this year’s field trips, please contact Lu Giddings at - email@example.com.
By Ned Hill – President, Utah County Birders
"Birding In Ecuador—Part 3: Angel Paz’s Remarkable Discoveries"
Note: This is the third installment of the report of a birding adventure Ned Hill and three others took with guide Rudy Gelis to northern Ecuador, November 2008, where they saw 500 species. This is only a sampling of the species and places the group experienced.
Daniel, Rudy and I arose at 4:00 am and the accommodating staff at Septimo Paraiso had been up even earlier to fix us a light breakfast. In darkness we drove up the bumpy dirt road to the paved highway. On the way, Rudy told us the story of Angel Paz (pronounced "an’-hel pas"). Angel’s family has been farming in this very mountainous country for many generations. A few years ago Angel attended a meeting at which some ecologists told the local people about the great interest birders—especially those from North America—have in Ecuadorian avifauna. The ecologists explained that birders would even pay to visit places that held some of the more sought-after species like Cock-of-the-Rock, Trogons, Quetzals, etc. Angel told them he had some of those birds on his thickly forested property that was intersected by several streams. They suggested that, to attract birders, he should build trails to viewing areas, dig steps on the steeper parts and perhaps build a blind or two. So, he and his family went to work. They even added a trailer for serving breakfast to their birding guests. But one day he reported to the ecologists that while he was digging the steps out of the moist ground, he saw "long-legged birds of the forest" following him and eating the grubs he dug up with the dirt. The ecologists were puzzled. "What do you mean by ‘long-legged birds’?" "Come and see." They did and found that the birds following Angel were Antpittas! There are some 300 species of "ant birds" but the Antpittas are usually the most difficult to observe. When Ivan Call and I were on an birding expedition in the Brazilian Amazon, we heard Antpittas calling loudly in the rainforest. Our guide identified them but refused to look for them. "You’ll never find them in an entire week of looking; so we’re not wasting our time!" Not only did Angel find several species of Antpittas following him, but he quickly learned that if he patiently held a juicy grub in his hand and didn’t move a muscle, he could actually get an Antpitta to come closer and closer until it ate the grub from his hand! For the past couple of years, Angel Paz’s farm has become THE place in the western foothills for birding parties to stop in for a day. You’ll see why.
By 5:30 am, we had reached Angel’s property. In the dark we stumbled our way in a light rain down a steep, muddy trail to a wooden blind overlooking the forest below. The three of us waited patiently with a group of a dozen other birders as the sky gradually lightened. We began to hear the screams of deranged monkeys—at least that’s it sounded like to me. But then we started to make out on the horizontal branches the strange-looking male Cock-of-the-Rock. Every once in a while, about 50 feet away, a brilliantly red bird would strut out on a horizontal limb, calling loudly and fluttering its strikingly black and gray wings. What a display they put on! We found a half a dozen or so in this communal forest lek.
Next we followed Angel, a short, stout Ecuadorian who wears a sweater vestand a woolen cap, up and down a slippery trail to a small wooden, sheltered seating area next to the trail. He instructed all of us to sit very quietly and have our binoculars and cameras ready. He disappeared back down the trail behind us. We heard him calling, "Maria, Maria!" followed by some Spanish meaning, I’m betting, "Come and get it." Then we saw him walk slowly past us up the trail. He was followed by a stealthy, chicken-sized bird with moderately long legs and rusty plumage—a Giant Antpitta! Angel had left a trail of white grubs and the antpitta "Maria" was snapping them up following him. It was not difficult to get full-frame photos of the bird that was only 15 feet from us. Angel tried calling in a Rufous-crowned Antpitta but it had other plans that morning. We followed Angel further down a trail to a small stream. We all took positions near the stream facing a log that protruded out of the forest into the sunlight. Angel carefully placed grubs along the log and then stood back calling gently, "Lolita, Lolita!" After a few minutes a much smaller antpitta—a Yellow-breasted Antpitta—darted out then ran back up the log. But eventually it came back to grab one of the grubs and pose for pictures before darting back into the forest depths. We had now seen two of the most difficult birds to find in South America courtesy of this gentle and gifted Angel Paz.
We spent the rest of the morning following our guide Rudy through Angel’s forested trails finding such birds as Olivacious Piha, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Bat Falcon, Rufous Motmot, Pale-mandibled Aracari, Spotted Barbtail, Spotted and Montane Woodcreepers and a difficult to see Scaled Fruiteater. At hummingbird feeders on the edge of the forest we found a dazzling display that included: Tawny-bellied Hermit, Sparkling Violetear, Green-crowned Woodnymph, and Empress Brilliant.
By 10 a.m. we were starving! Angel’s staff served the whole group breakfast of empanadas, hot chocolate and manioc root with jam. Very tasty and welcome—especially the chocolate as the morning had been quite cool. Just up the hill from our breakfast, someone spotted a green bird sitting on a nest in a dense clump of low trees. Rudy identified it as a female Orange-breasted Fruiteater, quite a rare bird of the cotinga family (which includes Pihas, Cock-of-the-Rock, Fruitcrows, Umbrellabirds, etc). As we watched for a while, a tiny head popped up beneath the mother’s wing. Rudy is an expert on nests and he was ecstatic! He did not think the nesting behavior of this bird had ever been studied. He planned to return to take measurements and lots of observations. While we took turns looking at the nesting fruiteater, a Barred Hawk flew over. Another hawk perched in a tree—a Pale-rumped Hawk. Today was a red-letter day for nesting birds—we found a Black-capped Tanager on a nest. We also found a nesting Masked Tityra.
We arrived back at Septimo Paraiso Lodge by 1:00 for lunch and a brief rest. Then off again to the nearby town of Mindo with a population of 2,000 people—80% of whom work in tourism! We drove up Falls Road where there are open forests interspersed with grazing land. We spotted a tree about 60 feet off the road that had a large hole towards the top. A Golden-headed Quetzal was evidently nesting there as a male flew into the hole carrying a frog. We saw a very large woodpecker in a neighboring tree and could tell by the pattern on the back and head that it was a Lineated Woodpecker. We looked for a Sunbittern that is sometimes in the fields in Mindo but could not locate one. Instead we found a number of beautiful Bay-headed, Golden and Lemon-rumped Tanagers, as well as Giant Cowbird, and Yellow-bellied Seedeater. Some White-collared and Chestnut-collared Swifts flew over our heads. After a very long day, we drove back to Septimo Paraiso where a wonderful dinner, our list review and bed awaited us.
Next: Bella Vista for Mountain Toucans and another Quetzal species.
River Lane, Lincoln Point, Utah Lake area
- 27 March, 2010
Compiled from an email written by Eric Huish
Lu Giddings led a great field trip. Over 30 participants came on the trip so my lists are lacking some of the birds on the group list. We saw a few spring arrivals - A flock of Tree Swallows, a few Vesper Sparrows, American Avocet, Say's Phoebes in a couple locations and a Snowy Plover at Lincoln Beach.
River Lane: Ring-necked Pheasant, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Sandhill Crane, Killdeer, gull sp., Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Say's Phoebe, Black-billed Magpie, Common Raven, Tree Swallow , Black-capped Chickadee , Ruby-crowned Kinglet (heard only), American Robin, European Starling, Spotted Towhee , Vesper Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, Yellow-headed Blackbird and House Sparrow.
Benjamin Slough: Canada Goose, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Redhead, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Pheasant (heard only),
Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Prairie Falcon, American Coot, Sandhill Crane, Killdeer, American Avocet, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Northern Flicker, American Robin, European Starling, Dark-eyed Junco, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark , House Finch and House Sparrow.
Lincoln Point: Birded Lincoln Point then birded along the road south along the lake shore. Spent almost an hour trying to spot the chukars we heard calling on the west slope of West Mountain.
Canada Goose, Gadwall, Common Goldeneye, Chukar, Clark's Grebe, Western/Clark's Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, American Coot, Sandhill Crane, Snowy Plover,
Killdeer , Say's Phoebe, Horned Lark, American Robin, European Starling , Song Sparrow (heard only), White-crowned Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, Yellow-headed Blackbird and House Finch.
photo by Leila Ogden
by Leila Ogden
The Western Screech-Owl is a small, nocturnal, woodland Owl of western North America and is one of the west’s more common owls at lower elevations. They are squat-looking owls that sit erect, with their plumage fluffed out, with the feet and legs obscured, and distinct ear tufts raised. The iris is bright yellow and the bill is gray to black with tufts of bristly feathers around its base. The facial disk is bordered by black. The toes are yellow. Plumage is either mainly grayish or reddish-brown variegated dark and light, resembling a furrowed tree bark pattern. When threatened, the bird stretches its body and tightens its feathers in order to look like a branch stub to avoid detection, but will take flight when it knows it has been detected. Birds in the dry southwest are a paler gray, while birds in the humid northwest are darker and browner. Facial disks are dusky white with fine gray-brown mottling. The average length of a female is 9.2” while the male is 8.2”. Wingspans are 21-22 inches.
During direct flight, the Western Screech-Owl flies fairly rapidly with a steady, noiseless, wing beat of about 5 strokes per second. It rarely glides or hovers, but may fly bat-like with erratic movements, when flying through wooded areas. Wings are broad and the head is held ducked in giving a flying bird a stubby appearance. If they are disturbed at roost, they can sometimes be caught by hand . However they are very aggressive when defending a nest site, and may attack humans.
They hunt from a perch in open woodlands, along the edges of open fields or wetlands, or makes short forays into open fields. They capture flying insects on the wing. Small prey is usually swallowed whole on the spot, while larger prey is carried in the bill to a perch and then torn apart. The most favored prey are small rodents and deer mice, larger insects, or small birds. They will eat shrews, wood rats, pocket mice, bats, grasshopper mice, gophers, frogs, locusts, and scorpions, crayfish, worms, snails, small fish, poultry and barnyard ducks. Pellets are medium sized, compact, dark gray, ovals composed of fur, feathers, bones, teeth, and chitlin. Two to four pellets are cast each day.
During courtship males and females call to each other in a duet as they approach each other, and preen each other's heads and nibble at the other’s beaks. They nest in deciduous trees, douglas-fir snags and junipers. They will readily nest in suitable nest boxes. No nest material is added and nests are kept clean. The average clutch size is 3-4. The eggs are laid every 1 to 2 days and incubation begins after laying of the first. The incubation period is about 26 days and the fledging period about 35 days. Pairs mate for life but will accept a new mate if the previous mate is lost. Adults tend to remain near their breeding areas year-round, while juveniles disperse in the autumn. Small territories around nest sites are vigorously defended by males.
Western Screech-Owls can fall prey to Northern Goshawks, Cooper’s Hawks, Great Horned Owls, Barred Owls, Spotted Owls, Long-eared Owls, Great Gray Owls, Short-eared Owls, mink weasels, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, snakes and crows.
I have really enjoyed watching an owl when one has nested in my box. Generally, they are only seen at dusk and daybreak as they leave and enter the box. Sometimes they sit and look out of the box. They watch what is going on underneath them (bird feeders) and around them; sometimes kids and dogs.
References: Vooous, Karel H. “Owls of the Northern Hemisphere”
Megascops Kennicottii. “Western Screech-Owl" from "The Owl Pages" on the Internet
Alan & Selena Keller – Orem
Turtle Dove – the whiteness of the bird really made it stand out among the Eurasian Collared-Doves.
Flora Duncan – Orem
American Crow – flying over the back yard.
Bonnie Williams – Mapleton
California Quail – lots of them
Bruce Robinson – West Jordan
Common Raven – Not a flyover! Perched in a tree in the back yard.
Steve Carr - Holladay
Eric Huish – Pleasant Grove
Western Screech-Owl - in nest box.
Milt Moody – Provo
I've had a pair of Mountain Chickadees visiting my yard this last week or so.
Dennis Shirley – Elk Ridge
Western Meadowlark - New Yard Bird!
Cheryl Peterson – Provo
A Downy Woodpecker and a Mountain Chickadee gave me something different to look at (although each time they were brief looks).
Report your favorite backyard bird each month to Cheryl Peterson
at 801-375-1914 or
Hey, the new year is here!! Thanks to all who have supported us in the past. If you are interested in officially joining us this year, make out a check to Utah County Birders for $15.00 and mail it to:
2831 Marrcrest West
Provo, Utah 84604
You will be helping to support the web page and we will send you a copy of the newsletter.