USA - EPIC MID-WEST CLEAN-UP TOUR Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho & Utah

Day 1   ARRIVAL IN SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - 24th May 2022
Following our arrival in Salt Lake City we will check in to a conveniently located motel before heading out to the nearby arid valleys. It's going to be a great time of day to try and nail a few of the local specialities such as Grey Flycatcher, Juniper Titmouse and  Grey Vireo. If we aren't too tired, there are a couple of good sites to try for Flammulated Owl in the nearby hills. Night in Salt Lake City.

We have a full day to explore numerous sites all within an hour's drive from our hotel. High on our priority list could well be Northern Pygmy Owl, which breeds high up in the mountains above Salt Lake City. If the cable car is working we could well take a ride and make our first attempt at Black Rosy-Finch which breeds amidst some of the most dramatic scenery of the entire tour. 

Depending on which other species are our priorities we have a fine supporting cast to lok for including Calliope, Rufous, Black-chinned and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Western Kingbird, Ash-throated Flycatcher,  Green-tailed Towhee, Black Swift, Plumbeous Vireo, Rock Wren, Pinyon Jay, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay, Virginia's and Black-throated Grey Warbler, Warbler, Sagebrush and Brewer's Sparrow. If we didn't go for Flammulated Owl last night we will tonight, and we'll also go to a desert-like valley for  Common Poorwill as well. N
ight in Salt Lake City.

It's worth spending the early morning chasing up a few species that don't stray further north along our route before setting out on the 3 hour drive to Burley in Idaho. Our destination this afternoon will be the Albion Mountains just south of Burley and in particular one area that holds the recently split Cassia Crossbill. Split from Red Crossbill they favour older stands of lodgepole pine but are usually found in low density, so we will have to work for this bird. But we have a Plan B and Plan C, just in case.... Another good bird in these hills is the stunning looking Williamson's Sapsucker, which although is found over a very wide area throughout our tour, this is possibly the best site for us to see it. Another great bird we have several sites for is Lewis's Woodpecker, potentially the most beautiful of it's species in North America. Other species we shoudl expect to see include Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Western Wood Pewee, Audubon's Warbler, Cedar Waxwing, Mountain Bluebird, Pine Siskin, Western Tanager and Cassin's Finch amongst others.  Once we've had dinner and a little rest we will drive just under an hour to a series of low hills and make our first attempt at Northern Saw-Whet Owl. Night in Burley, Idaho.

We've a spare morning depending on whoch species we still need in this area. Regardless, we will leave mid morning and drive 4.5 hours to Big Sky and our afternoon date with another chairlift and another shot at Black Rosy-Finch at Lone Mountain, perhaps one of the easiest places anywhere to see this species.  Night at Big Sky, Montana.

This could be a very early morning as we head up towards Glacier National Park. There are options however, if we aren't in a rush, such as Bridger Bowl Road for Evening Grosbeak or we could take the rough track towards Sacagawea Peak where Dusky Grouse, Rock Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Mountain Bluebirds reside. But getting to Ridgwater early enough means we can visit North Crow Creek, another good site for Northern Pygmy Owl. Nearby, there are a couple of reservoirs which hold both Western and Clark's Grebes, a variety of wildfowl such as Canvasback, Redhead, American Wigeon and Green-winged Teal, Trumpeter Swan, Bullock's Oriole and Lazuli Bunting. If we haven't seen it yet we can attempt to see Western Screech-Owl tonight. Night at Ridgwater.

We will be leaving super early this morning and heading inrto Glacier National Park. Nights at Whitefish.

It's a long drive to Glasgow this morning, but we aim to get the 7 hour drive over and done with as early as possible and have a chance of a siesta in the early afternoon to catch up on some much-needed sleep. We will head to nearby Bentonite Road and it is here that we have really pinned our hopes on seeing a number of key species. This dirt road goes a long way out into the desert and takes us into perfect habitat for a number of special birds. It's a very reliable spot for Greater Sage Grouse and we expect to see several of them patrolling the roadside areas. Another bird high on our wish list is Mountain plover and we will spend some time scanning the valley floors for this nomadic species. There's also the rare Baird's Saprrow present in small numbers, whilst both Chestnut-collared and a few Thick-billed Longspurs occur, but Lark Buntings will probably outnumber all of these!  There should be one or two Upland Sandpipers displaying in the area, along with Marbled Godwits and Long-billed Curlews, whilst several small ponds may well have a few shorebirds such as Greater or Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary or Spotted Sandpipes, as well as some ducks. Sparrows are well represented with Lark, Brewers and Vesper all present. Other species present in this habitat include Golden Eagle, Prairie Falcon (although it is sparsely distributed), Loggerhead Shrike, Say's Phoebe, 

If we haven't seen one already, we will head to another area at dusk to look for Common Poorwill.  Night at Glasgow. 

Another long drive beckons, but we will spend most of the morning around Glasgow. One great site is Bowdoin NWR which has an auto-tour route around a huge lake that literally hosts thousands of Wilson's Phalaropes, plus other shorebirds that stop off on their northwards migration. But this site is one of the best for Baird's Sparrow and it is worth the effort of doinf the 15-mile auto-tour loop to see this often exceedingly tricky and shy species. We'll probably also see Grasshopper Sparrow here too. Or we might return to Bentonite Road, hitting it at daybreak when species are more active. 

Once we are finished here we will drive towards our next base at Jamestown in North Dakota where we will spend the next two nights. There's plenty of potential stops along the way as we drive across the prairies. 
 Night at Jamestown

We. Night at Jamestown. 

. Night at Grand Forks. 

. Night at Duluth.

Days 14 - 15   SAX ZIM BOG
. Nights at Duluth

Night at Minneapolis

Day 17    End of Tour – 8th  June
Time permitting we will do some final birding this morning before our international flights.


All photos copyright Nick Bray/Zoothera Birding unless otherwise stated.

Just hover your cursor over each image for info.