BIRDING SPOTS

where, when, and what to find

TL Bar Ranch

posted by Tim Avery at
on Thursday, March 5, 2015 

TL Bar Ranch from Bing Birds Eye View


Description:
North of Wendover on the road to the Lucin migrant trap there are a handful of off the grid farms and ranches.  Like Lucin, these places often have springs, and therefore a riparian habitat that is in turn a great migrant trap.  TL Bar Ranch has several springs and consists of two main locations.  The south area is the main compound and the location of Munsee Cabin.  A few miles north there is another patch of trees.  I was the only person with checklists outside of the cabin area, so I merged my list and the hot spot for this location is just called TL Bar Ranch.  Most birders don't visit this area of Utah, but if you find yourself headed to Lucin, its worth it to stop and ask if you can bird the property.  The main compound consists of several building--one being Munsee Cabin.  This is what is known as Donner Spring.  There is also a pond here, as well as some farm fields and even an orchard.  To the east is sage flats and desert, and to the west the salt flats and nothing.  2 miles to the north sits a small patch of trees just off Pilot Mountain Road--this is also on the property and represents the most substantial grove south of Lucin in the desert.  Between the main location and this patch there are no less than 8 springs along the hillsides that flow into--nothing.  But the habitat created is a savior for birds migrating over the desert. THIS IS PRIVATE PROPERTY. So as mentioned before please ask top bird the property.

Birding:
TL Bar Ranch is one of those places that if you didn't stop to look for birds, you might pass it off as just a weird ranch in the desert--I mean that is what it is--but it is also an incredible migrant trap.  The first time I visited I was curious of what we would find, after all i was several tiny springs, and random groves, with nothing for miles around--I should have known we would find some great birds.  There are two times of year to visit the area--the latter half of May and the middle of September.  These are the heights of north and southbound migration in Northern Utah and that is when the most birds are going to be passing through.  Birding here is easy--go to the nearest patch of trees and look for birds.  Meander around the springs and look for birds.  Do this until you think you've found every bird in a patch and move to the next one.  During the spring flycatchers and warblers, and anything else passing through stop here for food and water.  OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER, WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE, and WILLOW, DUSKY, and CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER have been recorded. 8 species of warbler in the spring including multiple sightings of NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH and AMERICAN REDSTART.  I wouldn't say these are expected species here, but if I were birding here in the spring, I would kind of expect to find them as the habitat is great for both. LAZULI BUNTING, BULLOCK'S ORIOLE, WESTERN TANAGER, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK and GRAY CATBIRD have been observed here as well.  Passerine species will find these springs so the odds of a mega rarity showing up here are good.  HARRIS'S SPARROW and BOBOLINK have both been reported--maybe the latter a breeder in this hostile patch of habitat.  The breeding species of sparrow include SAGEBRUSH, BLACK-THROATED, and LARK SPARROW in the surrounding desert. Some of the more interesting things to show up here are birds like AMERICAN BITTERN, SORA, AMERICAN AVOCET, BLACK-NECKED STILT and both GREEN-WINGED and CINNAMON TEAL. These waterbirds are drawn to the little bit of water here, a life saver.  The fall is equally good, if not better for migrants--fall migration typically consists of more birds due to the fresh young off the summer breeding season--more birds means more migrants and possibly more opportunities to find something amazing.

Directions:
From I-80  exit 4 just before you reach Nevada, go north on Leppy Pass Road toward the Bonneville Speedway for 1.9 miles.  Take a slight left to stay on Leppy Pass Road and continue 2.4 miles.  After the pass the road will split at a small building.  Stay to the left here.  The road will loop west out into Nevada before arching back to the east and into Utah.  You will be going 19.5 miles until you reach the ranch on your left.  The road is dirt and can be hazardous if you go too fast.  Stay under 40 to avoid any serious issues with your tires, and make sure you have a spare.  The drive should take 30-40 minutes to get here.  Pull in on your right and proceed to the corrals.  Try to find someone form here before you go anywhere else on the property.  To get to the northern section, hop back on Pilot Mountain Road and drive north 2 miles till you see the grove on your right.

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