Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Day and a Half in Southwestern Utah

I had some fun experiences during the day and a half I spent recently in the St George area of Utah. I was going to create a few posts from the trip, but I decided to simply share random images of birds, scenery, mammals, and plants from the trip. I saw over 100 species of birds so only a few are included in this post. While I am not including images, I did see two Roadrunners during my trip. I've learned to not look for them because they appear when you don't expect them. If you look for them you'll never see them. That's been my experience with them.

I spent about an hour at Tonaquint Park as soon as I arrived in St George. I needed to burn some time while waiting for other birders to get into town. The red on the face of this Western Tanager is naturally occurring, part of its plumage. The red on the bill, however, is staining from the mulberries he was enjoying in that tree.

Western Tanager at Tonaquint Park in St George, UT
Lesser Goldfinch at Tonaquint Park in St George, UT
Rock Squirrel at Tonaquint Park in St George, UT
Yellow Warbler at Tonaquint Park in St George, UT
I had dinner with a birding friend, Eric Peterson, and two of his friends who flew in from Wisconsin to experience southwest birding. We had some good Mexican Food and shared some good birding and nature stories before heading to bed for the night.

We started our full day together at Lytle Ranch, a must-visit birding oasis in the middle of the desert near the Utah-Nevada border. We saw a number of birds, many of which were life birds for our Wisconsin friends, birds that they were seeing for the first time in their lives.

This is the best view and photo I've gotten thus far of a Bell's Vireo that was singing excitedly as we came upon it.

Bell's Vireo at Lytle Ranch Washington County, UT
Eric Peterson's eagle eye caught the presence of a male Costa's Hummingbird. I love their long purple gorget feathers. All of the feathers on the head, face and throat will shine a bright purple in the right lighting. These images give a hint of the bright coloring.

Costa's Hummingbird at Lytle Ranch in St George, UT
Costa's Hummingbird at Lytle Ranch Washington County, UT
Phainopepla at Lytle Ranch Washington County, UT
Lucy's Warblers were everywhere, but they were always dodging the camera and this was the best I could come away with. At least you can see the touch of head they have on the tops of their heads. Otherwise they are plain looking little warblers.

Lucy's Warbler at Lytle Ranch Washington County, UT
Yellow-breasted Chat at Lytle Ranch Washington County, UT
We birded along the eleven-mile road out of the remote ranch to the main highway (Hwy 91), picking up more life birds for our Wisconsin friends. We then drove about twenty minutes up to Gunlock Reservoir State Park.

Western Kingbird Minus its Tail--Near Gunlock Reservoir Washington County, UT
I think the White-tailed Antelope Squirrels are my favorite of the ground squirrels. That little white tail seems to be constantly at attention. I think their pattern and coloring are really cool.

White-tailed Antelope Squirrel Gunlock Reservoir State Park Gunlock, UT
I really need to spend more time photographing the plants of Utah. I love seeing bright flowers coming from prickly and arid circumstances.

Spring Blossom on a Hedgehog Cactus Growing on Rock Near Gunlock Reservoir State Park
When the heat started picking up in the lowland desert habitats we drove into the mountains near Zion National Park. We took Kolob Terrace Road up to Lava Point Campground. The temperature was about 25 degrees cooler in the mountains. We enjoyed the scenery and birds of several habitats such as pinyon-juniper, Ponderosa Pine, and Aspen at the higher elevations.

Red Rock Cliffs Along Kolob Terrace Road Washington County, UT
Looking Back While Ascending Kolob Terrace Road in Washington County, UT
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Along Kolob Terrace Road in Washington County, UT
We saw Lewis's Woodpeckers, but I didn't get photographs since I'd seen them a number of times before. Now I wish I had captured some, but I did capture a few decent images of a pair of Acorn Woodpeckers. There aren't too many places to see these woodpeckers in Utah, but spots along Kolob Terrace Road are pretty reliable for these funny-faced woodpeckers.

One of Two Acorn Woodpeckers Along Kolob Terrace Road in Washington County, UT
One of Two Acorn Woodpeckers Along Kolob Terrace Road in Washington County, UT
Spring Blossom of Prickly Pear Cactus Along Kolob Terrace Road in Washington County, UT
Virginia's Warbler Kolob Terrace Road Washington County, UT
White-breasted Nuthatch at Lava Point Campground Washington County, UT
Grace's Warbler is not very common, but they are a little more common at Lava Point Campground this time of year. I wish this one would have come into the light and closer. It is a beautiful warbler and this picture doesn't do it justice.

Grace's Warbler at Lava Point Campground in Washington County, UT
And the highlight of the trip was observing a Common Black-Hawk that is nowhere near being Common in Utah.

Common Black-Hawk in Washington County, UT


  1. Looks familiar (and gorgeous)!
    You guys rocked it, picked up just about everything. What a treat it must have been for the Wisconsin contingent too.

    1. Thanks, Laurence. One of our Wisconsin picked up 70 new bird species during his few days in Utah. When birding seems to be getting old, take someone who is not used to what you are seeing and the excitement returns.

  2. Wonderful capture of wildlife and scenery, Jeff. Great job, as always!

    1. Good to hear from you on the blog, Ann. Thank you. I would love to make it to Ireland some day to experience your outdoor life.