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2 Days in St. George

posted by Jeff Bilsky at
on Sunday, January 29, 2012 

I spent Friday and Saturday in St. George to relax and get some birding in. The St. George Winter Bird Festival was going on Thursday-Saturday and is an event I try to attend every year. It's cool to see so many birders all over town. At every major birding hotspot there'd always be cars coming and going and birders on the move asking what you're seeing and telling stories of what they witnessed. I woke up at 4am Friday morning to drive down and join Rick Fridell and his trip intended for the city of Hurricane. However, true to its name, the wind was absolutely unbearable in this area and the birding was difficult. However, one highlight on this segment was a stop at Stratton Pond where side by side comparisons of Greater and Lesser Scaup showed differences I didn't even know about - in terms of bill shape and size. Rick was a great teacher.

The wind was whipping at Sandhollow SP

After a phone call and a check on the conditions just a few miles away, we headed out to the Washington Fields where it was supposedly less windy. There has been a White-tailed Kite in this area for the last several weeks and after some looking at the "usual" spots, we were able to track it down and get incredible looks.

White-tailed Kite

Other highlights on this day included a whole host of wintering Savannah and Vesper Sparrows; a big surprise in terms of numbers this year. We weren't able to find the Lark Buntings that have been around. We did see a couple of Prairie Falcons, a Merlin, and several Kestrels to make a nice falcon sp day. A first year male Vermilion Flycatcher was a great find. A couple of Roadrunners and Mountain Bluebirds gave great looks as well.

Saturday I woke up early and headed out to Lytle Ranch, my favorite place to visit. The views alone make it worth it. The birding is usually incredible as well.

The road to Lytle Ranch

Along the road to the ranch, I found a handful of Cactus Wrens and a surprising Sage Thrasher. At the ranch itself, I walked all over and found several specialty birds for the area including the following: Western Bluebirds, Phainopeplas, Verdin, Crissal Thrasher, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Black Phoebe, Bewick's Wrens, Savannah Sparrows, Gambel's Quail etc. Less usual, were a pair of Long-eared Owls roosting and a male Anna's Hummingbird. Also, all the way at the end of the main walk, in the river, was a mixed group of ducks that included several Green-winged Teal and a lone American Wigeon and Hooded Merganser. Other nice birds included one Lincoln's Sparrow and a Hermit Thrush. It really paid off to be patient, quiet, and slow as I wandered the ranch. There's always one more bird and one more spot to check.

Heading back from Lytle Ranch

I decided to spend my afternoon close to Zion National Park - just about an hour or so away from where I was. My first stop was to look for Rufous-crowned Sparrows in Springdale. I was successful and added another life bird. I have tried several times; it was nice to finally see one of these.

Rufous-crowned Sparrow

Finally, I drove up the Kolob Reservoir Road - well as far as I could get before the snows stopped me. Not a lot of bird life to be found, but a nice flock of Pygmy and White-breasted Nuthatches was fun to see.

Kolob Reservoir Road

As usual, this trip to St. George was memorable and fun. Can't wait to get back down there.

Good Birding.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you zoom your camera in when taking pictures through a spotting scope, you will avoid the circle pic. Took me a while to figure it out.

January 30, 2012 at 7:11 PM  
Blogger Jeff Bilsky said...

@anonymous - Thanks for the tip - it is one that I normally would use when I take pics using a point and shoot. However, both of those pics were taken with a droid camera phone. It was quite challenging just to line up the lens with my binos/scope since it is just a flat opening on the back of my phone.

January 30, 2012 at 7:16 PM  
Anonymous Rick Fridell said...

Hey Jeff,
Nice trip, you cleaned up at Lytle! It was great hanging with you, looking forward to seeing you back down here sometime soon.

January 31, 2012 at 11:33 PM  
Blogger Tim Avery said...

I think that Wigeon at Lytle is a first--just checked ebird and at least in there it is. I can't recall another report--although there might have been. The list for that place is easily over 250 species now (eBird is VERY incomplete) which is why it is so amazing--who would have though a mile and a half stretch of trees in the middle of the desert could produce so many birds!

Love that place!

February 2, 2012 at 12:25 PM  

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