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4 good places to watch birds in Utah this spring

SALT LAKE CITY — Spring is here, which means wildlife migrations are in full swing. Bird-watching is a great opportunity to get outdoors and see a wide variety of wildlife — and enjoy the fun challenge of trying to identify them!

Bird-watching is a great opportunity to get outdoors and see a wide variety of wildlife.

— Story continues below photo.

Bird-watching is a great opportunity to get outdoors and see a wide variety of wildlife.

Whether you are a bird-watching enthusiast or just like being outside in nature, here are four good spots to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day on Saturday, May 11.

Moab Migratory Bird Day event

This event will be hosted by The Nature Conservancy and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) on May 11 at the Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve in Moab. Participants will have the opportunity to join wildlife biologists and the local bird club as they tour the wetlands and encounter a diverse assortment of migrating birds.

"Wetlands are rare along Utah's portion of the Colorado River, and that makes Moab's wetlands vital habitat for wildlife," said Linda Whitham, central canyonlands program manager at The Nature Conservancy's Moab Project Office. "Migratory Bird Day is an opportunity to learn about and celebrate the diverse wildlife and habitat that southeastern Utah has to offer."

In addition to a guided birding tour, the event will also include stations where visitors can learn about mammals, native fish and aquatic insects. Other fun activities for families will also be offered. All events are free and open to all ages.

The event will begin at the Kane Creek entrance to the preserve, 934 W. Kane Creek Blvd. in Moab. The birding tour will begin at 8 a.m., and all other activities will begin at 9 a.m. and end at noon. Participants should note that bikes, dogs and other pets are not permitted on the preserve.

While it's free, participants should register for the event online. For more information about the event, contact Linda Whitham at 435-259-4214, or Nicole Nielson, restoration biologist for the DWR, at 435-820-0687.

Cedar City Migratory Bird Day event

This event will be hosted by the Bureau of Land Management and DWR on May 11 from 7 a.m. to noon at West Canyon Park, 500 E. Center St. in Cedar City. Participants will be able to watch a bird banding demonstration, play games and go on a bird walk, where DWR biologists will provide information about the birds that are seen.

For more information about the event, contact DWR wildlife biologist Keith Day at 435-691-3113.

George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Wildlife Education Center

While an official Migratory Bird Day event won't be happening at the DWR's Eccles Wildlife Education Center, located at 1157 S. Waterfowl Way in Farmington, it is a great place to see migrating birds and other waterfowl year-round. The center has a 1.6-mile nature trail that visitors can stroll along to spot birds and enjoy the wetlands. DWR staff also offer a guided walk, "Birding on the Boardwalk," each day at 11 a.m. where they point out different bird species and share fun, interesting facts about them.

However, if you don't feel up to walking or the weather isn't good, there are opportunities to see birds from inside the Conservation Hall. It is located right next to a pond, which has a variety of birds, and there are several nesting poles that you can view from inside using spotting scopes. Currently, there are approximately 24 great blue heron nests on the poles and within the next two weeks, the chicks will be hatching. The herons are large, vocal birds, and nesting season is a particularly fun time to watch them.

Along with staff and volunteers who can provide information, there are also several field guides and photos to help you identify the various birds you see around the center. Along with the great blue herons, you can also expect to see avocets, geese and sandhill cranes, to name just a few.

"The Eccles Wildlife Education Center is a great place to enjoy all things wild," DWR center coordinator Billy Fenimore said.

The center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but visitors can walk the trails even when the center is closed. If you visit the center, do not feed the birds — they have plenty of natural things to eat at the reserve.

Great Salt Lake Bird Festival

The 21st annual Great Salt Lake Bird Festival is another great opportunity to see and learn more about birds in Utah. Sponsored by Davis County and hosted at the DWR's Eccles Wildlife Education Center, this event will take place May 16-19 at a variety of locations around the Wasatch Front. The festival will include a myriad of opportunities to see birds, including via a boat tour on the Great Salt Lake and several workshops at ranches and other locations. A photography workshop, art displays and youth activities will also be available.

For more information about the event and to purchase tickets, visit the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival website.

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