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Report on Salt Lake City area in May 2009 (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
I fitted in several short birding trips during a visit to SLC on May 13-18, 2009.

You can find photos at www.jeffincypress.blogspot.com

May 13, 2009 - Midvale
Our first afternoon was spent at my brother-in-law’s house in Midvale. There were plenty of common birds: Mourning Doves, Rock Doves, House Sparrows and European Starlings. House Finches, Chipping Sparrows and American Robins were plentiful, too, and there were occasional flyovers by California Gulls. I was pleased by the arrival of a California Quail and a Black-capped Chickadee, and then I was thrilled to see a Pine Siskin, a bird I’ve only ever seen once before.

May 14, 2009 - Butterfield Canyon
The next morning started well when I drove into Butterfield Canyon and immediately spotted a Great Horned Owl. Unfortunately, the only other birds that appeared during my drive were a Black-billed Magpie, a Northern Harrier, a Turkey Vulture and a pair of Western Bluebirds.

May 14, 2009 – Red Butte Botanical Garden, SLC
Later in the morning, Dee and I went to the Red Butte Botanical Gardens, on the campus of the University of Utah. It was the first visit there for both of us and we were really surprised by how beautiful the gardens were and by how well they fitted in to the surrounding landscape. We were also pleasantly surprised by the number of birds that we saw.

A Western Scrub Jay was the first bird to appear. Black-billed Magpies posed for photos when they weren’t chasing off a small hawk. We spent several minutes watching a pair of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers popping in and out of their nest. Then I saw a lifer: Plumbeous Vireo. Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Mountain Bluebirds and Black-chinned Hummingbirds were common, as were Yellow Warblers, Black-headed Grosbeaks and Western Tanagers. The creek area had Song Sparrows and a Lazuli Bunting.

May 15, 2009 – Big Cottonwood Canyon
At 7:00 Friday morning I drove up Big Cottonwood Canyon to Brighton. The canyon was beautiful in the early morning light. Although the snow had disappeared from the lower sections, there was plenty from about 8,000 feet up. Brighton was totally devoid of people but I was welcomed by a Dark-eyed Junco and several American Robins.
At first I thought that the snow was going to make it impossible for me to walk the trail. However, it turned out to be frozen solid and so I was able to spend the next hour slipping and sliding around the edge of the lake. There were three Mallards in one of the few patches of open water and the surrounding woods were busy with American Robins, Mountain Chickadees, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Dark-eyed Juncos and Red-breasted Nuthatches. Although I could hear woodpeckers, I never got to see one. Luckily, Fox Sparrows were more obliging.
Back in the parking lot, White-crowned Sparrows were singing away while Violet-green Swallows swooped overhead. Much more exciting, though, was a group of Pine Siskins, who seemed very unconcerned by my presence.
Silver Fork Diner
On my way down the canyon, I stopped at the Silver Fork Diner. Here I was able to have breakfast on the deck where several feeders drew in a never-ending succession of Cassin’s Finches, Mountain Chickadees and Black-chinned Hummingbirds.

May 16, 2009 – Big Cottonwood Canyon
Saturday morning I returned to Big Cottonwood Canyon, mainly in the hope of seeing Steller’s Jays. A pull-in at the canyon mouth was quiet for birds but had large numbers of butterflies.
Ledgemere Picnic Area
This had Mountain Bluebirds, Yellow Warblers and a northern Flicker, the only woodpecker that I saw in Utah.
A little higher up the canyon, I stopped to admire wetlands and a beaver homestead. I stayed a while to check out Yellow Warblers and Song Sparrows.
Spruces Campground
I had great hopes for this site and so I was very disappointed to find it was closed. I made do with wading through the snow and brush around the edge of the site and was rewarded with more sightings of Yellow-rumped Warblers, Mountain Chickadees, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Chipping Sparrows.
Just as I was leaving, I heard a familiar call and rushed across the road. Two Steller’s Jays were chasing each other around the tree tops.

May 17, 2009 – Antelope Island
Although the island and the causeway that leads to it are primarily winter birding sites, I was hoping that we would still see a few interesting birds, as well as bison and antelopes. Most important of all, this was going to be my last chance to spot a bird that’s eluded me for over ten years – the Yellow-headed Blackbird.
The drive along the causeway didn’t inspire us with hope. Apart from California Gulls, the only birds we saw were two American Avocets. Worse yet, there were unbelievable numbers of brine flies, rising in columns like smoke above the low bushes on both sides.
On the island, things rapidly improved. We saw the first of what were to be many antelopes.
The view from one of the hills was spectacular, although we were pestered by gnats and no-see-ums as we watched antelopes and a lone bison the shore below.
The only flyovers were noted were California Gulls, Common Ravens and Great Blue Herons, but the roadside had this Long-billed Curlew.
Western Meadowlarks were calling on all sides.
There was also a Sage Thrasher and several Horned Larks.
Back at the point where the causeway meets the road to Garr Ranch, we stopped to look at a pair of ducks on the water. Then a flash of yellow in the reeds caught my eye and I was out of the car and running within a millisecond. Yes, at last, a Yellow-headed Blackbird!
Garr Ranch
I hadn’t visited the ranch on my previous visits to the island and I was surprised to see it was a very attractive location, with no mosquitoes or other bugs. The elm trees had a variety of birds, including Yellow-rumped Warblers, Black-throated Gray Warblers, Yellow Warblers, Cedar Waxwings, Bullock’s Oriole, Western Tanager, Western Kingbirds and Dusky Flycatcher.
Other trees had Brown-headed Cowbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds and a very tuneful Western Meadowlark.
Cottonwoods behind the farmhouse had a pair of Great Horned Owls, one of which was being constantly harassed by an American Robin.
The ride back home was uneventful, although we had good views of a couple of Willets and a quick sighting of a Northern Harrier on the causeway.


Well-known member
Summary & Suggestions

Overall, it was a good trip. I saw 62 species.

I would have done better to spend more time at Silver Lake and less at sites lower down Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Butterfield Canyon and Parley's Canyon/Washington Park were not worthwhile. Time spent there would have been better spent at Silver Lake, or at Tanner Park / Parley's Gulch. If I had been interested in water/shorebirds, some time at Farmington would have been another option.

In winter, Bear River and Antelope Island are the places to go.



Well-known member
I went to the Salt Lake City area in early August, and I can second everything said about Antelope Island, it is Awesome. I spent some time hiking with non-birders in the ski slope area to the East of Salt Lake, my prize birds were Lazuli Bunting, Swainson's Hawk and Western Tanager. The area is beautiful, gnats and mosquitos are absent, there are tons of wildflowers, etc.

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