Sunday, March 13, 2011

Snow Basin Utah - Scout Camp-out and Life Bird!

We parked at the Snow Basin ski resort and hiked for about a mile to a yurt provided by the forest service.  We strapped our packs and gear to sleds and pulled them through the snow.  Another Scout troop was already in the yurt, so we set up our tents some yards away.
The snow was pretty deep, but the weather was warm and the stream was running.  Once we got off the main road, I was regularly sinking into the snow thigh deep, so it was rough and exhausting for me.  The young scouts scampered across the snow almost never breaking through the frozen crust...I don't know...something about pounds per square inch was coming into play and not in my favor.
While we were setting up our tents, I saw this silhouette near the top of the tree just across the way.  As you might well expect, I had my binoculars strapped to my chest at the ready for any birds I might see.  Owing to several recent reports on Utah birding listservs, I've been anxious to see one for myself.  I've even made a couple of quests to see this bird and dipped.  I have studied it in photographs and I've studied its sound.  As soon as I saw it, I knew this tiny ball of feathers was my life bird #374... a Northern Pygmy-Owl!
I knew this owl might be a possibility in this area simply based on habitat, but I had not heard of any reports of them being seen at Snow Basin.  How fortunate I was to have one curiously watching us set up camp!  I watched it dive after some sort of prey.  It was gone for several minutes and then returned to this perch.  The scouts and leaders of both troops were impressed to see it and to know what it was called.  I was delighted!
The lighting and conditions for good photographs was just opposite of what I needed.  The sun was setting behind the bird, it was overcast and I was sinking in several feet of snow with every laborious step.  The photos aren't great, but sufficient for photo documentation.

As we sat around camp that evening, we could a hear a couple of Northern Pygmy-owls hooting to my ears!
The next morning we rolled up camp and spent some time sledding.  Here's one of my scouts in a precarious situation....and here's how he ended up!


  1. Wow congrats on the lifer and on the sledge experience ;-) Happy you did not hurt yourself ;-)

  2. ...congrats on your new bird. I know so little about owls and have seen so few!! Good eye!

  3. Wow, next time I am in Utah I am going birding with you! Congrats! Just wonderful!