Photo by Greg Hume
It can be hard to appreciate the sparrows and starlings that so jubilantly wake you at 4 a.m., or the Rock and Mourning Doves that seem to take equal pleasure in repainting your car the garish shade of "bird crap meringue." In fact, with seagulls and ducks molesting your family picnic at Sugar House Park, and the fear of anserine assaults looming over your walk around the pond, it's difficult to suppress the Hitchcockian sensation that birds are a surly and sadistic bunch.
That is, until you spot a family of quail scurrying single file across the street or watch any seabird waddle-walk with those ludicrously fat feet. It's those moments, the tittering bird song and puddle baths, that delight and amuse us—to say nothing of the dashing colors that Mother Nature typically shies from. All that (and the endless inspiration of flight of course) negates the flaws of scruple-less pigeons and aggressive geese while providing the basis of admiration for bird enthusiasts throughout Utah.
If you count yourself among those avian admirers, then it's time to grab a pair of binoculars and go on dawn patrol to one of these late spring birding hotspots.
No list of local birding locales would be complete without Antelope Island. This tiny islet on the Great Salt Lake is tied to two other famous birdwatching destinations: The Causeway, internationally known for its massive shorebird flocks, and Garr Ranch, which is located at the Southeast end of the island and home to dozens of songbird varieties. Flocks numbering into the 100,000's of migrant Wilson's Phalarope will soon swarm through the causeway come July, and rare varieties of Sandpipers can be spotted week-to-week. The island proper has collected an assortment of owl species, including Burrowing Owl, Long- and Short-Eared, and Great Horned Owl.
Draper Wetland Park (Mehabran Wetland Park)
An underutilized spot, this little park is great for spying out raptors and various waterfowl. It has a few trails weaving around the habitat as well as two attractive ponds. American Kestrel's and Sharp-Shinned Hawks make frequent appearances, and the bulbous heads of Hooded Mergansers can occasionally be seen gliding pompously along the water (though typically in the winter or early spring).
Accessible through Mantua from early spring into the fall, this basin hosts a potpourri of habitats. Mountain Bluebirds, Juniper Titmouse, and Red Crossbill can all be found, but Sapsuckers and Woodpeckers are special treats among the multitude of birds here. At dusk Flammulated Owls start their evening hunts, making Willard Basin a worthwhile full-day expedition.
Found 10 miles east of Ogden, the Pineview Reservoir is ideal for late-spring spotting of Osprey and Bobolink. Rarer sightings of Pacific Loon and Red-Necked Grebe are also possible but more common are and Fox Sparrows and Cedar Waxwing as well as intermittent visits of Red-tailed Hawk.