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Short Trips for Target Species: Himalayan Snowcock, Flammulated Owl & Black Swift, UT & NV


This short target trip to Utah and Nevada is designed to find sought-after species in the right place and time of year. We will have 3 main targets – Himalayan Snowcock, Flammulated Owl and Black Swift – but there are many more desirable species that are possible such as American Three-toed Woodpecker, Chukar, Black Rosy-Finch and Grey Partridge.

The Himalayan Snowcock, successfully introduced to mountains in northern Nevada, provides one of the greatest challenges of any resident bird in North America. Even though they are as large as our largest grouse, the snowcock is nevertheless very skilled at avoiding detection amongst the rocks and cliffs of some of the most rugged and remote mountains in the lower 48 states. To even get a chance to see them requires a considerable physical effort (or a helicopter!).

Those who go to this effort are rewarded with not only a chance to see this spectacular bird, but also some of the most stunning scenery anywhere. There are also some other great birds, such as Black Rosy-Finch, Dusky Grouse, and Lewis’ Woodpecker, to be found there. 

After leaving Nevada we will visit some of Northern Utah premier birding locations – the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and Antelope Island, making this short trip truly spectacular. Montane species will will target American Three-toed Woodpecker, Clark’s Nutcracker, Black Rosy Finch, American Dipper, Flammulated Owl and there is a chance of Black Swift. In the grasslands the uncommon Gray Partridge will be a target. Shorebird migration will be in full swing with thousands of phalaropes and Eared Grebes on the Great Lake Lake. Truly an extraordinary sight.

All in all a wonderful mix of species including some most sought-after species!

  • Tour Cost
  • Number of Days (Length of Tour)

    5 days / 4 nights


    Dates & Cost

    August 1-5, 2018   

    $1250.00 per person, based upon double occupancy, from Salt Lake City, UT.


    Single Supplement

    If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to get a roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $200 will be assessed.


    What is Included / Not Included

    Included in the cost are all accommodations, transportation, entrance fees and permits, from Salt Lake City, Utah.


    Not included are air travel and associated fees to Salt Lake City (SLC),  trip insurance, alcoholic beverages, bottled beverages, phone calls, laundry, or other items of a personal nature. You will be responsible for purchasing all lunches, dinners and some breakfasts. Most of our motels offer a free continental breakfast. We will eat our meals together as a group.



    $500.00, check, paypal or credit card, along with your completed Registration Form


    How to Book

    In order to hold your space, you must complete the Registration Form found on-line, and submit it to us on-line, or download a copy and mail it to us, along with a $500.00 deposit per participant.


    Final Payment

    Full payment, by check, is due 120 days prior to the departure date

  • Itinerary
  • Day 1: Arrival in SLC; Elko

    Morning arrival in Salt Lake City.  By early afternoon we will be working our way west of the Great Salt Lake to Elko, Nevada. Along the way we expect to see a wide variety of raptors including Ferruginous Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, Golden Eagle and we’ll keep an eye out for Prairie Falcon. 

    We'll have an early dinner in Elko, and do a little birding around town afterwards, looking for waders, California Quail, and western songbirds in the riparian habitat along the East Humboldt River.


    Day 2: Lamoille Canyon; South Fork Reservoir

    We meet at 3am for the 45-minute drive to Lamoille Canyon and the trailhead, from where we hike 2 miles to Island Lake. From the lake we'll head up into the cirque to look for snowcocks (breakfast snacks at the trailhead and on the trail). Most of the morning will be spent in the cirque, looking for Himalayan Snowcock, Black Rosy-Finch and enjoying the many other birds and spectacular scenery of this alpine area. Pika and Mountain Goat are certainly possible in the cirque.Late morning will find us on the trail again, birding our way back to the trailhead where numerous good birds are possible, including Dusky Grouse, Rufous and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, western empids such as Dusky Flycatcher, warblers, sparrows and finches. On our way back to town we'll stop at the mouth of the canyon, where a grove of large cottonwoods is home to a colony of Lewis's Woodpeckers, and where other birds, such as Chukar, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Green-tailed Towhee, and Lazuli Bunting can be seen.

    After lunch in town, we take a short break for a nap, a swim or relaxation, and then spend the late afternoon birding in the Elko area. A trip to South Fork Reservoir, about 15 minutes southwest of town, will round out our list with an amazing variety of waders, waterfowl, shorebirds and terns. The drive to the reservoir, through rolling sagebrush-covered hills, gives us a chance to see sagebrush birds such as Sage Thrasher and Brewer's Sparrow.


    Day 3:  Pequop Mountains; Great Salt Lake; Wasatch Mts       

    [This morning, we have one last chance to try for the snowcock (if we need it) before birding our way back to Utah. If we try for the snowcock, our activities will be exactly as in the previous morning.]

    We leave Elko and head to Salt Lake City, about a 3 hour drive, which we will break up with a few short birding stops along the way. In the Pequop Mountains some ridges covered with pinyon-juniper woodlands, give us a chance to see Pinyon Jay, Juniper Titmouse, Gray Flycatcher and other birds of this specialized habitat, including the recently split Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay. We also pass through good shorebird habitat along the salt flats of the south shore of the Great Salt Lake possibly picking up Baird’s Sandpiper and Snowy Plover.

    During the afternoon we will explore the foothills and canyons of the Wasatch Mountains. At the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon lies the resort village of Brighton and picturesque Silver Lake. Possibilities in the canyon include American Dipper, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Red-naped Sapsucker, Olive-sided and Hammond’s Flycatcher, Hermit Thrush, MacGillivary’s Warbler, Band-tailed Pigeon, California Quail, Evening Grosbeak, Black-headed Grosbeak, Stellar’s Jay and Western Scrub-Jay.

    After checking into our hotel and having dinner, we will head out at dusk to search for Flammulated Owl and Common Poorwill. Depending upon how successful we are with these two we might be able to try for Western Screech Owl at a lower elevation.


    Day 4:  Unita Mts; Wasatch Mts; Antelope Island

    We will start the day in Little Cottonwood Canyon looking for Black Swift, though it is getting late in the season for them. We will continue northeast and into the Wasatch Mountains where we will have a chance for some upper elevation species. We will make various stops along the way to Bald Mountain and Mirror Lake hoping to find Mountain Bluebird, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Mountain Chickadee, both kinglets, Clark’s Nutcracker, Red Crossbill, Cassin’s Finch, Pine Grosbeak, Gray Jay, Williamson’s Sapsucker, American Three-toed Woodpecker and there’s always a chance of Black Rosy-Finch and Goshawk.

    The afternoon will be spent at Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake to look for Bison, Burrowing Owl, Barn Owl and Chukar and where we'll have another taste of the shorebird migration on this inland sea. This truly can be one of the west's greatest birding spectacles with a million Wilson's Phalaropes joined hundreds of thousands of other shorebirds on the lake and the surrounding wetlands including Red-necked Phalaropes and more Eared Grebe’s than you’ve ever seen before. Along the 7-mile causeway that runs to the island, Franklin’s Gulls and Long-billed Curlews spend the day chasing brine flies along the shoreline.


    Day 5: Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge;

    This morning we visit the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, perhaps Utah's most famous birding location, where huge numbers of shorebirds and waterfowl congregate at this time of year. A lot depends upon water levels but we should come across Western and Clark’s Grebe’s, American White Pelicans, California Gulls, Cinnamon Teal, White-faced Ibis, Long-billed Dowitchers, Marbled Godwits, Solitary Sandpipers, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilts, Caspian and Forster’s Terns, Marsh Wrens and Yellow-headed Blackbirds.

    The trip will end around noon at Salt Lake City Airport.


    Note: The itinerary may vary at the discretion of the leader, based upon the latest information of target species.

  • Accommodations
  • 4 nights accommodations in standard motels, all ensuite and comfortable. Wherever possible, we support establishments that implement eco-friendly practices.

  • Additional Info
  • Recommended Field Guide:

    Sibley Birds West

    (2nd Edition, 2016, Knopf)

    by David Allen Sibley

    Sibley Birds is also available as an App




    This trip is for non-smokers only. Smoking is not permitted at any time during our tour.


    Point of Departure (Getting There and Back)
    The tour begins and ends in Salt Lake City, Utah. The airport code for Salt Lake City International Airport is SLC. You will need to make your own arrangements to arrive on Day 1, and depart on Day 5.

    Note, the itinerary may change. Please do not book flights before checking upon the final arrival and departure times.


    Physical Requirements (Walking, Pace of the Tour)
    There will be an early start, 3am, to get to the Himalayan Snowcock. While the 2 mile walk is mostly on a narrow well worn path, some of it is uneven,  there are a some rocks to negotiate, and overall the 2000 foot climb in elevation to 10,000 feet is strenuous, but we can take our time.  There will also be a late night in search of Flammulated Owl, which will also be at upper elevation, and may require some walking off road and a short, steep climb. Elsewhere most of the walking areas are graded dirt roads, or gravel paths. During the course of our trip we will be between approximately 4,000 to 10,5000 feet in elevation. Participants should be aware of high altitudes. A reasonable degree of fitness is required.


    Climate / Weather
    Temperatures and weather conditions vary widely during the trip. There’s a popular saying in the West: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.” It could snow, rain, sleet, hail, thunderstorm, be cold and cloudy, cold and sunny, or even hot and sunny. During our trip one should plan on all of the above.  The morning we go for the Snowcock has been known to be in the 30’s, though it is more likely to be in the 40’s and climbing into the 60’s later in the morning. Around Salt Lake City it can be around 100 degrees, so you get the idea! Come prepared for all kinds of weather!


    Group Size
    The group is limited to a maximum of 7 participants. 


    Final Information
    Detailed General Information will be sent to each registrant upon booking. Final Information about the trip, including lodgings, contacts, meeting locations, etc., will sent about 2 weeks prior to the trip departure, or after final payment is received for late registrants.


    As with all tours, we highly recommend purchasing Travel Insurance to cover your investment. Please see our section on Travel Insurance


    Participants arriving from a foreign country may need to get a travel visa to enter the United States. Be sure to check the requirements for your country of origin.


    The trip itinerary is developed many months ahead of time. Occasionally, despite our best planning, changes may occur during the trip, or we may be forced to alter our plans. Changes may occur because of weather, road conditions, safety concerns or other circumstances. In these situations, it is the leader(s) responsibility to carefully consider and implement appropriate alternatives. Any additional costs incurred because of changes will be the responsibility of each individual participant. Refunds will not be issued as a result of itinerary changes.