I think my favorite organized field trip that I took at the 2008 American Birding Association Convention was the Upper Deseret Ranch Field Trip, in part because there was a double Bill for field trip leaders: Bill Fenimore and Bill Schmoker. They are two of my favorite Birding Bills and was excited to watch them as field trip leaders. Fenimore leads trips regularly to Deseret Ranch, so if you are in or near Layton, UT, I highly recommend contacting him for his daily guiding rates. He's pleasant company and he knows the area and birds like the back of his hand--also, it's privately owned by the Mormons and you're really not getting in without him. However, it is SO WORTH IT--absolutely gorgeous.
Here is a life bird that I got on the trip--a MacGillivray's warbler. I decided to see how the other half lives on this trip--I became a lister for this convention. I've always just made little checks in my field guides for new birds and about a week before the con, I decided to count them. I learned that I was 25 species away from 500 birds on my North American bird list--who knew? I also did some research and found that there were close to 40 potential species I could get in Utah. I decided to go for it.
Check out this pack of birders, focused and ready on a cool bird. One of the cool things about going to an ABA event when you are close to a birding goal is that EVERYONE comes out of the woodwork to help you. Even though I was there helping at the Swarovski Booth, some of the Leica guys came over to go my bird potential list and give tips on where to go--heck they even invited me on the flammulated owl posse. The man who organized every field trip for the convention came by to offer pointers on my list, field trip leaders made it there personal goal to get me to my 500--it was wonderful camaraderie and really reminded me of why I love the birding community. Listing is not bad and I wish more listers and casual birders would get along. They are two different types of birding but each fun in their own way.
There were some familiar birds around, like cedar waxwings. I wasn't paying much attention as everyone was watching them and Fenimore came over to me and said, "Sharon, these birds are so close and a great shot, can you get a photo?" I think that because I was so focused on getting as many species as possible this trip that my digiscoping suffered a bit for it. Thanks for the reminder, Bill.
But where many of the birds lacked color, the Deseret Ranch landscape more than made up the palette. I sat in the back of the bus with Father Tom (well known Texas birder and one of the organizers of the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival that I'll be going to this fall). FT and I had both been on the owl posse the night before and were both operating on three hours of sleep but each kept pointing out the magnificent views and colors of the landscape.
For lunch, we stopped by a mountain stream to relax. The stream was made up of freshly melted snow and ice in the surrounding mountains. It was 90 some odd degrees out, so after lunch, I stepped in the water.
Here's a golden eagle chick. Golden eagles in Utah were about as common as bald eagles in Minnesota. It was fun to scan the cliffs for patches of white--indicating lots of poop and raptor nests. We also found a prairie falcon aerie too. You really felt like you were on some sort of adventure riding around in these mountains.