Monday, May 25, 2009

Day 5 - Antelope Island

Sunday morning we set out for Antelope Island with our brother Paul and son Winston. I have visited the island twice before but both times in the winter, so I was curious to see how it would look when not under snow and when not surrounded by a frozen Great Salt Lake.

On my last visit

Although the island and the causeway leading to it are primarily winter birding sites, I was hoping that we would still see some 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.

Once on the island, though, we forgot about the bugs when we saw our first antelope.

The view from Buffalo Point was spectacular, although we were pestered by gnats and no-see-ums as we watched more antelopes and a lone bison on the shore below.

Dee and her brother Paul

California Gulls and Great Blue Herons flew overhead as we drove down back towards the causeway, stopping along the way to admire this Long-billed Curlew.

Western Meadowlarks were calling on all sides.

A Sage Thrasher zoomed away as we stopped the car again and several Horned Larks were equally shy.

Back at the point where the causeway meets the road to Garr Ranch, we stopped to look at a pair of Gadwall on the water. Then a flash of yellow in the reeds caught my eye and I was out of the car and running. Yes, at last, a Yellow-headed Blackbird!

We headed over to Garr Ranch for a picnic lunch. 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 good 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.

Western Kingbird

Cedar Waxwing

Other trees had Brown-headed Cowbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds and a very tuneful Western Meadowlark.

However, the main attraction for most of the visitors was a pair of Great Horned Owls, one of which was being constantly harassed by an American Robin.


The ride back across the causeway was uneventful, although we had good views of a couple of Willets and a quick sighting of a Northern Harrier.


Kyle said...

That Yellow-headed Blackbird is spectacular, Jeff! Although if he was spotted down here in Texas, he'd probably be labeled a "Burnt-orange-headed Blackbird"...

Looks like you had an awesome trip.

Jeff said...

Hi, Kyle.
The head was a lot more yellow from the road but not from the angle that I was able to take photos.