Ella Sorensen, a charter member of the Utah Ornithological Society and an experienced shore-bird watcher, suggests several places along the Great Salt Lake for the novice.
"Head out of Farmington toward Farmington Bay, and cross the railroad tracks," she said. "Turn onto the dirt frontage road, and there are usually many birds there. Another good spot is the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, between Brigham City and Bear River. Drive toward the lake as far as you can safely go. And there's also usually good viewing along the south shore of the lake, around the marinas."Along the lake's shore, she has seen flocks of at least 100,000 sandpipers (also called peeps) heading north and knows that 34 varieties have been identified here.
"Willets are seen in huge numbers in the fall. They nest here, then fly south. They are gray, nondescript sandpipers, but when they fly, they flash bold black and white wings, and they call their name."
She likes to see the long-billed dowitcher, a bird about a foot long with rusty underparts, that "feeds like a sewing machine."
Among the most obvious and spectacular are two birds that stay in Utah to breed: the avocet, about 18 inches long, with an orangey head, striking black and white body and wings, and upward-curving bill; and the black-necked stilt, with black and white body and long, bright pink legs.
"Killdeers are plovers; they have two bands around their necks, and they say `killdeer.' They nest in and symbolize the marshes," she said. "Watch for the marbled godwit, about 18 inches long, rusty-speckled with long legs and bill; also the long-billed curlew, a handsome cinnamon-colored bird between 24 ounces and two pounds, that nests in the grass and divides its time between lake and grasslands.
"Western grebes are large black and white birds with long necks and very red eyes, which dive for their food. Their mating dance is especially interesting. They are here in huge numbers in the fall. Forster's terns are more graceful than gulls. Terns have more black on them than gulls, and reddish bills, and dive for their food."
If you are interested in bird watching information, contact Ella Sorensen, 3868 Marsha Drive, West Valley City, UT 84120.
Shore bird-related events:
On April 22, the local Audubon chapters, the Utah Ornithological Society and Division of Wildlife Resources will conduct a survey to learn more about the diverse species and numbers of shore birds that use the Great Salt Lake during the spring migration.
The Museum of Natural History, along with the Nature Conservancy, will sponsor a display, "Tracks in the Sky," May 6-June 18, consisting of photos by Tupper Ansel Blake, who has documented the Pacific flyway from Canada to South America.
Bob Walters, avian non-game program coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, will organize a public dedication ceremony to officially recognize inclusion of the Great Salt Lake as a Hemispheric Site within the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. The date will be in late July or early August, depending upon peak Wilson's phalarope migration.