Ranger Kathryn's Arches

June 5, 2013

Birds. Everywhere.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 6:36 am
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Pair of Western Grebes bobs in the shallow waterway. May 22.

Pair of Western Grebes bob in the shallow waterway.

For three years I’ve been wanting to investigate the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge — one of Roger Tory Peterson’s top twelve birding hotspots in North America. It was finally time.

Tucked between the Wasatch Front and the Promontory Mountains, wetlands at the north end of the Great Salt Lake provide habitat for over 270 bird species in an other-worldly setting. The sun was just rising over the mountains as I cruised down the Auto Tour road with my beloved Chris.

By dawn’s light, our first birds standing in the open grassland looked surreal; their prodigious curved bills seemed out of proportion to their bodies. Long-billed Curlews called to one another, trying to get the attention of a possible mate, courtship rituals making them oblivious to our presence.

Spotting scope's magnification is not optional in wetlands. Water levels are managed by huge system of dikes and valves. May 22.

Spotting scope’s higher magnification is necessary in wetlands. Water levels are managed by huge system of dikes and valves.

Further in, grasslands gave way to shallow ponds which teemed with waterfowl. Spotting scope replaced binoculars. “Hey — that grebe looks slightly different from the others.” A quick look in the Sibley field guide confirmed that we were seeing Clark’s Grebes in among the dozens of Western Grebes. A lifer! Chris added the species to our growing list of sightings on this flawless late-spring morning.

American Avocets and Black-necked Stilts occupied every shoreline, making me smile and shake my head at rich colors, bold patterns, length of legs. White-faced Ibis and Cinnamon Teal appeared around each turn of the road, with various herons and egrets dotting the landscape. An occasional White Pelican fished in the distance while the voices of Sora and American Bittern intrigued us from rushes nearby. Cliff Swallows by the dozens fluttered into mud puddles to pick up nest construction material. A Marsh Wren peeked out from her pouch-shaped nest built on cattail stems. Perched on a driftwood log, a Peregrine Falcon waited patiently for its next meal to pass by. Four dozen species — a memorable May 22.

These Cliff Swallows never stopped fluttering their wings while picking up mud balls for their nests. Highly selective about mud's consistency. May 22.

These Cliff Swallows never stopped fluttering their wings while picking up mud balls for their nests. They were highly selective about mud’s consistency.

It was glorious.

And you know what is even MORE glorious? Sharing a day of discovery with one who delights at your delight, sees things you can’t see, connects the dots on avian ecology, and opens your car door for you even though you’re perfectly capable. Chivalry? Alive and well. Being in love? No words to describe.

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