Monday, July 29, 2013

Nevada and Utah Trip: The Final Chapter

On Monday morning we started our drive back to Las Vegas. After 150 miles we pulled onto a side road in the middle of nowhere for a short break. As we stood and looked at the landscape, I remarked to Dee that it was odd we weren't seeing any flycatchers.

"Well, there are some birds over there," she said, pointing to a railroad crossing. I walked over and was immediately buzzed by a pair of Western Kingbirds. So much for there not being any flycatchers around! From the way these birds acted, I guess they had a nest or fledglings nearby.

We spent the night in Hurricane, where a fountain at our motel was attracting lots of Lesser Goldfinches (below) while a nearby yard had several Phainopeplas.

The following day, on our way to the airport, we stopped off at a wetlands area that is being developed in Henderson. We weren't able to visit all of the site because of ongoing construction but what we saw was impressive. Once the construction is completed, this is going to be an excellent birding site. As it was, we saw a nice range of birds from Great Blue Heron and Common Gallinules to Western Kingbirds and Say's Phoebes.

Best of all, though, was a bird I'd been hoping to see all trip: Black Phoebe. In fact, the small picnic area where we stopped for lunch featured no fewer than three Black Phoebes. It was a nice ending to a good trip.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Nevada and Utah Trip: Salt Lake City

After our days in and around Cedar City we went to Salt Lake City for the weekend. Most of our time there was spent visiting with friends but I did see a few birds, like this Black-billed Magpie.

Monday morning I was up and out early, wanting to drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon to do some birding around Brighton and Silver Lake.

The drive up and down the canyon is notable for scenic views.

Outside the Visitor Center there was a large sign warning about the presence of moose and what to do if you encounter one. I'd always wanted to see moose but I'd never managed it - and I didn't expect to see any on this trip either. Deer are a different matter, though, and this one was waiting for me on the lakeside trail.

It is always a delight to walk the trail around the lake.

My main target bird for the day was Steller's Jay and I was lucky enough to spot several beside the Visitor Center.

It took a while before I could get a photo that showed this species' plumage.

There were other birds around, of course. American Robins were everywhere.

White-crowned Sparrows were plentiful, too.

This young White-crowned seemed to think he was invisible and so I was able to get a close-up shot.

A female Brewer's Blackbird was another bird that let me get a close-up.

So I'd spent a pleasant hour in Brighton, even though I hadn't seen anything very exciting. I headed back to my car to start the drive down to Salt Lake City. Then suddenly a deer galloped across in front of me. Except it wasn't a deer. It was a moose. Yes!

So I can finally cross "moose" off my list of American animals I'd like to see. Now I just have to find some way to see a wolf, a bear and a mountain lion.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Nevada & Utah Trip: Cedar Breaks

Cedar Breaks National Monument is always worth a visit, because the landscape is so spectacular.

When we visited this time, the site was even more beautiful than usual because the wildflowers were in bloom.

The Columbines were particularly striking.


I never have much luck with seeing wildlife at Cedar Breaks and this time was no different. One of the few animals I saw was this chipmunk.

Birds were few and far between: some Common Ravens, lots of White-crowned Sparrows (below), a couple of Northern Flickers and Mountain Chickadees, a solitary White-throated Swift and a Broad-tailed Hummingbird (below).

The highlight was finding a group of Dark-eyed Juncos that fussed around a picnic table I was sitting at.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Nevada & Utah Trip: Cedar City

Most of our time in Utah was spent in our relatives' house, perched at 7,500 feet and overlooking Cedar City.

A single hummingbird feeder on the deck attracted a succession of Black-chinned, Broad-tailed and Rufous Hummingbirds.


Other birds were scarce around the house, although I saw fly-throughs by Lesser Goldfinch, Western Scrub Jays and Northern Flickers. Every morning a bird would sing (cheep, cheep and then a descending trill) from somewhere nearby but I could never locate it. On our final day I managed to see that it was a Spotted Towhee.

Several hundred feet above the house there is a small lake that had American Coots, Mallards and a Sora. Even  higher than that there is a lookout area which I always enjoy visiting. Western Scrub Jays were surveying their territory from the tops of bushes there.

Black-capped Chickadees foraged in other bushes, while Green-tailed Towhees explored the ground.

Further up the mountainside I stopped to look for woodpeckers. After an hour I had seen Green-tailed Towhees, a Mountain Bluebird and a pair of House Wrens (below) but no woodpeckers.

Then my luck changed. A pair of Northern Flickers called and bowed to each other in a mating display on a distant tree-top. Then, a little nearer, there was a familiar drumming sound. It took a while but I finally located the source: a Hairy Woodpecker.

Another morning I drove the few miles to Kolob Canyon, part of Zion National Park. The canyon is lined with spectacular cliffs.

The ridge walk at the top looks over towards the main section of Zion NP.

I was hoping to see California Condors and perhaps some large raptors from the ridge. Instead I saw only Western Scrub Jays, Common Ravens and White-throated Swifts.

On yet another morning we all traveled to Cedar Breaks National Monument. But I'll report on that in my next blog.