where, when, and what to find

Lytle Ranch

posted by Tim Avery at
on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 

Lytle Ranch Preserve photo by Tim Avery

Lytle Ranch Preserve is one of the most popular birding destination in Utah.  Tucked away in the extreme southwest corner of the state, consisting of more than 600 acres the Preserve is situated along the Beaver Dam Wash drainage at an approximate elevation of 2800 feet, one of the lowest points in Utah.  Permanent water flows here in the Beaver Dam Wash’s otherwise intermittent course.  The areas unique weather patterns and setting make it home to numerous species found here, but nowhere else in Utah. The primary habitat is riparian, consisting of willow and cottonwood, but there are also various orchards, ponds, and the surrounding hill sides are Mojave Desert.  The Nature Conservancy purchased the property in 1985, and in 1986 resold the land to Brigham Young University, establishing it as a field research station and wildlife preserve.  Please be cautious of the dogs that live on the preserve. Please do not bring your own dogs when you visit the preserve. Scheduling of all preserve facilities should be handled at least one week in advance for large groups or camping at 1-801-422-5052. For day visitors no advance notice is needed.  IF YOU ARRIVE AND THE GATE IS LOCKED YOU CAN STILL GO BIRDING HERE.  Park to the left or the right of the gate in the areas that look like parking spots and proceed in.  If the gate is open you can proceed in and park along the split-rail fence straight ahead.

Where do you even begin... Lytle Ranch is one of the premier birding locations to visit in Utah.  Year round the ranch has something to offer but it receives the most attention during spring and fall migration.  the first migrants arrive in mid March, but things really take off in Mid April up until the end of May when it is not uncommon to find a rarity or two mixed in with the regular suspects.  LUCY'S WARBLER, BELL'S VIREO, COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD, and COMMON BLACK-HAWK are some of the early arrivals and this is the best place in the state to see all of them.  SUMMER TANAGER, HOODED ORIOLE, BLUE GROSBEAK, and SCOTT'S ORIOLE add some color to the scenery later during migration and throughout the summer.  INDIGO BUNTING are reported here with some frequency and occasionally VERMILION FLYCATCHER show up as well.  BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER are found reliably here from early May through the fall.  The summer months can be harsh and unforgiving, but there have been several reports of ELF OWL here during those hottest months.  WESTERN SCREECH, Barn, Long-eared, and Great Horned are all reported here annually.  During fall the rush of migrants returns and you never know what might show up.  In the winter months flocks of sparrows fill the fields and orchards, and have included HARRIS'S , WHITE-THROATED, GOLDEN-CROWNED, FIELD, CLAY-COLORED, and BAIRD'S SPARROW.  RED-BREASTED and YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER have been reported here with some regularity during the winter as well.  A number of first state records have been seen at the ranch including PINE WARBLER, ELF OWL, PYRRHULOXIA, and PURPLE FINCH.  The list of rarities goes on and on, and includes DICKCISSEL, 23 species of WARBLER, BROWN THRASHER, both GROUND-DOVES, and YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO .  If you've never been before, I recommend starting at the parking are and birding the trees and orchards here first, before heading north through the main orchard and milo fields.  Follow the road as it straddles the riparian stretch one one side and the desert on the other up wash.  You will eventually come to a small pond on your right where there are occasionally waterfowl, wading birds, and even shorebirds.  You can pass through a gate here and keep going up wash to another pond on your right.  If you keep going the road eventually comes back into a large stand of cottonwoods before coming to a gate at the north end of the property.  You can go through this and walk along the river up creek if you want, or turn around and work your way back to the parking area.  From the parking area if you head west you can follow a small road over to the creek here.  This area is often very productive.  There are usually hummingbird feeders near the small orchard in front of the main house, but they may have recently been moved.

From St. George take Bluff Street north to Sunset Blvd.  Turn left and take Sunset through Santa Clara where it turns into Old Highway 91.  Continue for about 19 miles on Old Highway 91 until you reach some cliffs on the left side of the road.  At the end of the cliffs on the opposite side of the road to your right is Lytle Ranch Road. Follow the road across the Beaver Dam Slope for about 11 miles before you drop into the Beaver Dam Wash.  There will be some corrals on the right with a road that heads to the ranch.

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