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Pitta Nature Tours
Mountain West Most Wanted 2.0

We've reimagined our Most Wanted Tour for 2023, adding several days to slow down the pace, and provide more opportunities to get our targets! Himalayan Snowcock, Cassia Crossbill, Flammulated Owl, Black Swift, Gray Vireo, Gray Partridge, Sagebrush Sparrow, Calliope Hummingbird, and Lewis’s Woodpecker are some of the Mountain West Most Wanted. This 6-night/7-day tour is a great way to see them all in one trip!

Upcoming Tour Date(s)

July 20-26, 2023

5 of 7 spaces available

Itinerary

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

Day - Thu, July 20 Arrive in SLC and Look for Black Swift & Flammulated Owl

Arrive in SLC by 4:00pm and transfer to hotel. Around 5:00 PM we'll grab a boxed dinner and visit a nearby canyon for some light birding. We'll focus our effort on Cordilleran Flycatcher, Swainson's Thrush, Lazuli Bunting, and American Dipper. Around 8:30 PM we'll arrive at our destination to scan high in the sky for Black Swift. As dusk settles on the Wasatch Mountains, we’ll meet up with Pitta Tours owner Tim Avery and turn our efforts to Flammulated Owl before calling it a night

Night in Cottonwood Heights, UT

Day 2 - Fri, July 21 Juniper & Sage Specialists + The Wasatch Mountains

This morning we’ll visit the desert southwest of SLC for juniper and sagebrush species like Gray Vireo, Gray Flycatcher, Juniper Titmouse, Ferruginous Hawk, and Sagebrush Sparrow. With a full morning to bird in this habitat we will hopefully track down all our targets and also a few other more common species like Say's Phoebe, Sage Thrasher, Brewer's Sparrow, Mountain Bluebird, and maybe even a Golden Eagle. We'll take a break during the heat of the afternoon, before heading into the Wasatch Mountains for some casual evening birding. Based on current conditions, our guide will decide the best plan for the evening, before returning to Salt Lake Valley and trying to track down Western Screech-Owl at dusk.

Night in Cottonwood Heights, UT

Day 3 - Sat, July 22 The Great Salt Lake and Transfer to Elko

One of the big changes this year is another day in northern Utah to help us spend some time birding the most incredible eco-system in the Great Basin—The Great Salt Lake. With the lake shrinking due to climate change, this will allow us to hopefully still track down most of the target species here. We will actually start the morning off skipping the shorebirds and making our way on to Antelope Island to look for Chukar at first light. Other birds we might encounter on the island include Burrowing Owl, Great Horned Owl, Loggerhead Shrike, and Rock Wren. After our short forray onto the isalnd we will turn our focus on swarms of migrant Wilson's Phalarope and Red-necked Phalarope on the lake.

Night in Elko, NV

Day 4 - Sun, July 23 The Hike for Himalayan Snowcock

It will be a very early morning--departing the hotel by 3:00 am, we'll drive 45 minutes to the trailhead in the dark. The trek to the valley where we'll find Himalayan Snowcock takes about 90-120 minutes at a slow to moderate pace. We give ourselves up to 2 hours to make sure we are in place by 5:45 AM at an ideal viewing location. Then comes the hard work of scanning rugged terrain and slopes for our target. It's not uncommon for Cassin's Finch, Mountain Bluebird, Dusky FLycatcher, and White-crowned Sparrow to grace us with their presence while we search. Depending on the availability of snowfields, we may also seeBlack Rosy-Finch, and from time to time, small groups of Clark's Nutcracker pass by.

We'll spend several hours in search of our target after which we'll make our way back down the trail and back to town for lunch before taking a long afternoon break. In the evening we'll have dinner before visiting a nearby reservoir to see if any fall shorebird migrants are on the move.

Night in Elko, NV

Day 5 - Mon, July 24 Snowcock Backup & High Desert Birding

Today is our backup for snowcock. If for some reason we miss during our hike the previous day, we will help anyone who is interested charter a helicopter to try for the bird from the sky. The rest of the group will arrive at the trailhead at sunrise to scan the surrounding cliffs from the parking area.

If we were successful the previous day, we'll spend the morning birding around Elko to see what birds we can add to our list, and potentially picking up any missed sagebrush specialties.

After lunch we will transfer to our hotel in Idaho. In the evening we will plan on birding in the agricultural areas south of Twin Falls were in the past we've located Barn Owl, Burrowing Owl, and Short-eared Owl.

Night in Twin Falls, ID

Day 6 - Tue, July 25 Cassia Crossbill, Gray Partridge,

We will spend the early morning around Twin Falls trying to track down Gray Partridgebefore heading into the south Hills to seek out the endmic Cassia Crossbill. Since we have the whole day we won't rush our time here, and work on trackign down other specialists like Calliope Hummingbird, Lewis's Woodpecker, Williamson's Sapsucker, Hammond's Flycatcher, and numerous other more common montane species. We'll take a picnic lunch in the mountains before heading back to town in the afternoon for a break.

In the evening we will visit a local park with quite a view... and maybe a few good birds like Canyon Wren, Yellow-breasted Chat, Bushtit, Bullock's Oriole, and California Quail.

Night in Twin Falls, ID

Day 7 - Wed, July 26 Southern Idaho, back to Utah, and End of Tour

This morning is a backup for any targets we might have missed in southern Idaho. If we've already cleaned up, we will start making our way back to Utah birding a wildlife refuge, rest stop, and some light birding back along the Wasatch Front in Utah. We'll wrap up our birding near the airport with a late lunch/early dinner at Utah's best Mexican restuaruant, before saying our goodbyes and dropping everyone off at local hotels or the airport between 4:30-5:00 pm.

End of Tour!

2023 Pricing

Single Room

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

Max Participants: 7
$2,799 per person
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Looking for another option?

We also offer standalone tours in June for Cassia Crossbill, and August for Himalayan Snowcock. Both of these tours are 3-day/2-nights, and cost around 1/2 the price of the Most Wanted tour

What's Included & What to Expect

What to Expect on Your Tour

On the day our tour beings we will provide pickup from Salt Lake International Airport between 3:00 and 4:00 PM.  If you arrive earlier in the day we can help you arrange a transfer to our hotel located about 25-minutes from the airport. By 5:00 PM we will have gathered everyone to kick the tour off! At the end of the tour, we will drop you off at the airport or nearby hotels no later than 5:00 PM.

Transportation

Throughout the tour, we will travel in our comfortable 12-person Transit Van (aptly named Otus).  Since this tour caps at 7-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 mid to higher-end chains, usually Hilton or Choice, and their various sub-brands. In Elko, we usually stay at the Maverick Casino.  Over the years we have tried most of the accommodations in town, and the rooms here are nice, and at a reasonable rate

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.  On the day we travel from Nevada to Idaho we provide a per diem and stop at a local grocery store to pick out food for the day.  Most dinners are at our favorite local restaurants, with the exception of the night the tour starts, when we'll take a boxed dinner into the field. 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 fast--we cover over 1,000 miles in 7-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 15-hours of sunlight in July, we often have long days. 

Difficulty

For the most part, the tour is not physically demanding, BUT on the morning we hike for Himalayan Snowcock we must do a 2-mile (each way) hike starting around 9,000' in elevation and gaining about 1,000' feet.  Most of the hike is done in the dark on a well-maintained trail but if you are not in the right physical condition you may not be able to do this portion of the trip.  During the rest of the trip we will do numerous short outings, under 1-mile (usually much shorter), on more even terrain.

Weather and Temperature

This tour provides for interesting days and nights, as we move between high elevation sites in the mountains and low elevations sites in the Great Basin.  It is not uncommon for daytime temperatures at lower elevations to reach into the high 90’s or even low 100’s.  While in the mountains daytime temps range from the 50’s to 70’s.  While owling, and hiking early in the morning temperatures can dip into the low 40’s.  I recommend bring a variety of clothing, that is easily layered.  On our morning hikes in the Ruby Mountains, a jacket and long pants are recommended--by afternoon in the valleys it will be very warm so lighter wear will be preferred. Rain jackets are nice to have, but we don’t see rain often on this tour, and I can provide $2 ponchos in case of an emergency downpour.  Sturdy hiking shoes with good ankle support are highly recommended for the hikes.

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.  While there are other biting bugs, most are not very active this time of year.  There is one species of rattlesnake in the Great Basin, 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 14 years of guiding I have never encountered either during a tour!

Non-bird Highlights

  • Bonneville Salt Flats
  • The dramatic Ruby Mountains
  • The Snake River Gorge
  • Shoshone Falls Park
  • Tree of Life Earth Art
  • Summer Sunrises & Sunsets
  • 10-20 Possible Mammal Species
  • Summer Wildflowers & Butterflies
  • Some reallly good food!

What's Included

  • Professional Guide Service
  • Transportation from SLC
  • 6-nights Accomodations
  • Meals from Dinner Day 1 through Day 7
  • 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 Most Wanted Tours

2021 Most Wanted Tour
August 5-9, 2021
2021 Most Wanted #2 Read Recap

July 15-19, 2021
2021 Most Wanted #1 Read Recap

2020 Mini Most Wanted  Tour
August 7-10, 2020
2020 Mini Most Wanted Read Recap

2020 Most Wanted Tour
July 27 - August 1, 2020
2020 Most Wanted Read Recap

July 25-29, 2019
2019 Mini Most Wanted See Photos

July 17-22, 2019
2019 Most Wanted See Photos

July 26-29, 2018
2018 Mini Most Wanted See Photos

July 19-23, 2018
2018 Most Wanted See Photos

July 27-31, 2017
2017 Most Wanted See Photos

July 21-23, 2017
2017 Mini Most Wanted See Photos

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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