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False Spring at Antelope Island

posted by Jeff Bilsky at
on Saturday, December 11, 2010 

A couple of weeks ago, as winter's wrath pounded Northern Utah, Antelope Island was besieged by cold and wind and ice. There was a feeling of desperation as birds fed with frenzy and determination. Today, as I pulled up to the island around noon, there was little wind, no gray clouds, and the sun was shining; the sky was blue and the ice had significantly receded. It was in the 40's and had I not known my calendar, I would've thought spring was closer than it is.

As I slowly drove the roughly 6 mile causeway I spotted a couple of Northern Harriers harassing another, larger raptor that turned out to be a Rough-legged Hawk. This was actually the first one I've seen this season and after escaping the Harriers it briefly hovered in place over the marsh, looking for a meal below. Further down the road I happened upon a flock of 30 or so Killdeer. In years past, Killdeer flocks in the winter at Antelope Island have produced some pretty interesting tag-along birds such as Ruff and American Golden Plover. However, not today.

During these winter months, the last bridge on the causeway prior to reaching the island is usually the place to go birding. This is because the water resists freezing here, providing a feeding station. During one of those recent frozen days I mentioned earlier, I counted 100's of Goldeneyes, 9 Long-tailed Ducks, and a host of other ducks, grebes and Gulls. With the ice having pushed further out, there was less of a concentration today but, of interest, I did see a lone Long-tailed Duck and a dozen or so Bonaparte's Gulls amongst the groups of Eared Grebes, Common Goldeneyes, and Ruddy Ducks. Per my previous post today, I spotted a probable Thayer's Gull here as well.

After the causeway, I headed over to Lady-finger Point. It was relatively quiet, save fly-over Ravens and a familiar sound over the rocks that led me to a group of 20 or so Chukars.

As I drove around the island, I stopped briefly at a patch of Russian Olive Trees. The birds were scarce, but the Porcupines, plentiful.

My final stop was Garr Ranch. A Cooper's Hawk hunted Quail. The Virginia Rails laughed. As the day moved on, the clouds began to cover the sun, and the temperature dropped. I was reminded that this false spring was merely an illusion, but hopefully the birds were able to enjoy it as much as I was; a brief reprieve from winter's chill.

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Blogger Tim Avery said...

I think you need to start a column, "Nature with Bilsky"... It would be attenborough-esque in tone and content...

December 12, 2010 at 4:47 PM  
Blogger Jeff Bilsky said...

Spot on!

December 12, 2010 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger Tim Avery said...

A truly glorious quote:

"the wild ass have arrived!"
-David Attenborough

December 12, 2010 at 5:04 PM  
Blogger Jeff Bilsky said...

No one calls it like Attenborough. I wonder if he is like that with his family or when doing just normal stuff. "The pizza has arrived. Now, nature asks that unforgiving, cruelest of questions. Who will pay for it?"

December 12, 2010 at 7:08 PM  

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