Monday, February 2, 2009

Salt Creek Bird Refuge

Sunday I went in search of bald eagles. The newspaper had announced the annual bald eagle outings at various locations around the state for the coming two weekends. I saw no need to wait for that. One of the announced locations was Salt Creek way up north near Promontory and since I had visited there last summer, I chose that for my destination. On the way there I stopped to visit my sister, and her husband told me I could also see a bunch of eagles up close at Henefer up Weber Canyon -- in the trees on the road that runs by the river. Next weekend I'll go there, but I had my heart set on Salt Creek.

I got lost along the way. You go to Corinne as if you are heading to Golden Spike National Monument, but just a few miles out of Corinne, you turn right (north) on 6800 West, and a few miles along there you will turn west following the signs to the landfill. Where the road forks, you go to the right to enter the muddy but short drive to the parking lot. However, I missed the 6800 turn off and kept going past the public shooting grounds, past Thiokol rocket test range, past the turnoff to Promontory Point. I checked my guide book and saw where I had gone wrong and turned back. But not without first getting pics of some of the many mule deer wandering the fields everywhere around.

It's desolate and remote up there. I saw no-one else while there. It's odd to be so totally alone so near civilization. As I walked to the crest of the hill overlooking the water, I noticed many animal tracks all around me. Most common were dainty dog-like prints--probably coyote. One set of very large cat prints with impressive claws - probably a bobcat. Charming and unmistakable rabbit prints - parallel exclamation marks!! Other smaller tracks too, maybe raccoons or skunks.

Then I saw in the distance what I had come to see--eagles. At least a hundred or so yards away, in my picture just tiny dots on the ice. Maybe 8 or 10 was all. I walked down toward the dike, but before I got very close, they scattered to the skies.

A couple of Canada Geese set up quite a racket. I am not stealthy enough. I got a picture, but eventually, they took off as well.

There were human tracks, two sets of the same bold print. A man, I deduced, as I measured my shoe inside the footprint. And along the dike, carcasses of deer. Roadkill. Now I know they are put there deliberately by rangers to attract the coyotes, raccoons, and other predators, to protect the nests of birds near the shoreline.

I noticed signs of little dramas on the ice. Eagles on the hunt perhaps. In the new inch or so of snow, signs of a scuffle, skidding, and a perfect imprint to one side of large wing prints, perhaps balancing on touchdown while catching a mouse or rabbit. The snow offers greater opportunity for observing life on the preserve.

It was near freezing, the snow was crunchy, the skies hazy. I had arrived in late afternoon and I feared the sun might set while I was out on the dike. I knew it would be very dark after sunset at this time of the new moon, and didn't want to be out there with not even a flashlight for finding my way back. I'll admit I felt a little afraid of the coyotes, too. The sun was already low as I headed back up the dike.

On the way home, I stopped off at Farmington and drove out to the bay just at sunset. Saw a few eagles in trees and one flew low over my car.

Not as many eagles as I've seen on other occasions, but worth the trip.

No comments: