Posts Tagged ‘utah eagles’

Bird Watching in Capitol Reef Country

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Capitol Reef Country’s diverse landscape supports hundreds of bird habitats, including more than 230 documented species in Capitol Reef National Park. From tiny hummingbirds flitting about the campgrounds to massive birds of prey soaring above the slickrock cliffs, recreational bird watchers and ornithologists alike won’t be disappointed. Owl, pinyon jay, chukar, oriole, canyon wren and rock wren are just some of the smaller bird species that make Capitol Reef’s diverse cliffs, canyons, desert grasslands, and pinyon forests their home. Both wren, for example, are typically found in crevices along rock ledges, with the rock wren found in craggy slopes as high as 10,000 feet. Pinyon jay and oriole are commonly found in the park’s woodlands during breeding season. The Mexican Spotted Owl is rarely sighted, but may be spotted in cliff ledges or in trees.  Learn more about wildlife viewing – here.

Utah Golden Eagle

A Golden Eagle views the open terrain from a high perch.

Larger bird sightings in Capitol Reef include raven, Golden Eagle, and the endangered Peregrine Falcon. The raven is one of the smartest and most frequently sighted large birds in Capitol Reef National Park, usually found nesting on cliff ledges or swooping over canyon walls. Falcon and eagle sightings are much more rare, but possible, usually soaring overhead or perched high in the cliffs. The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest of all birds, able to fly an impressive 200mph. But there’s no thrill quite a rare Golden Eagle sighting, which may happen as they soar high above wide, open spaces in the Waterpocket Fold. Park rangers are your best bet for information on what birds to see where on any given day inside Capitol Reef.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagles are more commonly seen during winter months.

The Fremont River Trail near historic Fruita is one of the most popular bird-watching areas in the park. The Great Blue Heron is extremely rare, but you just might get lucky and catch a glimpse of one near the river. The chukar, a game bird introduced to the area in 1951, is frequently sighted in large groups during the colder months in the rocky, arid section near Fruita. The wooded area around the Ripple Rock Nature Center and the banks of Sulphur Creek are also popular bird watching locations in Capitol Reef.


Geese are commonly seen at certain times of the year along the Bicknell Bottoms

Outside the park, Bicknell Bottoms is one of the best places for bird watching in Capitol Reef Country. This Wildlife Management Area along the Fremont River and Pine Creek contains 670 acres of marshy wetlands and shallow open waters surrounded by farmlands, making it a great spot for sighting waterfowl and game birds. Frequent sightings include the Great Egret, Blue-winged Teal, Northern mockingbird, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, plus a host of more common marsh wren, ducks, geese, pheasant and quail. Bird watchers have even been lucky enough to catch a rare glimpse of Bald Eagles and American White Pelicans.

Pelicans Utah

Migrating white pelicans are spotted on this mountain lake in Capitol Reef Country.

Bicknell Bottoms is often a layover for migrating birds, so what you’ll see depends on the season. Grab your binoculars and watch from the roadside or hop in a canoe for a closer look. This birding hotspot is located a few miles west of Torrey, just outside Bicknell. You can walk in to the WMA from an access road just off Posey Lake Road near the J. Perry Egan fish hatchery.

Visit here for a complete list of Capitol Reef birds.

Wildlife In & Around Capitol Reef

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

The region that includes Capitol Reef National Park’s diverse landscape is a natural home to a variety of wildlife habitats.  Along the Waterpocket Fold and throughout the park, pinyon and juniper forests, rock cliffs, biological soil crusts, dry washes and perennial waterways provide homes for dozens of mammal, reptile and amphibian species, and more than 230 species of birds.

Large Mammals

Pronghorn Antelope Utah

Pronghorn antelope roam the upper ranges west of Capitol Reef National Park

About 60 species of mammals inhabit the Capitol Reef area, and one of the first questions many people ask when visiting a national park is, “Do bears live here?” In Capitol Reef, the answer is yes—but encounters are rare, usually occurring near food and water sources. Mountain lions are another rarely seen species but they are active year round, and primarily feed on the park’s mammal population. Coyotes and foxes are also common predators.

Utah Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn sheep love to roam the rocky regions in and around Capitol Reef.

The most commonly sighted large mammal herds are desert bighorn sheep, elk, pronghorn antelope (sometimes alone) and mule deer. Mule deer can adapt to a variety of habitats, from high mountains to lower meadows, as long as there are shrubs, woods and grasses to feed on, and are commonly found in the Fruita area of Capitol Reef.  Bighorn sheep also tend to gather in Fruita, as well as at the rocky terrain at the park’s southern tip.

Smaller Mammals
Capitol Reef National Park’s smaller mammal species include the endangered prairie dog, raccoons, porcupine, beavers, squirrels, marmots, mice, woodrats, chipmunks and sixteen species of bats. Kangaroo rats typically appear at night in search of seeds, leaving a trail of “hopping” tracks.

Utah Squirrels and Chipmunks

Chipmunks and squirrels are found throughout this region.

Marmots, commonly referred to as “whistle pigs” because of their high-pitched squeal, are the largest ground squirrels in the Capitol Reef area, weighing up to ten pounds and growing up to two feet long. Porcupines are the largest rodent in Utah. Bats are nocturnal, and typically hibernate during cold weather. The canyon bat is commonly sighted early in the evening in Fruita.

Utah Bald Eagle

Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, and many other large birds are regular visitors to this region.

Capitol Reef’s bird population includes year-round residents, seasonal dwellers and migrating visitors. The raven is one of the most commonly sighted large birds in Capitol Reef. More rare sightings include the golden eagle and the endangered peregrine falcon. These large and beautiful creatures typically feast on small mammals. Owls, orioles, canyon and rock wren, chukars, pinyon jays and black-billed magpies are bird-watcher favorites in Capitol Reef. The Fremont River Trail near Fruita is one of the most popular bird-watching areas in the park.

Snakes and lizards are common inhabitants of most desert ecosystems, and they are no stranger to Capitol Reef. The park’s most frequently sighted snakes include the gopher snake (often mistaken for a rattlesnake because of the way it hisses and shakes its tail), striped whipsnake, terrestrial garter snake and common kingsnake.

Utah Rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes are rarely seen but are found in this region.

The common kingsnake is one of the few that will prey upon rattlesnakes. Midget faded rattlesnakes are usually found on the ground in Capitol Reef National Park, and prey on birds, small mammals and lizards. Most lizards in the park thrive on a diet of insects, spiders, shrubs and plants. Different species inhabit a variety of ecosystems, including sparsely vegetated areas, pinyon and juniper forests, burrows, rocks and canyons, and even higher grasslands. Capitol Reef’s lizard population includes the Great Basin collared lizard, common sagebrush lizard, desert spiny lizard, tree lizards and western whiptails.

Capitol Reef National Park’s perennial waterways and its unique ecosystems along the Waterpocket Fold are ideal habitats for amphibians such as the Great Basin spadefoot, woodhouse and red-spotted toads. The canyon tree frog is also a popular dweller along the Waterpocket Fold. Northern leopard frogs thrive near the Fremont River.  Read more about Utah wildlife here.

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