Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Antelope Island

Bison at Antelope Island State Park
We wandered further North into the state of Utah searching for the Chukar. This bird originally hails from Pakistan but was introduced into the US as a game bird.  The bird prefers rocky and arid landscape which was exactly the reason why we had to go to Utah.

Helping us find this bird was none other than Mia McPherson.  She is one of the best wildlife photographers out there.  And it turns out that she's also a wonderful person to get to know!  Our main target was the exploration of Antelope Island State Park near Salt Lake City.  It's located within the glassy waters of the Great Salt Lake.

Thousands of American Avocets hang out near the causeway
As we scanned the causeway onto the island, we saw thousands of birds covering the patchy stretches of water around the Great Salt Lake. Today that "lake" is disappearing due to drought conditions and water usage. Waterless piers that once held skimmers are now void of any traffic.  Hopefully, Utah will benefit from the wet El Niño winter pattern that has begun to take hold for many of the Western states.  

Western Meadowlark near the empty piers
And yet, there are still areas that have larger patches of water. It's strangely a beautiful sight to see.  There were so many water birds around this island that I forgot we were exploring a drier area of the US. 

Phalaropes fly over our heads from out of nowhere!
Once on the island, I kept my eyes and ears open for the Chukar.

Several moments later, I heard "different" birds making an unusual chatty sound nearby the visitor center.  My eyes focused on the various rock outcroppings and boulders in the area.  And then...... happened!  I saw Chukars sitting on top of rocks.  And not just one or two but MANY!  I quietly walked down the path and turned the corner of a large boulder.  As I did, a pair of Chukars faced me only several feet away.  And in that moment of quiet, we watched each other carefully.

Antelope Island is truly a magical space that doesn't feel anything at all like Utah.  Or maybe it does feel like Utah? I don't know.  I haven't visited enough of Utah to make a judgement, but I can tell you that I loved it. I highly recommend this state park for a visit. There were RV's parked in their camping areas and I was a bit envious that people were able to spend several nights on this island.

Sage Thrasher
The golden light of the Utah sun made for wonderful photo opportunities. A pair of Sage Thrashers popped up on greasewood for some lovely views.

Horned Lark
While Mia navigated around the island, we were always careful to keep an eye open for the many bison walking around the roads and paths.

We stopped along the way investigating unusual habitat on the island.  At this particular stop(below), Mia showed us an older Black-billed Magpie nest.  This dome creation is a piece of art!

At one point, I had my window open and almost fell asleep.  I was SO relaxed. The urban sprawl of Salt Lake City stopped at the the entrance to the causeway.  And the island was a sanctuary of peaceful thoughts.

The golden browns of the landscape can make bird spotting a challenge.  Take for example this Wilson's Snipe below.  Mia spotted the bird along a riparian area and it took me several minutes to find her snipe!!!  It was only a couple feet away from my face!  Camouflage!

Wilson's Snipe
Our adventures in Utah would continue one more day.

I'd like to thank Mia for her friendship and also for her time showing us around the natural spaces of Salt Lake City.  I will never forget this trip out to Antelope Island. 

On our final voyage into Utah, there was one other bird I so badly needed to find.  Stay tuned for more......


  1. A great post, Chris, with some excellent photography to complete the story. Please excuse this dumb question, but is the water of the lake as saline as the the name of the city would suggest? I ask because I would have expected to see salt deposits at the water's edge - particularly if the lake is slowly drying out.

    Best wishes to you both - - Richard

    1. Yes. It's salty alright:) The pictures don't do justice but there is quite a bit of the white crusty rocky salt stuff in most spots. I think because some of that area is wet, it gives the impression that there isn't any salt in the water at all. Strange area:)

  2. Chris, you already know I love that place. I am so glad you got to see it and I am happy you found your bird! And I am REALLY happy you got to meet Mia! Too bad the Short-eared Owls weren't around yet!

  3. Great post. I've been wanting to visit Antelope Island based mostly on the work Ron and Mia do there. Nice to see your perspective.

  4. Love seeing the Bison in that landscape and I am pleasse you saw many Chukars

  5. A gret adventure! I would be so happy to see so many American Avocets. They are rare here!

  6. Chris, it was such a joy to show you and Michael around the island and see it through your eyes and feel your excitement!

    Richard, west of the island on the western shore of the lake you can see more of the salt deposits, also at the far northern shore near Promontory Point. Even further west on the Bonneville Flats the ground can be pure white with fluffy salt deposits.

    The salinity of the lake varies with the water level, less water means it is more saline.

    I hope that you and Michael will come back to Utah again Chris, I'd love to take you out into the west desert or to travel along the Promontory Mountains south the Promontory Point.

  7. The beautiful island primarily due to the resident birds, bison and beautiful deer. CIES out that you were happy to stay there. Pzdrawiam.

  8. The beautiful island primarily due to the resident birds, bison and beautiful deer. I am glad that you were happy to stay there. Regards.

  9. Congrats on a cool bird! And that Mule Deer--holy smokes, that is the biggest one I've seen!

  10. Lovely post Chris and well done on the Chukars. Wonderful photos of the bison - what an adventure :)

  11. Hello Chris!:) The chukar is a great looking bird, so glad you found it. Super shots of all the wildlife on the Island.:)

  12. Oh wonderful ... We visited the Island about 15 years ago, before I really got interested in birding. Wish we could go back! Utah is a fascinating state geographically .... So many wonderful parks....

  13. What a great place and such a variety of wildlife.

  14. Oh, what a magical post! Loved seeing all the waterbirds in that arid state. I had never heard of Antelope Island and now I would love to visit! I LOVE that stag, and the bison! Beautiful images. So glad your visit there was a great one!

  15. Chris it looks like you all had fun and you took some great shots to share too~


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