where, when, and what to find

Antelope Island SP -- Road to Garr Ranch

posted by Tim Avery at
on Wednesday, February 11, 2015 

Road to Garr Ranch from Google Street View

The road to Garr Ranch is a 10.6 mile paved road that passes through mostly open grassland and shrubsteppe along the east side of Antelope Island heading north to south.  The open habitat passes several springs where russian olive grows are prevalent.  Bison can be see most of the year along this road and despite their calm appearance have killed people who tried to get to close.  Everything off the road unless marked as a trail is closed to visitors, so stay on the road or in designated pull offs to avoid being ticketed.

In general you don't just come here to bird the road to Garr Ranch.  You are here because you are going to Garr Ranch--so of course it is worth taking the time to take note of the birds along the way.  Not surprisingly some good stuff does show up along the route, and there are even a few specialty birds that are relatively easy to find here.  The exact number of species occurring along the road is hard top determine--the number in eBird is too high and includes a lot of lists that are obviously from the causeway, the ranch, or the entire island (because Red Knot and Sanderling probably aren't going to be seen here).  With that being said the most notable species seen along this route is the GRASSHOPPER SPARROW which can be found at several locations along the road.  Often just listening in large grassland patches will produce the species in April or May.  This stretch has become the go to place for this species in Utah.  BURROWING OWL, CHUKAR, LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, SAGE THRASHER, and ROCK WREN are all seen regularly along the route in the right season.  NORTHERN SHRIKE are often seen here in the winter months. Raptors hunt the open lands here year round with both PEREGRINE and PRAIRIE FALCON being seen sporadically.  During the winter ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS can usually be seen during the drive.  There are some shorebirds that are actually quite common here during the breeding season.  WILLET and LONG-BILLED CURLEW are usually seen and hear right on the road edges.  LONG-EARED, SHORT_EARED, and BARN OWL are reported infrequently along the road; and all three have been known to roost in russian olive patches that are off limits to visitors.  BLUE GROSBEAK are occasionally seen in the summer months at some of these patches, and during migration just about anything could turn up.  ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, COMMON REDPOLL, and LARK BUNTING have all been seen on this 10 mile stretch.  BREWER'S SPARROW, LARK SPARROW, HORNED LARK, and WESTERN MEADOWLARK will be some of the most common birds you see an here all spring and early summer.  The best way to go birding along the road is to stop at the pullouts, overlooks, and spots near springs and tree patches and spend a few minutes listening and watching.  Also keeping your eyes out while your drive for stuff darting across the road, or soaring overhead.

In Layton, take I-15 exit 332 west bound onto Antelope Drive for about 7 miles to the entrance station to the park.  After paying an entrance fee continue about 6 miles across the causeway to the island. At the sign where the road splits stay left and continue up the hill till you see the turn off on your left to Garr Ranch.  Turn left and your are on the road to Garr Ranch, which goes 10.6 miles to the ranch.

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