200 barrier shattered…and a LIFER to boot!

We drove all the way from Moab to Brigham City (north of Salt Lake City) in 1 day (6+ hours).  We had planned to stay at a place where we would re-trace part of our planned route, but decided against it.  We were going to take 2 easy days driving, so Bill was pretty beat after this longer day.  Must be getting old!

Friday we got all our errands done (service the truck, laundry, fax important documents home, etc.) then a quick drive to a reservoir in Mantua (15 minutes away).  Found 2 more birds for the list without really trying – Common Goldeneye and California Gull!  So we have 197 now and should hit out 200 goal!

Saturday off to Bear Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary.  It is a loop drive and we saw 2 new birds right away – Red-breasted Mergansers and Ring-necked Pheasant!  Then we added 3 new grebes:  Clark’s, Western, and Eared!  This is a beautiful Clark’s, which is a bit hard to find up north – but our SK buds know where to find ’em!


Of course a couple of Northern Harriers were flying around including this lovely male.


Lots of Bald Eagles, but no photos.  We had more than one chance to look at the Red-breasted Mergansers.  One of the cutest and prettiest ducks, I think.  Such a great hairdo!


(Sorry the above photos are a bit blurry – Bill’s camera got “re-set” somehow).  Now fixed.

On the way out we had a closer view of a pair of Sandhill Cranes.  They are paired up now, not in large flocks and not calling too much (Bill only a photo of 1!).


Sunday we headed a bit further north to the Golden Spike National Historic area – where the last spike was driven in 1924.  We however, were just looking for birds!  Found a turn for the first loop route and as we entered the road – there they were – 2 Chukars!!  Yes a Lifer and a great looking bird besides!


As we drove around this sagebrush/prairie landscape, we came to the edge of the precipice overlooking the Great Salt Lake valley with surrounding mountains.


We came across this arch, named “Chinese Arch” to honour the Chinese who worked on the railroad.  Not quite as picturesque as Arches National Park, but has it’s own raw beauty.


W. Meadowlarks were singing everywhere – what a beautiful sound (if you have iBirdpro or some other bird sound app – and don’t know the sound they make – check it out!).  Makes me think of Tarie – so these are for you Tarie!  I hope you hear and see them at home soon (and that the snow is gone)!

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Next we stopped for one of the many Horned Larks flying around. They’re pretty fast and a bit skittish – also sort of comical.


The next day (Monday) we headed south to Antelope State Park.  It is an island in the Great Salt Lake with a causeway attached.  I liked this white stump in the middle of all the flat land.

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It is actually a beautiful spot and with a day of no wind the water was like glass.  The white mountains made a nice reflection.


First bird was a Long-billed Curlew.  We have a photo from Willcox, AZ, but that group was hard to see.  An impressive schnoz eh?!


Little did we know it would be a banner day for our birding list!  First we found not 1, not 2 but 3 Chukars (our lifer from the other day) out in the open, calling!  Honestly, the photo below looks like a cartoon with the bird having filled up its cheeks with are, as if to whistle!

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chukar2-5750Again, there were W. Meadowlarks singing all day long – what a joy.  We found a couple of Burrowing Owls.  A record shot, but great to add an owl to our repertoire.  We were also hoping for a Barn Owl at the old ranch, but no luck there.  We understand why it’s called Antelope Island!

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Not only lots of antelope, but lots of Bison as well!  Here’s a herd grazing way down on the flats – but some were closer.old west-5989

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Luckily for brother Brian, we were finally able to get this shot of his favourite bird – thank goodness!

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Most all the gulls we’ve seen on our trip are Ring-billed.  Finally we got a nice shot of a California!

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Our little Horned Lark showed up brazenly on the side of the road, singing his heart out – what a cute, funny little bird!

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On the way back off the island, we were also treated to a closer shot of a coyote.  He didn’t really seem to mind us there – not like at home!


Then it was time to go.

Tuesday – a perfect day!  Weather was calm and warm – high 21C. Just look at the reflection of the ducks in the pond against the mountains.  We also added 2 more to our list – Marbled Godwit and Black-necked Stilt (no photos, too far away).


We really have lots of photos from today – so sit down and get ready.  Bill saw a racoon and a long-tailed weasel, but wasn’t quick enough for a shot of either.  So here is our little muskrat.


We saw lots of Amer. White Pelicans floating (and flying) around.  Their nose bumps are getting well-developed, but still have a way to go.  Impressive stuff!


Also saw lots of Western and Clark’s Grebes.  Some were courting, although not the full-out running across the water together as they do on their breeding grounds.  Nonetheless, they make beautiful shapes together.  The top photo is a Clark’s (with white above the eye) – lower is Western.  The third is obviously a grebe getting rid of a foot cramp!


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There are some dreadful invaders within these waterways – huge carp which stir up the mud and make it difficult for diving ducks to see to catch fish.  Not easy to capture in a photo because the mud is churned up – this one about 2+ ft long!


The second-smallest grebe, Pied-billed floated nearby.



Lots of Song Sparrows were singing.  They blend into their surroundings very well but their prominent breast spot is visible.


Bill has been trying to get a good photo of a Cinnamon Teal – such a beautiful duck!   Here’s a pair (m & F), then a male, glowing in the sun.

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The Red-winged Blackbirds were singing everywhere.  Such a spring sound around sloughs at home.

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Also saw a Yellow-headed Blackbird – just discernible amongst the grass fronds – and a lovely complementary colour palette.  If you don’t know what one sounds like and have a bird app on your phone or device, you should hear it.  Hilarious!


The Marsh Wrens were also singing everywhere.  They often sing from a hidden perch, but we found this one atop the same grass fronds.  Tail up, singing his little heart out!


One of my favourite things is any bird taking a bath – which I think I’ve said before.  I am always looking for a new bird to add to the list and this series shows a Great Blue Heron bathing – hilarious, I think!

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Double-crested Cormorants don’t usually stay close when swimming, but this one did and showed us his yellow face.


On the embankments on the way out we saw several Ring-necked Pheasants, both male and female.  They didn’t stick around, but Bill got this male running away.  Since they are hunted, no surprise!


For the next 2 days it was diagnosing Tyrian – finding out he had cancer (probably multiple cancers) – deciding what to do – making the decision to have him euthanized – figuring out how to get his ashes home.  The kind vet took his remains personally to a different place to get him cremated then returned to us before we left.  They were just wonderful.  Suffice to say, what with me being sick with a terrible cold as well – the 2 worst days of our trip (lives).

Friday was the last day we had to do anything re birds, so we did a quick tour around Bear River again and added a Barn Swallow to our list.  We were surprised to see some Helmeted Guineafowl at the side of the road!  They haven’t established a wild population, so not included in our bird count, but these weren’t in a cage of any kind.  Pretty exotic.

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Along the road we found another few Long-billed Curlews.  They have a call as well – so this bill can do more than probe for food!  Pretty impressive!

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This is a better shot of a Pheasant than before I think.

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When we arrived at the turn for the road loop the swallows were either feeding or resting on the pavement.  One little Cliff Swallow in the front – the rest Tree Swallows.

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We leave tomorrow.  Pending some great sighting along the road to add to it, our final total:  206!

I will add another blog or 2 on our spring birding trip to SK in May. See you then!

XO Lois


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