Okay, so about a year ago I was talking with my buddy Kenny Frisch about the most requested tours I get each summer. Besides the obvious Flammulated Owl trips which are the majority of my tours, I also get a fair number of requests to see Black Rosy-Finch and Chukar. These 3 species easily account for like 99% of my trips nowadays. But I also get a few requests each year to see Black Swift and Himalayan Snowcock. These 5 birds come up in more emails and requests than anything else. I had the idea for a tour that brought these 5 birds together, as well as more than 140 other species. It would be a quick tour--5 days and 4 nights out of Salt Lake City.
Kenny quipped something to the effect of, "The Most Wanted Tour". Boom! Mountain West Most Wanted. It flows so nicely. So after thinking about it for the better part of the last year and working on an itinerary, I've finally got this tour ready to go. The 1st ever Mountain West Most Wanted Tour kicks off July 20, 2017! Here is the teaser from our website:
Himalayan Snowcock, Black Rosy-Finch, Black Swift, Chukar, Flammulated Owl and More! This is the mother of all mountain west birding trips. This intensive 5-day tour will focus on the most highly sought after birds of the mountain west, the BIG 5 as we call them. Fast-paced bird-filled days should have you in and out in a weekend with a list full of life birds!
And the itinerary:
Day 1 (THU): Arrive in Salt Lake City by 5:00 pm and transfer to hotel. At 6:00 pm we'll have a brief overview of the coming days trip, complete with a catered dinner. By 7:00 pm we'll be on our way to a nearby canyon and waterfall where we'll scan the skies above for the elusive and amazing BLACK SWIFT. We'll also see the more common White-throated Swift, along with Violet-green Swallow and possibly Golden Eagle soaring overhead. As darkness descends on the mountain west we'll visit a nearby forest to look for our second target of the trip--the tiny, moth-eating, black-eyed, flame-streaked wonder of the mountain west--the FLAMMULATED OWL. We should be able to track these beauties down while also finding Common Poorwill and Ruffed Grouse. Night in Salt Lake City, Utah
Day 2 (FRI): If we missed out swift the night before we'll try again this morning before making our way into the mountains to look for our third target of the trip. Arriving in the Uinta National Forest, we'll climb to 11,000'. Here we might encounter American Three-toed Woodpecker, Gray Jay, Clark's Nutcracker, and Pine Grosbeak. After a short hike to the barren tundra above, we'll seek out a North American endemic in the BLACK ROSY-FINCH. In recent years White-tailed Ptarmigan have expanded to the area from further east and are always a possibility. Mountain Bluebird often flycatch over the open grass and rocks above the tree line. The views from up here are incredible and will create memories to last a lifetime. We'll play the rest of the morning and afternoon by ear as we need to leave Salt Lake City by 3:00 pm for our 4-hour drive into Nevada. We should arrive before dark and will have a hearty dinner before turning in early for the night. Night in Elko, Nevada
Day 3 (SAT): Leaving the warmth of our beds in the dark we'll head into the nearby mountains to be at a trailhead 90 minutes before sunrise. In the dark, we'll make our way up the trail towards Island Lake and the easiest spot for HIMALAYAN SNOWCOCK viewing in the United States. This highly sought after introduced species spends the summers high on the ridges of the Ruby Mountains, and most mornings can be heard calling, and often seen as it forages among the rocks. We'll spend the first few hours of daylight here before retreating to the desert below. Despite being in the middle of summer we'll try to turn up Sagebrush Sparrow and Sage Thrasher nearby. The afternoon will be relaxed with another early evening. Night in Elko, Nevada
Day 4 (SUN): Today is a backup day for the snowcock. If we didn't have great views on Saturday or had weather issues, we'll head back into the mountains for a second round, before packing up in the afternoon and heading back to Salt Lake City. If we had good fortune on Saturday, this morning we'll bird the surrounding desert before heading back to Utah. We'll plan birding accordingly to fit in with either scenario. We'll enjoy a great dinner tonight at one of Utah's best Mexican restaurants before watching the sunset on the Great Salt Lake. If for some reason the weather was inclement on our first night, we’ll use tonight for swifts and owls again. Night in Salt Lake City, Utah
Day 5 (MON): On your last day in the mountain west, we'll kick things off at the world famous Great Salt Lake. We'll take a tour of a local island where our 5th and final target of the trip resides--another introduced game bird, the CHUKAR. Other birds we often encounter while on this day include Burrowing Owl, Barn Owl, Rock Wren, Long-billed Curlew, Grasshopper Sparrow, and Say's Phoebe. On the shores of the lake, it's the time of year for the very first southbound shorebird migrants to show up with Wilson's and Red-necked Phalarope both possible. We'll finish off the trip with one last visit to the mountains where Western Tanager, Lincoln's Sparrow, Green-tailed Towhee, and MacGillivray's Warbler are possible. In the afternoon we'll drop you off to continue the rest of your visit or for your outbound flights (after 5:00 pm).
We can expect to see around 150 species of birds during this tour, as well as more than 10 species of mammals. We'll be hiking at elevations between 4,200' and 12,000' with hikes up to 2 miles each way possible. Please be sure you are in the right physical condition to take part in this adventure!
Sound like something you want to do? Click here or on any of the images in this post to get more information or to sign up!