Great Salt Lake festival a ‘tailgate party’ for birders
By brett prettyman
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published May 03 2012 01:01AM
Farmington Bay • Birders are often on the move — wading to this marsh, hiking to that thicket or driving to the next hilltop. But next week, they’ll break out their binoculars, spotting scopes and sleeping bags and plant themselves at Farmington Bay for 24 hours.
Then they’ll watch and count.
It’s all part of the Big Stay, an event taking place with the 14th annual Great Salt Lake Bird Festival, being staged at locations around northern Utah May 17-21.
"We have all kinds of fun events in birding," organizer Robert Mortensen said. "This one is a little different."
The Big Stay starts at 5 p.m. May 18 and ends at 5 p.m. May 19. The idea is to count as many birds and as many species as possible during those 24 hours. The limiting factor is that the birds have to be seen or heard from Goose Egg Island at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area.
Mortensen is working to get at least two experienced birders on site, but spotting during the free event is not limited to experts.
"Anybody can come out and help," he said. "We will also be sending out expedition crews to look for birds around the island. They can radio back and let us know if they spot one, and we can try to find it with the spotting scopes."
A tally of the birds and species will be kept on the island, and the outside world will be able to keep track as well through, appropriately enough, tweets from @birding_is_fun on Twitter. A description on the festival website calls the Big Stay a "tailgate party for bird-watchers."
The event is also a fundraiser for the Great Salt Lake Nature Center at Farmington Bay. Pledges can be made for each species spotted during the Big Stay. If a person pledges $1 per species and 75 are counted — Mortensen’s unofficial goal — the donation would be $75.
Great Salt Lake Bird Festival leader Neka Roundy said the Big Stay at Farmington Bay fits well with the "Birding as Families" theme for the 14th annual festival.
Field trips across northern Utah will be offered. Trips include excursions to places such as Deseret Ranch, Antelope Island and the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Paddling, photography and ecology trips are also on tap. Many of the trips filled soon after registration began, but Roundy noted some spots remain and cancellations can create openings.
Officials believe there were about a half-dozen trips during the debut year of the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival. Roundy said there now are 56.
"We have such a great committee," Roundy said, "birders who actually do it all the time and who are willing to share their secrets."
Greg Miller, the subject of the movie "The Big Year," will be the festival’s keynote speaker. Tickets for the Dutch oven dinner on May 19 at 6 p.m. when Miller will give his presentation are $27.
Attendees will likely hear what it was like for Miller to travel more than 130,000 miles and max five credit cards while attempting to see as many species across the world as he could in a year.
Miller also will participate in three field trips on May 18 and one on May 19.
Youth workshops will be from noon to 7 p.m. May 18 and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 19 at Davis County’s Legacy Events Center, 151 S. 1100 West, Farmington. Presentations will include everything from "Birding for Families" to butterflies to flight shows and live birds.