where, when, and what to find

Farmington Bay WMA

posted by Tim Avery at
on Thursday, March 27, 2014 

Farmington Bay WMA from above photo by Tim Avery

Farmington Bay Wildlife Management Area needs no introduction to local birders.  The bay has long been a popular birding destination along the southeast side of the Great Salt Lake.  The marsh stretches across two counties and has numerous freshwater ponds enclosed by numerous dikes.  The Great Salt Lake lays to the west of the wetlands but due to lowering lake levels there are now flats that are often brackish and heavily covered in phragmites  The marsh is also dominated by phragmites, but also has several small patches of cottonwoods and other trees--and several dead snags that are disappearing with time.  An education center on the north edge of the WMA sits near a heron rookery.  The main WMA area has one road that comes in from the north and ends at a 4 way parking area with dikes going to the south, west, and east.  Dike Road heads back to the north.  There is also a rarely used by birders south entrance near Bountiful Pond.

You can't really bird Farmington Bay wrong.  This popular location probably has birders at it 7 days a week almost 365 days a year.  The main entrance from the north onto Dike Road is open all the way to the 4 way parking area in the center of the marsh from October through February.  Typically the road is closed from the Egg Island parking area from March through September.  Exact dates can be found by contacting the DNR.  This area of the bay is the most popular for birding.  From the north entrance the first hundred yards pass shallow ponds and continue past a patch of cottonwoods before passing several more small ponds and marsh.  To the south of this area is the main rest pond.  The road jogs right/west here following more ponds on the north side, and marsh on the south side of the road.  After about a mile at Egg Island there is a view area where you can view a large pond to the north, playas and marsh to the south and west, and the main rest pond to the east.  From here the road goes south along the rest pond which stretches all the way to the 4-way parking area on the east side of the road.  To the west are playas and marsh.  Two canals also leave the rest pond towards the Great Salt Lake from here.  At the 4 way there is a pond that stretches to the southwest, and another to the south east.  The dikes can be walked, or ridden on bike and can take you deep into the marsh.  Most birders don't venture past the 4-way.

During the fall waterfowl migration brings 10's of 1,000's of dabbling ducks followed by divers headed south.  As long as there is open water on here there will be waterfowl.  GADWALL, NORTHERN PINTAIL, RUDDY DUCK, and NORTHERN SHOVELER often dominate the large rafts of ducks that are augmented by other arrivals including REDHEAD, CANVASBACK, LESSER SCAUP, RING-NECKED DUCK, BUFFLEHEAD, all three species of merganser, and almost any duck species you can think of.  BLUE-WINGED TEAL can be picked up here pretty easily in the late spring early summer, often jsut inside the gates. Rare waterfowl such as SCOTERS and LONG-TAILED DUCK occasionally show up here.  WOOD DUCK are recorded with some frequency here as well.  Almost annually EURASIAN WIGEON are reported--given the sheer number of waterfowl this makes sense.  When TUNDRA SWAN arrive from the north they can be found by the 1,000's here until the water freezes over.  Some stay all winter when open water is available. Many return in the spring headed back north and from time to time TRUMPETER SWAN are found mixed in.  All 5 species of regularly occurring geese in Utah can be seen here at some point during most years.  During the winter months raptors are typically seen in decent numbers here.  In some years hundreds of BALD EAGLES use the WMA property to rest and feed.  Most years the state does a carp kill here providing lots of food for the eagles.  ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK are found here all winter, and HARLAN'S RED-TAILED HAWK have been seen most winters here in recent years.  All 4 species of regular Utah Falcons can be found here, and NORTHERN HARRIER are common.  SHORT-EARED and BARN OWL are often seen along Dike Road, and in harsh winters they can be seen during daylight hours in search of food.  Gulls are also a major pull here in the winter, as the WMA sits adjacent to the Bountiful Landfill.  The carp kill also helps attract gulls.  During the winter 10 species of gull have been observed, including multiple WESTERN, ICELAND, and Utah's single day high count for LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL.  In the fall of 2013 a LITTLE GULL was found here, a mega rarity for Utah.  Aside from gulls both PARASITIC and POMARINE JAEGER have been recorded here during the fall. Shorebirds also use the marsh for migration and breeding.  Almost all of Utah's annual shorebirds can be seen here.  WHIMBREL have been recorded in the playas south of Egg Island in recent years during spring migration.  HUDSONIAN GODWIT have been recorded here a couple of times seen with large flocks of MARBLED GODWITS during migration.  RUFF has been observed on the pond just inside the gates.

And the list could go on and on--songbirds can be found here during migration, breeding, and the winter.  In the winter AMERICAN TREE SPARROW can be found here.  SNOW BUNTING, LAPLAND, and CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPUR have all been reported here during the winter also.  During the breeding season the cacophony of COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, MARSH WREN, SONG SPARROW, and both SORA and VIRGINIA RAIL make for a fun listen.The bird list is huge and you never know what you may find during a day birding here.

From I-15 south of Farmington take exit 322.  At the end of the on ramp take the first right onto 200 west/I-15 Frontage Road.  Drive a 1/2 mile to the stop sign at Glovers Lane.  Turn right onto Glovers Lane and drive 1.4 miles to 1325 West and the entrance to Farmington Bay on your left.  Turn left and proceed south onto the WMA.  Alternatively, from north of Farmington, take I-15 exit 325.  Turn right at the end of the off ramp onto 100 West.  Drive .6 miles to Clark Lane and take a right.  Continue for .5 miles to 1525 West and take a left.  Continue south 1.2 miles to Glovers Lane.  Take a left on Glovers Lane and go .3 miles to 1325 West on your right.  Turn right and proceed into the WMA.

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