ANTELOPE ISLAND - Even when there’s snow on the ground, there are still plenty of birds that make Antelope Island their home.
Residents of all ages and experience levels will get the chance to spot all of them at the island’s Christmas Bird Count, set for Jan. 1 at 8 a.m. The count, which is currently in its 114th year, is part of an international effort to monitor the health and migratory patterns of different bird populations.
“It’s the longest continuously run survey in the world,” said Bill Fenimore, who will be leading one of the groups at the Jan. 1 count. “You don’t need to be a bird expert to come help out. Everyone is welcome.”
Fenimore, who also owns Wild About Birds Nature Center in Layton, will lead the group that will cover the south end of the island. A second group will cover the north end of the island, while a third will monitor the eastern shore of the Great Salt Lake.
Volunteers will record the number of birds and their species in each of these areas, then turn the information in to the Audobon Society to compare and contrast to previous years.
“You’ll see any kind of trend that’s developing,” said Fenimore. “It was the bird count that first showed the decline of bald eagles, and now they’ve made a comeback to the point they’ve been removed from the endangered species list.”
Bald Eagles are only one of the many species that have been known to visit the island. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources re-introduced Sharp-tailed Grouse to the island, a species that was once native there.
“That’s always exciting,” said Fenimore.
Some birds even time-share the space. In winter, Rough-legged Hawks fly down from the artic tundra to spend relatively balmy winters on Antelope Island. In the summer, they return home and Swainson’s Hawks fly up from Argentina to spend the summer on the island.
“They live in the same areas and eat the same prey,” said Fenimore. “They just do it at different times of year.”
Those who are interested in participating in the count should meet at the parking lot next to the Antelope Island Causeway’s front gate at 8 a.m. For more information, call 801-779-2473.