Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Antelope Island 7/27--Eared Grebe, Black-necked Stilt, Long-billed Curlew, Long-billed Dowticher, Red-necked Phalarope, FRANKLIN'S GULL, California Gull, Barn Owl, Burrowing Owl, Loggerhead Shrike, SAGE THRASHER, WESTERN MEADOWLARK, Yellow-headed Blackbird

Shari pointing out the Great Salt Lake
Our tour began in earnest on Monday morning. Actually it began on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. We birded the causeway that connects it to the main land and the sights and scents were overwhelming.

Phalaropes, Wilson's & Red-necked
On the east coast, when a phalarope is spotted, birders will travel miles to see it. Here, along the causeway there were literally thousands of phalaropes, both Wilson's Phalarope and Red-necked Phalarope. Some of the Red-necks were still in breeding plumage, so it made them easier to pick out, but when you  have thousands spinning around, you just take in the sight and don't worry too much about which one is which. That sight was one of the overwhelming one.

The overwhelming scents came from what I guess were millions of dead brine shrimp (phalarope phood). The group spent some time trying to find a simile for the smell and while I thought the most creative was a Port-o-San on the gulf coast of Texas in mid-summer, the place the stench brought me back to was less exotic--the bathroom/changing room at Island Beach State Park.
Photo: Shari Zirlin

Our first life bird was along the causeway--SAGE THRASHER.  This is not a rare bird, but somehow our trips to the west never produced one before.

Our 2nd life bird of the day was not far behind and was plentiful: FRANKLIN'S GULL. Should one of these turn up on the east coast, as they occasionally do, I think I have a good shot of identifying it, having seen quite a
few of them in various molts.

Franklin's Gulls are superficially similar to Laughing Gulls. The gull in Utah that would be easy to mistake for Herring Gull is California Gull. Dark eye gives it away should I ever spend time scanning gull flocks.

Another year bird, one we haven't seen in years, was Long-billed Curlew, a bird that makes you wonder about nature and her tricks.

Once we were on the island, our focus shifted to looking for owls and Chukars. We were unsuccessful with Chukars (the weather, instead of being hot and dry, was wet and windy), but we did find 3 species of owls in about 5 minutes: Burrowing Owl, Barn Owl (another bird Shari & I haven't seen since the Jamaica Bay days), and nearby in the same maintenance building, 4 Great Horned Owls.

And for our final life bird on the Great Salt Lake, we got excellent looks at WESTERN MEADOWLARK, another fairly common bird that has eluded us on previous trips west. Our list for Antelope Island is below the photos.
California Gull with American Avocet
Long-billed Curlew


Great Horned Owl
Photo: Shari Zirlin

Barn Owls
34 species (+1 other taxa)
Mallard  10
Eared Grebe  500
American White Pelican  25
Black-necked Stilt  20
American Avocet  200
Killdeer  1
Spotted Sandpiper  3
Willet (Western)  3
Long-billed Curlew  9
Long-billed Dowitcher

Wilson's Phalarope  5000
Red-necked Phalarope  7000     J
Ring-billed Gull  5
California Gull  500
Forster's Tern  2
Mourning Dove  1
Barn Owl  2
Great Horned Owl  4
Burrowing Owl  3
hummingbird sp.  1
American Kestrel  1
Western Kingbird  2
Loggerhead Shrike  5
Common Raven  6
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1
Tree Swallow  500
Bank Swallow  50
Barn Swallow  500
Northern Mockingbird  2
European Starling  10
Yellow-headed Blackbird  15
Brewer's Blackbird  50

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