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Pitta Nature Tours
Utah
Highlights

With visits to the Great Salt Lake, Zion National Park, the Beaver Dam Conservation Area, and Kolob Plateau, this will be a memorable tour highlighting the variety of birds and places Utah has to offer at the height of migration.

In partnership with the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival.

Upcoming Tour Date(s)

May 13-16, 2024

1 of 7 Spaces Available

Itinerary

Itinerary subject to change due to weather, birding conditions, and other factors out of our control.

Clark's Grebe in Northern Utah

Day 1 - Mon, May 13 From the Great Salt Lake to the Mojave Desert

To make the most out of our 4-days, we will be departing SLC at 6:00 AM today.  If you are flying in on the 10th we will help you plan accommodations for pick up this morning, and if you are a Utah resident, we will provide meeting details prior to the start of the tour.

Our first highlight will be a visit to the Great Salt Lake where migrant shorebirds, waterfowl, and other waterbirds should be a nice introduction to the region.  Long-billed CurlewSnowy PloverWilson’s Phalarope, and American Avocet are some of the shorebirds we expect to encounter.  Eared Grebe, American White PelicanNeotropic Cormorant, and both Clark’s Grebe and Western Grebe should be some of the other waterbird highlights this morning.  Being in the midst of songbird migration we will make time to visit several migrant traps in hopes of starting to accumulate a nice songbird list for the week.  Western Tanager, Lazuli BuntingBlack-headed Grosbeak, and Bullock’s Oriole are some of the more colorful species possible.  A variety of migrant warblers and flycatchers are possible, and given the time of year, just about anything might show up! In past years we’ve found Least Flycatcher, Indigo BuntingNorthern Waterthrush, and Lark Bunting during the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival.

After spending the morning indulging in the habitats around the lake, we’ll begin our journey to southwest Utah and the northern edge of the Mojave desert.  The drive takes about 4-hours, but we may break this up with several stops for birds along the way depending on current conditions.  After checking in to our hotel and having dinner, we’ll explore the habitats along the Virgin River nearby and see where Summer TanagerBlue GrosbeakWestern Bluebird, and Vermilion Flycatcher might be present.  If time permits we may also try for Western Screech-Owl before calling it a night.

Night in Hurricane, Utah

Common Black Hawk

Day 2 - Tue, May 14 Desert Target Birds

Today we will depart the hotel 20 minutes before sunrise to visit a number of local parks and lakes.  Our first stop will be to focus on a trio of desert sparrows: Rufous-crowned SparrowBlack-chinned Sparrow, and Black-throated Sparrow. Birding our way through Hirrican,e Washington, and St. George, we will focus on tracking down birds like Abert’s TowheeVermilion FlycatcherCrissal ThrasherHooded OrioleWhite-winged DoveInca Dove, and Annas Hummingbird. This area of the state is the only place to find these species with any regularity in Utah!  We’ll see what migrant waterbirds are present at several reservoirs, and wrap up our morning with a delicious lunch.  

After lunch, we will ascend to 8,000’ for the rest of the day.  The drive to the Kolob Plateau will take us through juniper, oak, pine, and aspen woodlands, allowing for a large diversity of species and possibilities.  Juniper TitmouseWoodhouse’s Scrub-JayPygmy NuthatchGrace’s Warbler, and Lewis’s Woodpecker are some of the species we hope to track down.  Other possible highlights include Vesper SparrowCassin’s FinchViolet-green SwallowMountain Bluebird, and if we are really lucky, Acorn Woodpecker.  As daylight begins to fade, we’ll enjoy a charcuterie of meats, cheeses, nuts, fruits, crackers, and other treats in the midst of the incredible scenery here.  After dark, we’ll see what nocturnal species we can track down.  In the past, we’ve located Common PoorwillNorthern Saw-whet OwlNorthern Pygmy-Owl, and even Spotted Owl at this location.  The focus tonight will be the Flammulated Owl, one of the smallest owls in the world, and Utah is one of if not the best place in the world to see this species.  Once we’ve exhausted our Owling opportunities, we’ll make the drive back to the hotel for the night.

Night in Hurricane, Utah

California Condor in Zion National Park

Day 3 - Wed, May 15 Zion National Park

In an attempt to beat the crowds, we’ll head to Zion National Park at first light and take the shuttles to the end of the road.  The highlights of the park are Zion Canyon and a labyrinth of deep and brilliantly colored Navajo sandstone canyons formed by extraordinary processes of erosion at the margin of the Colorado Plateau. Here we will spend our time looking for the more common species that inhabit that canyon such as Canyon WrenBlack-throated Gray WarblerSpotted TowheeWhite-throated Swift, and Yellow Warbler. Of course, we really hope to pick up the less common species, like Painted Redstart and California Condor.  

Following lunch in Springdale, we’ll transfer to our next hotel in St. George and take an afternoon break. In the evenging, we'lldo some light and targeted birding before dinner, perhaps visiting a Common Blackhawk nest if its in use this year, and picking up any expected species around town we may have missed. We’ll wrap up today’s birding hoping for looks at Lesser Nighthawk at sunset.

Night in St. George, Utah

Scott's Orile at Utah Hill

Day 4 - Thu, May 16 Lytle Ranch Preserve

For our last day, we will be putting together an epic morning of birding before traveling back to Salt Lake City.  Leaving before sunrise we’ll make our way to Utah Hill to look for Gray Vireo and Scott’s Oriole at sunrise.  Descending into the Beaver Dam Conservation area, we’ll cross the Beaver Dam Slope and its unique Joshua Tree forest.  Here birds like Cactus WrenBlack-throated Sparrow, and Ash-throated Flycatcher thrive.  In the Beaver Dam Wash, we’ll visit the Lytle Ranch Preserve—a migrant trap known to boast one of Utah’s most diverse property lists.  Breeding species we’ll focus on finding include Brown-crested FlycatcherBlack-tailed GnatcatcherVerdinLucy’s WarblerPhainopeplaBell’s Vireo, and Costa’s Hummingbird.  While the Mojave specialists are a treat, on the right morning during migration there is no telling what we may find.  Tanagers, Grosbeaks, Buntings, Warblers, Flycatchers, Thrushes, and even birds of prey use the cottonwoods here to refuel on their treks north for the spring.  We’ll walk the length of the ranch and back and see what this morning holds.

By mid-May, it warms up quickly and in all likelihood, we will wrap up birding by 10:30 AM.  Heading back to town, we’ll grab lunch then buckle in for that 4-hour drive back north.  We may make several stops on our way back to Salt Lake City but will drop everyone off between 4-5 pm so anyone interested can attend the keynote speech and dinner this evening.

End of Tour!

2024 Pricing

Single Room

You’ll have your own room for the duration of the tour.

Max Participants: 12
$1,599 per person
Book Now  
Want to Stay Longer?

Interested in birding with us before or after this tour? We can help plan a custom private itinerary that ties into this tour to maximize your travel time and provide even more birding opportunities. There are also numerous field trips during the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival.

What's Included & What to Expect

What to Expect on Your Tour

To make the most out of our 4-days, we will be departing SLC at 6:00 AM on Day 1.  If you are flying in beforehand we will help you plan accommodations for pick up this morning, and if you are a Utah resident, we will provide meeting details prior to the start of the tour. At the end of the tour, we will drop you off in SLC or Davis County by 6:00 PM.

Transportation

Throughout the tour, we will travel in our comfortable 12-person Transit Van (aptly named Otus).  Since this tour caps at 12-people, that means each of our 3-rows in the back has just 2-people, with the 7th passenger riding shotgun.  Lots of room to stretch out with your gear and not feel like a sardine in a tin.  Throughout the tour, we'll switch up seating arrangements so everyone gets a different view day-to-day.  

We provide a step stool for easy access in and out of the van and ice-cold water is available whenever you need from the back of the van with a custom tour water bottle provided for you to keep at the beginning of the tour.

Accomodations

Accommodations are typically quite comfortable and often the best available in the vicinity.  This usually means higher-end chains, usually Hilton or Marriott and their various sub-brands.

Meals

Breakfasts will usually be boxed and eaten in the field.  Some mornings we may eat at hotels if time permits with our itinerary.  Lunches will include both sit-down restaurants, and sandwiches to go. Most dinners are at our favorite local restaurants, but depenging on birding we may take a boxed dinner into the field or provide a picnic dinner. Water and soft drinks are included with meals, but alcoholic drinks ARE NOT.  They may be purchased on your own with meals.

Pace

The pace of the tour is medium-fast--we cover nearly 1,000 miles in 4-days and have several early mornings and late nights to pick up our target birds.  We usually reserve afternoons for travel or to relax at the hotel, but with 14-hours of sunlight in May, we often have long days. 

Difficulty

For the most part, the tour is not physically demanding. We will take numerous short hikes typically on mostly even ground, trails, and roads. We will bird between 2,000-8,000' in elevation so there is some elevation but nothign too bad. During the days in the Mojave, the temperatures can reach 100 degrees even in May, so be prepared for the hear.

Weather and Temperature

If the weatehr stays nice during the tour, day time highs will be in teh 70's in teh mountians, and in the 80's-100's in the valleys and desert. Night time lows int eh desert won't drop below 70, and in the mountains we might drop into the high 40's. IT is generalyl dry this time of year, but if rain is in teh forecast we will recommend rain jackets.

Insects, Snakes, and Predators

Oh my!  Mosquitoes can be found at most places we will be visiting, so protective clothing or repellent is highly recommended. Biting flies and sand fleas will likely be encountered at various locations as well.  There are several species of Rattlesnaek in Utah, but we have not encountered them on any tours.  With that being said, please be aware it is possible to encounter them.  And lastly, there are both Black Bear and Cougar in the Mountain West, but in 15+ years of guiding I have never encountered either during a tour!

Non-bird Highlights

  • Zion National Park
  • Red CLiffs
  • Desert Reservoirs
  • The Kolob Plateau
  • Beaver Dam Conservation Area
  • desertSunrises & Sunsets
  • 10-20 Possible Mammal, Reptile, and Amphibian Species
  • Some reallly good food!

What's Included

  • Professional Guide Service
  • Transportation from SLC
  • 3-nights Accomodations
  • Meals from Brakfast on Day 1 to Lunch Day 4
  • Entry to Zion National Park
  • Spotting Scope while Birding
  • Water for Refreshment
  • Birds—we’ll find some birds
  • Some Flammtastic Tour Swag
  • Delightful Conversation about Birds
  • A Thoroughly Enjoyable Time!
We also include SFW dad jokes, witty bird puns, and the occasional commentary on things non-bird related!

What's Not Included

  • Alcoholic Drinks
  • Binoculars
  • Cameras and Lenses
  • Personal Flashlights/Headlamps
  • Bug Spray
  • Jackets or Sweaters
  • Shoes and Socks
  • Flights or Transportation to Utah
We highly recommend all of the above ;)

Still have questions? Ready to book a tour? Either way tapping the buttons below will put you in touch with us!

Past Utah Highlights Tours

2022 Utah Highlights Tour
May 11-14, 2022
2022 Utah Highlights View Trip Report

California Condor
May 3-7, 2019
2019 Utah Highlights Read Recap

Recent Photos from this Tour

Still have questions? Ready to book a tour? Either way tapping the buttons below will put you in touch with us!

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