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wildlife & nature • 5 days, 4 nights

Science in the Field: Tracking Utah's Tiny Owls

wildlife & nature • 5 days, 4 nights

Science in the Field: Tracking Utah's Tiny Owls

No dates currently available. Notify me when dates are added.
  • Group Size 8 People Maximum
  • Activity Level
  • Travel Style
    Outdoor Expedition
from $1,655 USD per person
No dates currently available.Notify me when dates are added.

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Trip Overview

As darkness falls, discover one of the most secretive owl species in North America. Join us on an expedition into the mountains of Northern Utah to hear the low-pitched "boop" of the Flammulated Owl. These pocket-sized insectivores are less than six inches tall with dark, searching eyes—and an expert avian biologist will help us find them.

This is a chance to join researchers in their search for active nest sites, and to provide assistance as they measure and band female birds and follow the calls of territorial males. You’ll help scientists understand resource needs in an ever-changing environment and shifting climate. Over the course of these four days, we’ll add important data to the long-term study of this unique, tiny owl.

  • Up-close owl observations
  • Hands-on field research
  • Beautiful forest hikes
  • Night trapping and mist nets


Itineraries and daily schedules are subject to change. We expect to do everything listed in the itinerary, though the order may be rearranged based on weather or other local conditions.

Trip Leader

Markus Mika
Dr. Markus Mika is an avian biologist with a background in ecology, evolution, and conservation. For his doctoral research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, he traveled between southern Mexico and British Columbia for five years investigating the evolutionary history of bird populations, specifically small owls, using genetic markers. He worked on the Northern Utah Flammulated Owl project during the summer field seasons between 1999 and 2002 for his MS degree. After finishing his Ph.D., he picked up the project again in 2011, and has been gathering longterm nesting data on Flammulated Owls ever since. He worked as Science Director at HawkWatch International,  leading raptor conservation and citizen science efforts across the western United States. Currently, he teaches in the Biology Department at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse.

Additional Info

Activity Level

This trip will be physically demanding. Participants should be comfortable hiking between five and ten miles per day, often on steep trails and in unmarked sections of the forest, and sometimes involving bushwhacking and the carrying of field equipment, such as ladders. You'll need sturdy hiking boots as well as protective clothing to prevent cuts and scratches on your arms and legs. We'll also be spending extended time in the forest after dark with headlamps and flashlights.


Note that Ogden, Utah stands at 4,300 feet in elevation, and much of our field work takes place between 6,000 and 7,500 feet, which can make physical work more demanding. Altitude affects some more than others; if you're sensitive to altitude, we encourage you to arrive a day or two early to acclimate.


For the four nights of the trip, our group stays in a spacious house located in downtown historic Ogden with shared bathrooms, a large communal kitchen, and various lounge areas. The house also features a large backyard with tables, a deck, and an outdoor hot tub. Depending on the composition of the group, single travelers should be prepared to share a room with another traveler of the same gender.

Arrival & Departure

If flying by air, travelers should book flights arriving at Salt Lake City Airport anytime before 3 p.m. on Day 1 and departing after 12 p.m. on Day 5. If you'll be driving to Ogden, you should plan to arrive by 5 p.m. on Day 1 and leave after breakfast on the final morning.

  • Four nights of lodging in double-accommodation rooms in a spacious, shared house. Single travelers should be prepared to share a room with another traveler of the same gender, depending on the composition of the group.
  • Daily breakfast, daily lunch, and three dinners.
  • The company of an expert avian biologist and research assistant.
  • Private van transport throughout the trip.
  • A brand-new headlamp for our after-dark forest excursions.
  • If arriving by air, flights to and from Salt Lake City Airport (SLC). If arriving by vehicle, then transport to and from Ogden, Utah.
  • Additional meals and drinks outside of Atlas Obscura offerings, including one dinner and all alcoholic beverages.
  • Travel insurance (recommended).
  • If applicable, applying for a U.S. visa.
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Trip FAQ

Yes—and it's an important aspect of the trip for us! We're dedicated to supporting owls and their habitat, and we'll be donating 10 percent of trip proceeds to additional research through our friends at HawkWatch International. In 2018 and 2019, we were able to make a combined research donation of $3,918, which will go directly into further study of the Flammulated Owl.

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