For someone who has been birding for more than 40 years, Merrill Webb is as passionate as ever about watching birds.
I ask him about birding at Utah Lake, and he keeps cutting himself off while mentioning the best observation spots. Spanish Fork Delta. Hobble Creek Delta. Lincoln Beach. And a new favorite not a lot of people know about.
“I’m at Utah Lake a lot,” Webb says enthusiastically. “It’s the number one birding spot in Utah County—one of the best in the state.”
As with other Utah Lake recreational activities, Webb is quick to endorse the lake’s proximity. “It’s very accessible.”
And you don’t even need a boat to participate. In fact, birding is better along the shoreline anyway, Webb says, due to more productive feeding along the shoreline.
In addition to the aforementioned sites, Webb watches fowl “on both north and south side of Provo Bay.” And he says the Provo Airport dyke is one of the more popular sites, as it surrounds birders with activity to the east, south, and west at the lake itself. “It’s an extremely productive viewing site.”
Although birds inhabit Utah Lake year round, the most active opportunities are during spring and fall migrations. Or anytime an exposed mud flat presents itself. “There are lot of different birds at different times of the year,” he says.
As for variety, “There’s always a variation of ducks, king fishers, and osprey (hawk),” he says. “On the south end this September, I saw 20-25 different species, including Caspian Turns,” Webb exclaims.
Given his decades long expertise, Webb also shares broader wisdom concerning the lake’s ecosystem. “It’s still the best place around for birding, but I’ve noticed tremendous changes in the last five years,” he says. “Phragmites are choking out native plants that are more attractive to birds,” he says, acknowledging the shoreline restoration project, “and there’s been a decrease in pelicans since the carp removal project.”
At the same time, a lot of the change is good, Webb says. “There’s a new observation tower near 4000. It’s a little known dirt road that goes north towards lake, but it’s open to the public and another great place to bird at the lake.”
For more information on birding at Utah Lake, readers are welcome to email Ned Hill, president of the Utah Birders Association.
Image credit: Me and My Dog