Day 1 SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH
After picking up Pete and Graham from Salt Lake City Airport our intrepid group headed over to Antelope Island State Park for our first birding of what would prove to be an epic trip! Antelope Island is a fascinating mix of habitats, starting when you cross the vast salt lake on a long causeway, bound on either side by salt flats and varying areas of water. Our first Killdeers, Western Kingbirds, Black-necked Stilts, Red-winged Blackbirds, Western Meadowlark, a cracking male Northern Harrier, and even a close Coyote. Further along were some Franklin’s Gulls along the shoreline, with a few Ring-billed and lots of California Gulls. Further along the causeway we found 5 Wilson’s Phalaropes in fine breeding plumage amongst the hundreds of American Avocets, plus there was our Black-necked (Eared) Grebes, plus the first Willet and Forster’s Terns. At the end of the causeway we veered left and headed over to the Garr Ranch, stopping along the way to scan a hillside where we found Brewer’s and Lark Sparrows singing close to the road. We also saw Northern Mockingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, and scoped some American White Pelicans perched amongst a flock of Double-crested Cormorants. And then a little further on we scoped a distant Rock Wren. Possibly the highlight was a herd of 50+ Bison feeding on the flats below the road, with a Pronghorn in the grassland behind us.
At the ranch we wandered along the trails and found 2 adults and 2 juvenile Great Horned Owls high up in a large tree, with a diminutive Least Flycatcher lower down. We also found Say’s Phoebe, Song Sparrow, Audubon’s, Yellow and Wilson’s Warblers,Warbling Vireo, Bullock’s Oriole, Western Wood Pewee, and a group of at least 3 Western Tanagers and a Mule Deer. Not a bad start to the tour indeed!
With the weather warming up to the high 70’s we headed back to the mainland seeing our first Horned Larks, but we needed a better view of Rock Wren so tried a different area and sure enough we found another one a lot closer. Back on the causeway a nice selection of roosting birds on some rocky islands comprised Forster’s and 2 Caspian Terns, 3 Redheads, Cinnamon, Green-winged and Blue-winged Teals, Common Goldeneye, Northern Shoveller, and a flock of breeding plumaged Sanderlings.
From here we drove up into the beautiful snow-capped mountains and visited Little Cottonwood Canyon where unfortunately the feeders that I’d visited just a few days ago had been taken down! But a flock of White-crowned Sparrows, a few Steller’s Jays and a couple of Pine Siskins were still hanging around. A short walk up the valley was a little quiet but we did find a displaying Broad-tailed Hummingbird, an American Robin sitting on a nest, Mountain Chickadee, Cassin’s Finch, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a Northern Flicker. So with that done we returned to the motel at 6.30pm for a short rest before heading out to dinner and then visiting Squaw Peak Road… We heard Flammulated Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl and Common Poorwill… But none of them came close enough to see.