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Grab your binoculars: Spring on Great Salt Lake means baby birds galore

First Published      Last Updated May 11 2017 11:17 am


Birding » Late spring and early summer bring great variety of young birds and more to the marshes of Great Salt Lake.

The Great Salt Lake marshes and wildlife refuges are places of wonder and beauty, serving the dual purpose as nesting, feeding and resting areas for millions of birds and as destinations for nature lovers.

Those two purposes don't always go hand in hand. Access to places such as Farmington Bay, Bear River, Ogden Bay and Salt Creek can be limited in order to protect the young birds.

Yet there are almost always places to be found to view wildlife — by foot or car — that reveal the wonders of the Great Salt Lake.

And with the marsh system now receiving more water than in recent years, conditions should be even better for birds and bird-watchers.




What to look out for

Those who venture out — and Farmington Bay manager Jason Jones said about 100,000 people visit his area every year — need to follow the rules.

"This is a safe haven for wildlife," said Jones. "Even the staff does not go behind the gates unless we absolutely have to."

One of the reasons is that many nesting birds are on the dikes created to manage water. If the nests are disturbed, eggs or young birds become more vulnerable to predators such as ravens.

Jones said there are many wonders to see throughout the year. There will, for example, be close to a million Wilson's phalaropes using the Great Salt Lake. Watching these birds fly in wavelike formations is a treat.

The Bear River Bird Refuge's Andrea Johnson said May is a time when nearly all of the breeding bird species are present on the refuge. Birds such as double-crested cormorants, great blue herons, mallards, white-faced ibis and California gulls are nesting.

"In late spring and early summer, all the young are out," said Johnson. "You are going to see Western and Clark grebes, avocets, ducklings and goslings."

At Farmington Bay, the heron nests on tall posts visible from the road are great places to see these majestic birds. Having a scope or a good pair of binoculars is helpful.

By the end of May, fuzzy duck broods of mallards, newly hatched American avocets and Canada geese goslings can often be seen at the refuges.

In June, according to Bear River officials, Canada geese undergo a wing molt and are grounded, gathering on the large open-water wetlands of the refuge. The young of black-crowned night herons, great blue herons and snowy egrets have hatched and are being fed by their parents within the nesting colonies.

Also expect to see black-necked stilt, gadwall and ruddy duck broods around mid-June. American white pelicans, one of the largest and easiest-to-spot birds, will be seen in feeding flights. Visitors might even be lucky enough to be treated to the sight of Western and Clark's grebes running across the water as part of their courtship ritual.

And July is the best month to view a variety of young birds.

Planning a visit

There is no charge to visit any of the refuges that follow. Just remember to bring binoculars and mosquito repellent.

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