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UTAH COUNTY BIRDERS
Newsletter
August 1997


Contents


Matt's Message
by Matt DeVries (birder1@hotmail.com)

Terveisiš Suomesta!!!

Greetings from Finland, where tits and wagtails are abundant and starlings are rare. Hooded Crows rule the yard and magpies the berry bushes. The warblers are common and they all look the same.

The forest is everywhere that the lakes aren’t, and the forest is full of birds which are impossible to see. The birds here don’t sit on wires, never respond to pishing, and don’t speak English.

Fortunately, the birders do speak English--at least some of them do. Everyone here carries a cellular phone, and all of the birders are on a pager network. A rarity shows up, and within an hour there are 200 plus chasers at the spot. The birders are intense, friendly, and helpful.

We are preparing to leave for home and look forward to seeing everyone at the get-together next week. I have a sneaky feeling that the magpies which followed us here will be following us home.

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Picnic and Meeting
Friday, August 22
by Dennis Shirley

The August meeting will be a potluck picnic at Ned Hill’s home in Provo. Ned lives at 2867 N. Foothill Drive. It will be a day later than usual—on Friday instead of Thursday. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.

The meeting will be a joint venture of all of us. Anyone who would like to report on an exciting birding trip is encouraged to do so. It doesn’t have to be really exotic, just any special trip that you would like to tell the group about. We already are expecting reports from Mat and Pia DeVries on Finland, and Ned Hill will tell about the recent group tour of southeastern Arizona. Donna Peterson will tell about her year in China, and my son Bryan and I will talk about birding on Kodiak, Alaska this August. A slide projector and screen will be available.


Future Programs

September 18: Jim Parrish, UDWR Partners in Flight Coordinator
October 16: Jay Banta, Manager of Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge
November 20: Don Paul, IDWR, "Birds of the Great Salt Lake"
December: Merrill Webb, Christmas Bird Count

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Robin’s View
by Robin Tuck (robin@itsnet.com)

 

This month's article, "Look Where I'm Looking," is found in the Robin's View section of this web site.

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A Response to "Decouple"
by Aaron Hill (son of Ned Hill)

(See Robin’s View, in the June Newsletter)

I'm not the world’s most avid birder. When it comes to birds, my attention span is as long as a hummingbird’s wingspan. I can recall the name of a bird and match it to the species correctly only after a cold long day on the Christmas Bird Count, and then only after I’ve excitedly exclaimed, "Dad, What is that!!?" a hundred times and he has answered me for the hundredth time, "A junco, Aaron!" I don’t like getting dirty, and I'd rather chase a white golf ball all day than chase a White Ibis. However, birding has become an important part of my life and is not something I would trade for anything in the world.

My dad began birding in earnest about ten years ago, just when I was at the point of disliking Boy Scouts and liking girls. "Birding in earnest" begins at the point when "emergency" business trips happen to coincide with the release of the most recent Rare Bird Alert and when the only old friends you ever visit are the ones that happen to live in Arizona, South Texas, or Florida.

My dad, like Robin, would insist on taking us kids on "short" field trips around Utah Lake or the Great Salt Lake, and often departed at hours much earlier than I felt were humane for a Saturday morning. Later that evening, when we returned, he would excitedly count the species seen that day as I gloomily counted the activities I could have done if it were not for birding. I could count on family vacations being centered around birding activities, and I'm sure that I can identify with Robin's kids and their "PLEEEEASE DON'T MAKE ME GO" attitude.

However, out of these experiences spring some of the best memories of my youth. I cherish the time spent with my dad out in the middle of nowhere talking about life, plans, school, and whatever else was on my mind. Often this was the only chance I had to be with him and get to know him. I know that he appreciated my participation in his life, and I now appreciate his participation in mine.

My dad would do things to make birding a little more palatable and to mix our interests with his. When I was a kid, I loved taking pictures. Birding with my dad gave me a chance to take pictures of things not many people ever get to see. I remember the first time I saw an owl, and how special it was to see one alive and up close. Most people only see them stuffed in a museum. Not only was I able to take pictures of exotic looking birds, but I now have pictures and memories of beautiful misty sunrises, little tree frogs, sea turtles, dolphins, and a host of other animals that I never would have seen on Saturday morning cartoons.

Through his birding, I have developed a love for travel. He tried to pick vacation spots where he could find birds and the rest of us could play. Many of our family vacations were to places like Florida and California, where tourist traps abound. However, because of his desire to be near the birds, we always seemed to stay in the scenic, uncrowded areas that most tourists never discover. We were exposed to the wildlife and beauty that originally attracted people to the area, and developed an appreciation for the local people, scenery, and tiny details that make an area unique. We were able to have a more well rounded educational experience than most families get. Sure we still visited Disney World and other attractions, but most of my memories are of the mountains, the forests, the deserted beaches and the swamps we explored with our binoculars looking for the elusive Groove Billed Ani. I will graduate from BYU this August with a degree in Travel and Tourism. My profession and many of my hobbies and interests come indirectly from the unique travel experiences I have had with my dad, scouring the countryside for birds.

It seems that all former teenagers come to a point in their life where they realize that the time spent with their lunatic, uncool parents was the most valuable time in their life. Birding has enriched my life in so many ways that have absolutely nothing to do with the birds. So, Robin, don't give up on birding with your kids yet. While you can't force them to go, you can still find ways to couple their interests with yours. They may not like birding now, but like me, they will appreciate the time you spent with them later. The names of the birds may not stick in my mind, but the memories will live on forever.

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Southeastern Arizona Birding Trip: a Report
by Ned Hill, Field Trip Coordinator

Among birding "hot spots," nowhere else in North America ranks higher than Southeastern Arizona. Not surprising, for its first out-of-state field trip ever, Utah County Birders chose this exciting and relatively close destination. Seventeen birders (including a few friends and family) made the trip either by car or plane to the Tucson starting point on the evening of July 8th. Why July in Arizona? Ah, that’s when the cool mountain monsoons begin, and that’s also when all the birds—especially hummingbirds—have arrived.

Since desert birds are most active early in the morning, we had to adjust our internal clocks and get started each morning by at least 6:00 a.m.— sometimes 5:00 a.m. Our first stop was a church parking lot west of Tucson on Speedway Boulevard, where we found Gambel’s Quail, Cactus Wren, Verdin, Cassin’s Kingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, White-winged and Inca Doves; then west to the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. This spot served as a wonderful introduction to desert flora and fauna. We spent most of our time inside the hummingbird house and the large, walk- through bird aviary. We were able to get very close to many of the birds we would later encounter in the wild. Plus, we got some frame-filling photos that would have been hard to duplicate elsewhere. We also found several snakes that had the habit of breaking into the aviary to dine on bird eggs and rodents. In the wild at the Museum we saw Ash-throated Flycatchers, Northern Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, Hooded and Scott’s Orioles, Purple Martin, Gila Woodpecker, and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher.

After an excellent Mexican lunch in Tucson, we headed south to our next stop, Green Valley. Pausing for a brief siesta, we visited the Florida Wash (which had little activity in the hot afternoon sun) before heading up to Madera Canyon—one of the most famous birding spots in Arizona. We arrived at the cabin area only to be greeted by a group of happy birders who had just seen one of the rarest hummers in North America only 5 minutes before: the Plain-capped Starthroat. We held vigil at the feeders for the next three hours, but the Starthroat did not return. Of course, missing that bird did not detract from the beauty of the hummingbirds we did see: Broad-billed, Magnificent (appropriately named), Black-throated, and Rufous. Mexican Jays and Acorn Woodpeckers noisily skirmished in the trees above. We could hear the haunting call of the Dusky-capped Flycatcher from the hillsides, and Bridled Titmouse and White-breasted Nuthatch frequented the seed feeders. Following the advice of other birders, at dusk we focused our attention on a telephone pole near the cabins. At about 7:30 a very small, round face poked out of a woodpecker hole. The face belonged to our smallest owl, the Elf Owl. As we drove down Madera Canyon, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset of red sky, peppered with thunder heads and lightening flashes. As we sat in a restaurant that evening, a ten minute deluge hit the area—gone as quickly as it arrived. Early the next morning, we found Lucy’s Warbler in the trees outside our motel. We drove back to Madera Canyon, stopping in Florida Wash on the way to see a Lesser Nighthawk still active in the morning light. A real treat was a beautiful Varied Bunting that finally showed itself. We also found there Bell’s Vireo, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Canyon Towhee, Vermilion Flycatcher, and the bird with the most improbable name—Northern Beardless Tyrannulet (aptly named because it certainly had no beard). In Madera Canyon we stopped at a picnic area for breakfast as three Golden Eagles soared on the morning breezes. At the hummingbird feeders there was no report of the Starthroat so we went on a hike from the upper parking lot. No trogons were to be found, but we did see Hutton’s Vireo, Painted Redstart, and Hepatic Tanager. After our hike, we found there was still no report of the vagrant hummingbird. It turns out it was not ever seen again—disappointing some avid listers who had flown in from distant parts of the country to see it. We did, however, log one very rare sighting: Utah County Love Birds we had brought with us (that is, Robert Spencer and Alison Hill, our engaged couple).

We decided against going to Chine Canyon where the very rare Black-capped Gnatcatcher has been recently seen. Lew Wilkinson (who had come down to Arizona a few days before the rest of us) reported that the canyon was difficult to get into without a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Experts think it was a hybrid anyway. Instead, we drove from Madera Canyon over a dusty dirt road to Patagonia. We found en route Eastern Meadowlarks—their calls are not quite as musical as our western species. At the famous roadside rest stop south of Patagonia we stopped for a picnic lunch and found another Varied Bunting near our table. Overhead we saw and heard the relatively rare Thick-billed Kingbird. Summer Tanager, Rufous-crowned Sparrow and Phainopepla were found across the road and both Turkey and Black Vultures soared overhead. We walked up the banks of Sonoita Creek to a well-marked wooden arrow someone had left for us. It pointed to the branch of a sycamore tree from which was hanging a three-foot by one-foot nest built by the small and rare Rose-throated Becard. By waiting patiently, we finally saw a bird fly into the nest. We had to wait twenty minutes more before the bird flew out and perched on a nearby branch. It was a juvenile Becard! This is the area in which the first nesting Becards were discovered in North America only a few years back.

The Paton family in Patagonia invites birders into their backyard to observe hummingbirds. Between rain showers, we added a number of hummers to our growing list: Allen’s, Violet-crowned (hard to find except at this location), Costa’s, Calliope, plus the others we had seen before. There were literally hundreds of hummingbirds there!

Unfortunately, the Sonoita Creek Sanctuary closed before we arrived, so we missed Gray Hawk. We did hear a Common Ground Dove, saw Ash-throated and Brown-crested Flycatchers, Cooper’s Hawk, Lesser Goldfinch, Say’s Phoebe and had a brief glimpse of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. We stayed in Sierra Vista that evening.

Friday morning we drove to the San Pedro River, a new wildlife sanctuary. All but Julie Tuck missed the Green Kingfisher, but we did have an excellent sighting of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. After hearing its haunting call, Stan Smith finally located it sitting on an open branch—an unusual thing for a cuckoo to do. We also saw Common Moorhen, Bronzed Cowbird, Green Heron, Great Blue Heron, Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Cinnamon Teal and a good number of flycatchers and kingbirds. Back at the motel, two Greater Roadrunners were playing hide and seek under a truck.

In the late afternoon we drove up Garden Canyon on the Huachucha military base. Stopping at a picnic area on the way, we found dozens of Western Wood Peewees, and many other birds who had by then become our well-acquainted friends. A Gray Catbird sang from a tangle. Our main target was in the adjoining Sheelite Canyon: Spotted Owl. Lew Wilkinson, Josh and James Kreitzer had seen them the day before at the trail’s 5/8 mile marker. They told us exactly where to find the roosting owls. They also reported finding Tropical Kingbird and Greater Pewee at Kino Springs. Unfortunately, birders coming down the canyon told us that the storm the night before must have disturbed the owls, forcing them to find another roost. After an arduous hike up a boulder-filled trail, we found that to be true. Most of us continued on to another possible site beyond the one mile marker. As she reached out her hand to steady herself, Julie Tuck heard a dry rattling sound. She jerked back and discovered a 3 foot rattlesnake starting to coil on that very rock. Whew! Several of us had walked over that same spot only seconds before. Julie and Claralyn Hill found two more rattlers on their descent. I had been in those canyons three or four times before this trip and had never seen a single snake. We were a bit more cautious after Julie’s close call. Before we hiked back down Sheelite Canyon, several of us found Red-faced Warblers and startled three Whip-poor-wills that gave us very close looks. On the drive back toward town we found a Great Horned Owl perching on a telephone pole. A kingbird attacked it and at one point rode on the owl’s back!

Early Saturday morning, we drove to an area below Ramsey Canyon to look for sparrows and quail. The sparrows eluded us but we finally got good looks at Scaled Quail, including an entire family with chicks. We then had breakfast on the hoods of our cars as we waited for the Ramsey Canyon Preserve to open at 8:00 a.m. This Nature Conservancy property does research on hummingbirds, other birds and frogs. We hiked a short distance up the trail and located a pair of Elegant Trogons. These striking birds were feeding on blackberries. We also found at least three Sulfur-bellied Flycatchers and a family of Wild Turkeys. We added one more hummingbird to our list, the very large Blue-throated. We missed the White-eared and Berylline Hummingbirds that were reported there a few days past.

We drove to Douglas for lunch and then went on to Portal. On the way we saw several Chihuahuan Ravens. After checking into the Portal Peak Lodge, we visited the Spofford’s feeders. This is a relaxing place to sit and observe birds closely. Not many hummingbirds were present, but we did see Strickland’s Woodpecker, House Finches by the dozen, and some old favorites like Acorn Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Pyrrhuloxia, Hooded Oriole. We had a great dinner at the lodge and marveled at how they could serve such a large menu in such an out of the way place.

Our final day was one of the best. We left at 5:30 a.m. for the Sunny Flats picnic area of Cave Creek Canyon where we held a sacrament meeting. Could there be a more beautiful setting for such a meeting than we had—surrounded by towering cathedral rocks, sycamore and oak trees, and bird songs galore? Lois Clark and Stan Smith gave memorable talks and our singing echoed in the canyon. A Northern Pygmy Owl called in the middle of the meeting. Or was it another party’s tape player? Following the meeting we ascended to the 8,600-foot level to Rustler Park—an area devastated by forest fire a few years back. As we got out of our cars, a vulture-looking Zone-tailed Hawk soared overhead. Pygmy and Red-breasted Nuthatches and Red Crossbills foraged in the tops of the pines. We soon found another batch of Red-faced Warblers for the entire group to see. Then several Mexican Chickadees came through the area to entertain us, along with Hermit Thrushes, Cordilleran Flycatchers, Brown Creeper, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Yellow-eyed Juncos. A small flock of Band-tailed Pigeons streaked through the forest. We drove up the rocky road to Barfoot Park and,

with some effort, located the striking Olive Warbler—both male and female. Further up we all got to see a very cooperative Grace’s Warbler. At 1:00 p.m. we sadly had to leave this beautiful area and head for Wilcox and then the Tucson airport.

While we have described the birding part of our trip, words cannot adequately convey the friendships that were developed and strengthened during the week. A special bonding that between people when they experience this kind of adventure together. The only sad part of the experience was the realization that many of you were not able to participate with us. But as we wound up our Arizona trip, thoughts turned to the next big expedition. Will it be the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, a Northern California pelagic, or perhaps the Florida Everglades? We hope you will plan to join us.

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Membership in the Utah County Birders is open to any interested person. Dues are $12 per year, although no one will be excluded if unable or unwilling to participate. Send dues to Beula Hinckley, 2067 N. 420 E., Provo, UT 84604

Executive Committee

President Matt DeVries (birder1@hotmail.com) 226-0958
Past-President Robin Tuck (robin@itsnet.com) 377-8084
President-Elect Merrill Webb 224-6113
Secretary-Treasurer Beula Hinckley (ech@itsnet.com) 377-3443
Programs Dennis Shirley 423-1108
Field Trips Ned Hill (ned_hill@byu.edu) 375-2417
Membership Barbara Whipple (barbara@whipple.org) 226-3931
Newsletter Weldon Whipple (weldon@whipple.org) 226-3931

Telephone Hotline: 375-2487, 377-8084
E-mail:
weldon@whipple.org
Submit news items to
weldon@whipple.org

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