Torrey, Utah is just west of the entrance to Capital Reef National Park, a park that does not draw the number of visitors as the others, but it is equally as beautiful and worth the visit. With fewer visitors, it does tend to cater to birding enthusiasts such as I. When I was planning this trip to Utah to visit relatives, I did a lot of research on eBird to see what species have been reported in much of the area that I was visiting to see if there were any possibilities of any new species to be found. And I found only 1 species and that was the Chukar, an introduced game bird in the western United States that has become established in many areas. The sightings had all come from Capital Reef National Park, with the last report dating back to May of 2014. I was confident that the birds were there somewhere, but did not have high expectations in finding any. Must have been my lucky day as I stopped in one of the shops in the park and was visiting with 2 ladies that worked there and while I was visiting, one of the local Park Rangers came in with some freshly picked peaches for them to sell and overheard me asking about Chukar sightings. He quickly mentioned that he had seen a fairly sizable flock just the day before in one of the fenced off, enclosed and locked orchards and he asked me if I wanted he would take me there! What an incredibly nice man to offer to take me to where he had seen Chukars. We drove about a mile down the road and came to the enclosed orchard and then unlocked the gate and we took off looking for this bird. We walked and scoured the rocky hillsides and grassy areas for quite a distance and I was beginning to think our timing was off as we were coming to the end of the orchard. And suddenly, there they were, 8 of them running in the grass. Might not have been the best photos, but just being able to add them to my life list was really sweet. We watched them for awhile and then quickly retreated to leave them alone and cause any undo stress to them..
With my one and only target bird finally conquered, I considered my vacation a rounding success for birding.
Capital Reef National Park
One other bird that I was able to capture a photo, was a Plumbeous Vireo in Capital Reef National Park.
In the afternoon, we all took a drive to Bicknell Bottoms, where I added several other birds to my Utah list. I was surprised to hear and then see about 10 Sandhill Cranes, and if I had been paying more attention looking out my window, maybe I could have gotten a better photo than I did.
A few bird photos from the yard included a regular Western Scrub Jay and a Pine Siskin.
Western Scrub Jay
Finally Friday rolled around and it was time to depart and head back to Arizona. For the trip back we headed east on Highway 24 through some very desolate areas where the pit stops and human habitation were few and far between. While traveling down Highway 95 in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, where cars were few and far apart (averaged meeting only 1 vehicle every 6 miles), we came around a bend and found some Bighorn Sheep. The adult ewe was grazing on grass along the highway while 2 younger lambs were keeping a safe distance in the rocky cliffs on the side of the highway. To find this on last day was pretty awesome! Not always easy to see these mammals up close and personal.
Definitely an outstanding vacation and it makes we want to return. There is some really awesome wild and remotes areas to be found in Utah and northern Arizona. Will add this to my lists of places to return to.