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Dragonfly Resting On A Sunflower

dragonfly resting on a sunflower

When I photograph dragonflies I almost always try to get a real good close up to see their really cool head but sometimes, as in this case, I saw something different and tried to capture it in such a manner. I thought this little fella was looking pretty cool while sitting on this sunflower. He was pretty patient with me as I fidgeted with my camera and lenses for a bit, trying to get the best image with the dragonfly and sunflower I could.

dragonfly on a sunflower
Side view of a dragonfly resting on a sunflower.

This particular image I had to try and get the horizon level and lower in the frame as to not distract from the star of the image, the dragonfly. Composition is of the utmost importance in photography but is often overlooked. I took an incredible amount of photographs of this dragonfly resting comfortably on the sunflower in hopes some of them will look how it looked in my head when I came across this scene. As an outdoor photographer one cannot be afraid to take a lot of images in hopes of getting everything just right in the image.

dragonfly resting on a sunflower
Dragonfly resting on a sunflower with a slightly different background color.

The last image is pretty similar to the first image but it has a noticeable difference in the background color. I love trying to get smooth, soft backgrounds in different colors like this. I am torn as to which one I actually prefer over the other. Both were taken just a few minutes apart but the sun was starting to get pretty low on the horizon and that usually changes the lighting conditions so quickly images can often look different just from the changing light.

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Showy Milkweed Is More Than Just Another Weed

monarch butterfly caterpillar and hummingbird

I was not aware showy milkweeds were a nectar producing plant. A couple weeks ago I was surprised to see a variety of butterflies and a few hummingbirds feeding from the showy milkweed on the hillside where I was photographing butterflies. I watched in amazement all the different species of animals which utilized this often misunderstood plant. I tried to take a few images, unfortunately from a great distance, of the hummingbird feeding on the milkweed as it was a first for me to witness.

When I got home and started editing the images I was pleasantly surprised I had been photobombed by a monarch caterpillar who decided it needed to be in the photo as well. This particular day on the mountainside photographing butterflies taught me there are no useless plants in nature. Everything has a place. Even the showy milkweed which is often sprayed and dug up because it is viewed as and treated like a weed, hence the name. But after seeing all the different forms of life, from butterflies to bees and hummingbirds I have a new fondness for this plant. I am planning on planting a few showy milkweed plants in my yard for next year to help encourage monarch butterflies to lay eggs at my house but also hoping it will help the hummingbirds as well. Nature is a great thing if we stop and watch it, even for just a few minutes or so. We learn so much about the world around us and the plants and animals we share this planet with. What a world it is to have so much beauty and intrigue right around us to entertain and even enlighten us.

monarch butterfly caterpillar and hummingbird
A monarch butterfly caterpillar and a hummingbird share a showy milkweed.
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A Breezy Morning With A Monarch Butterfly

monarch butterfly on a wildflower

It was a breezy morning today. Normally I don’t mind a little wind to help cool things down from the intense heat we have been having but this morning was not one of those times. Photographing butterflies is hard enough by itself, especially in very low light, so the added frustration of a slight breeze when shooting slow shutter speeds only makes things even harder.

I took about 50 images this mornings but only 2 of them worked out. Each and every time I photographed the monarch butterfly a slight breeze would make the flower sway back and forth ever so slightly. I prefer to shoot in low light for this particular subject but wind makes it impossible as it tosses the subject back and forth.

With direct sunlight one can kick the shutter speed up quite a bit but that does change the tone of the image, however. For butterflies I prefer soft light and soft backgrounds. The subject is of a delicate nature, flowers and butterflies, so my mind thinks along those lines and I look for the appropriate light to shoot to get the desired results. It just means I have to be patient for the right conditions and be ready to photograph when the conditions do arrive.

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My First Ash-Throated Flycatcher

ash-throated flycatcher

I am not an expert birder by any means. I am barely a novice by most standards but that doesn’t keep me away from the excitement of finding new birds along my travels. A couple months ago I was out in a very remote part of northern Utah looking for owls to photograph when I came upon this perky little fellow.

I had not seen one before so the identification eluded me until I got home and reviewed the images with my bird literature. It turned out to be an ash-throated flycatcher, my first as a bird watcher and as a photographer.

I know very little, well, to be honest I know nothing, about the ash-throated flycatcher. I can’t say if it is a common or a unique find in the birding sense. Finding birds to photograph, however, regardless of species, is always a great find. I am happy with just about any bird to photograph but it adds a little extra excitement when it is my first for a certain species, like it was for this flycatcher.

Hopefully my unique personal finds in the birding and photography realm will keep coming. There are so many beautiful birds out there to find, observe and photograph I am anxious to get out and search again. Hopefully my next excursion will be as successful as it was for finding my first ash-throated flycatcher.

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Butterflies Are Beautiful

monarch butterfly on a red flower

Like the title infers I think butterflies are beautiful. They have stunning colors and are so peaceful to watch and photograph. I honestly can’t say I have a favorite species because I love all the butterflies I have had the opportunity to observe and capture on film but the monarch is near the top of the list for sure.

I had the opportunity to photograph this monarch on a red flower the other day. I can’t recall the name of the flower despite it being in my yard, however. It does offer such a brilliant splash of red against the soft grey background and really enhances the butterfly beautifully. Butterflies really don’t need any help being beautiful but a nice flower never hurts in such a composition.

I am pondering changing the landscaping of the yard to help butterflies and also hummingbirds with more natural flowers as a source of nectar. Seeing a butterfly or hummingbird at a flower, even for just a brief moment or two, is such a peaceful moment in one’s day I can’t help but want to put out more natural food sources for these beautiful creatures. I have fallen in love with butterflies this summer and look forward to each summer in the future I get to spend a little time observing and photographing them on beautiful flowers.

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A Great Love For Butterflies Has Gotten Even Greater Today

The monarch butterfly has always capture my interest. Not uncommon really as it has captured the hearts of possibly millions or more people worldwide to some degree. It is unquestionably the most well known of all the butterfly species. and today I had a great and very personal experience with one of these beautiful creatures in my own yard.

I recently took a new found interest in learning more about butterflies, including a trip to the local bookstore for a couple books on butterflies. This interest has blossomed further into learning how to raise and release butterflies back into the wild. I have started with the monarch this year as it has been categorized as the easiest butterfly to raise in captivity for release. A couple weeks ago I set out and searched for a few caterpillars and started this journey with the help of a new found friend by the name of Todd Stout and the excitement brought about by a recent butterfly field trip he put on.

After collecting a few caterpillars and some milkweed to use as a host plant the journey was underway. The caterpillars grew quickly and each day I changed their food and watched their progress. After a short time one of the bigger caterpillars changed into a chrysalis, otherwise known as pupating. One by one each caterpillar metamorphosed into their new but temporary home.

Last night I had my first butterfly emerge from the pupa and today I had my second one break out of its chrysalis and emerge as a beautiful monarch butterfly. Such an incredible thing to witness over such a short period of time where a very small caterpillar grows and eventually turns into such a stunning creature.

I took the butterfly out to let it finish drying its wings and to eventually be set free so it can begin to migrate south soon. As it was drying out its wings on one of my flowers I took a few images to commemorate this grand experience and to capture the grand beauty of the monarch while I still could before it gathered its strength and flew up in my pear tree.

I have a few more still waiting to emerge and I am anxious to experience this great moment in nature again and again. I hope more people will take an interest in butterflies and in the great natural world around us. I hope my photography will help inspire others to cherish and value the beauty all around us. We don’t have to look far, many times it is in our own backyards. But wherever we find nature I hope we all cherish and enjoy it as much as I do.

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An American Avocet Against A White Background

I have to admit I don’t remember exactly where this picture was taken. I don’t even remember when it was taken but I admire it for how soft and smooth the background turned out. The background is all natural and exactly how the camera captured it. I am sure it is a shallow pond as that is where the american avocet is almost always found, feeding and resting in a shallow bit of water.

The american avocet is a summer resident of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge with many nesting pairs rearing young each summer. Each fall, as they start to congregate for the great trip south to a warmer climate for the winter, thousands of american avocets can be seen in large flocks along the Antelope Island Causeway. It is an important shorebird habitat and one that is greatly misunderstood or not appreciated by many.

As I sit and ponder over this image I wonder if I should have “edited” out the few sparse pieces of vegetation in the background. Doing so would have given it a completely smooth look which much of the time I prefer or if just a taste of something in the background gives it a little personality. I am not much into over-editing an image and rarely do I alter such things unless it is a small but very distracting part in the image.

Well, for now I will leave it. Maybe someday I will play with the image and see how it looks with the sparse stands of vegetation edited out. Until that day comes, if it ever does, I will admire this beautiful bird and be saddened when they soon pack their bags and head south for the winter. The older I get I feel this journey isn’t such a bad idea. Maybe someday I can follow the avocets example and head to a warmer climate for a few months to avoid the blast of winter which is only a few short months away.

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A Quiet Evening In My Backyard

It’s late in the day and all is quiet in the yard except for a scrub jay at the feeder and a few chickadees sounding off in the distance. This time of night dragonflies are the staple visitor to the yard. Them, along with small white butterflies, are comprising my companions here this evening.

I had one dragonfly come and sit in front of me for a few minutes so, despite the distracting background, I obliged with taking his portrait. I like the dragonflies. Not only do they eat many of the bugs in the yard but they are entertaining to watch and are part of the never dull natural world in which we live.

I added a super cropped version of the image because I love the facial features of the dragonfly. Some would call it macro photography I suppose but to me it’s all just photography. I don’t differentiate but rather just enjoy it all, especially the birds, butterflies and yes, the dragonflies too which are keeping me company on this warm summer evening.

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Backyard Photography

One of the joys of photography is going out and finding new places and seeing new things. Recording those new experiences are what keeps me behind the camera. Unfortunately, however, I don’t always have time to go to new areas and look for new things. I don’t go photograph far away and exotic places either so I have to look for the interesting and unique close to home. In face, sometimes I have to look for it right at home.

I find some of the greatest satisfaction in photography by observing and recording nature right in my own backyard. It is amazing how much life there is right under our noses. All we have to do is look for it.

Yesterday after I went on a fairly successful butterfly excursion I came home and wanted to photograph some hummingbirds. To my dismay my yard has been pretty devoid of these little creatures this summer. I haven’t seen one at my feeders in almost a week but I had hope today would be the day the dry spell would be lifted.

Well, the clouds rolled in and nothing was happening at the feeder so I was thinking about packing it in and getting back to editing the endless stream of butterfly images I took earlier that day. Something caught my eye, however, just as I was getting up to head back inside. Something was making a branch on my newly blossoming butterfly bush bounce. I investigated and it turned out to be a bumble bee enjoying the fresh bounty from my butterfly bush. I tried to get an image of it but nothing worth while came of if but I noticed a dragonfly on one of the branches and I gave it a shot.

The light was low due to the clouds so I had to open up the aperture all the way, resulting in a very, very narrow depth of field but I caught the head of the dragonfly in focus so I can live with a little depth of field on the rest of the image.

It’s nothing fancy or even a wall hanger but it is rewarding to find and photograph nature in ones own backyard. I haven’t given up on the hummingbirds but sitting here early this morning looking at all the clouds I wonder if I will get to use my camera today at all or not. The yard is full of young chickadees just waiting for their portraits to be taken so hopefully the clouds will disperse so I can enjoy an afternoon photographing and watching the birds and other creatures right in my own backyard.

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A Yellow Headed Blackbird In A Nice Setting

yellow headed blackbird

Sitting here on my porch, listening to the chickadees chirp in the nearby tree, as I wait to go look for butterflies I took a few minutes to browse through some recent but older photographs. I came across this one of a yellow headed blackbird which I quickly realized I have not posted yet. I have to admit I can’t remember the exact location where the image was photographed but chances are it was on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

It isn’t anything fancy or of a unique behavior but rather just a nice pose of a beautiful bird. I remember it was hard to get the image I wanted with the head turned the right way. Birds can be frustrating subjects to photograph in an artsy way because they never seem to pose the way the image in my head calls for.

The background came out how I love, clean, smooth and of a soft color. It’s simple but to me at least it speaks volumes. I like bird portraits like this, one that lets the beauty of the bird tell the story. I could actually look at this for hours and I have often glanced at it as I peruse through my images from time to time.

Even though it is expected to be near or at 100 degrees today the yellow headed blackbird days here in northern Utah for this year are numbered. With the efforts of another breeding season winding down it won’t be long before mother nature signals them to head south for the winter. That’s ok because it just means another spring isn’t far behind. A funny thing to say I know when it is still 100 degrees in the dead of summer but I always appreciate the changing of the seasons and the changing of the things out in nature to go look for and photograph.

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Close Up Of A Barn Swallow Against A Smooth Background

barn swallow on the bear river migratory bird refuge

Barn swallows on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge are extremely common. I would guess they would number in the many of thousands or more. I have photographed them a couple times, or at least tried as they are very agile, quick and don’t sit for very long. As summer comes to an end and fall prepares it’s stay the barn swallow prepares for it’s long journey southward and eventually the refuge will say goodbye to one of its summer residents.

barn swallow on the bear river migratory bird refuge
Another view of a barn swallow on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

I had the opportunity to get a couple of poses of a barn swallow sitting on a wooden fence post. What I like most about the pictures is how clean and smooth the background is. It was taken against a canal of water on the bird refuge but I never expected it to be so smooth, giving full attention to the swallow on the post.

When I photograph birds and butterflies I prefer a simple background which doesn’t add a lot of distractions to the image but lets one focus on the subject, in this case a cooperative barn swallow. Some detail in the background does indeed help give character to an image but, at least for me, too much can be distracting and take a way from the subject.

I will note this was taken on a very cloudy day. The colors of the bird didn’t exactly pop due to the soft light but I am pleased with how it came out.

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A Common Raven On A Slow Day

A couple months ago I found myself on one of those birding excursions where nothing was happening. Yes, it happens and I hate to admit it happens quite often. Finding and photographing birds isn’t always an easy endeavor and there is never a guarantee birds will be there to photograph, even in the best of spots. But one must always have hope and be ready for anything, even if it isn’t what one set out to find.


On this particular day I found myself heading home with not much to show for my efforts. In fact I had nothing to show for my efforts as I was skunked. Yes, skunked. I was coming off the Great Salt Lake and came across a raven sitting on the side of the road seemingly without a care in the world. This both interested and perplexed me as ravens are quite camera shy and even the slowing down of my vehicle will cause them to fly off so I wondered why this one was being so cooperative. I have never photographed a raven before despite them being extremely common.


To this day I have no idea why this particular raven let me photograph it for a period of time which seemed like an eternity in a photography perspective. Usually a successful photo shoot with a bird lasts only a few seconds or a minute or two at most but this particular raven sat for what seemed like 10 minutes or maybe more.

One thing to note about photographing ravens and very dark colored birds is the challenge of getting great detail in the dark plumage without the camera totally washing out the background by it overcompensating for the dark subject. Cameras are funny that way and when there is a wide spectrum of contrast often times parts of the image is washed out when the camera tries to compensate for the dark subject.

Well, anyway, it’s my first raven and I am happy with how they turned out. The images aren’t of a very artsy nature but I am glad to at least break the seemingly never ending dry streak I have had with this particular bird.

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Trying a new way to post

I am trying a new way to post to the blogosphere. I have been wanting to try from a mobile device as I don’t always have a computer with me but still want to share images while out in nature.

This image is of a butterfly I was able to photograph yesterday but as of yet my very limited butterfly knowledge can’t make the identification. The high country here in Utah still has some wildflowers and butterflies so hopefully I can get back up to photograph one more time before they start to decline for the season.

Well, like I said this is a test post and hopefully it will work out. I will try and identify the species of butterfly and edit the post when I find out what species of butterfly it is.

I have been informed it is a red admiral butterfly. I was thinking painted lady.

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My Heart Has Turned To Butterflies

monarch catarpillar

I admit summer is usually a time for pelicans and other wildlife but this year my heart has literally turned to butterflies. I have been spending as much time as I can photographing butterflies but I have started to get interested in their biology as well. I have started to raise monarch butterflies from caterpillars to learn more about them and hopefully someday help with the declining population of the monarch butterfly.

monarch caterpillar
A monarch caterpillar feeding on a showy milkweed plant.

The main reason noted for the decline of the monarch is highly attributed to the decline in milkweed, the only type of plant the female monarch butterfly will lay her eggs for the egg and caterpillar to hatch and feed on until it completes the cycle and turns into a monarch butterfly itself. I am not certain of the decline of milkweed as I have just started to get interested in learning about monarchs so forgive me if I have no serious biological information to report as of yet. I did want to, however, encourage others to get involved in learning more about the monarch butterfly. This picture is of a monarch caterpillar I found a few yards from my house in a patch of showy milkweed. In a few weeks this little guy will grow up to be another one of natures beautiful creatures, a monarch butterfly. If you want to know more about the monarch butterfly and butterflies in general and how to raise them and release them into the wild visit raisingbutterflies.org for more information.

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Another Close Encounter With My Resident Juvenile Coopers Hawk

juvenile coopers hawk

I seem to be quite lucky lately with catching glimpses of one of the juvenile coopers hawks that was raised in a nest in my yard. I just had another close-up but brief encounter with what I think is a female juvenile coopers hawk due to it’s larger size than the other juvenile.

juvenile coopers hawk
Resident juvenile coopers hawk from a nest in my tree.

As I was pulling a hose around the front of the yard one of the juvenile coopers hawks buzzed me and landed in the tree in front of me and started squawking as if it wanted me to feed it. It was only 10 feet away when it flew by me and landed in the tree. I am certain the parents have left and now the two juveniles are on their own and are very hungry. I wondered if for some reason since I have had many encounters with this bird it has gotten so accustomed to seeing me in the yard this particular encounter was in a way it hoping for some kind of help or something. It was peculiar how it flew right to me and landed just in front of me and immediately started screaming. I actually felt bad for it as I knew this is the hardest part of nature, when the juveniles leave the nest and are forced to fend for themselves.

juvenile coopers hawk
One of the juvenile coopers hawks from the nest in my yard paid me a visit tonight.

I quickly went inside and grabbed my camera, hoping it would still be there when I came back because it isn’t everyday one gets to be 10 feet away from a wild hawk like this, especially in ones own yard.

juvenile coopers hawk
A juvenile coopers hawk from the nest in my yard.

The images aren’t tack sharp as this encounter was like all the rest, late in the day and in the shadows so the light was very poor. I didn’t have time to try and set up a tripod so I shot it hand held and at 800 ISO and the shutter speed was only 1/200 of a second, not the ideal settings for a handheld shot but I had to do what I could do under the circumstances.

As I sit here typing I can hear both juveniles calling back and forth, flying from tree to tree chattering in hopes their parents return with food. I haven’t seen either parent for more than a week now so I am sure this is their first life lesson on survival. I hope they pass and can survive to adulthood. I am grateful I get these close encounters with such a grand bird in my own yard. It strengthens my resolve to keep photographing and loving what nature has to offer no matter where I am.

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It Has Been A Slow Year For Owls, At Least For Me

burrowing owl

I have been fascinated by butterflies and sunsets lately but let’s get back to what I love to photograph the most, birds. And owls are very near the top of the list of things I love to photograph. This year, however, has been slow for me in finding owls to photograph and observe. I have come across a couple short eared owls and a small handful of burrowing owls but it hasn’t been the banner type of year last year seemed to be for me.

burrowing owl
A burrowing owl posing for a portrait on an old wooden fence post.

A couple weeks ago I did come across a small group of burrowing owls. It was in a location of a known nest so I can only assume it was the family of owls which resided in the roadside burrow. It is interesting to note I see a definite time of day when I do see burrowing owls the most frequent and that is early morning and late evening. Not really a surprise as most animals tend to shy away from the heat of the day when it is this blistering hot. On this particular day I was having almost no luck finding any owls to speak of until about 30 minutes before the sun set. The roads I was driving on for the past 2 hours all of a sudden came alive with life. Birds of all kinds seemingly came out of the proverbial woodwork to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and impending shade.

burrowing owl
Burrowing owls have been a little harder to find this year for some reason.

The downside to this is I was up against the clock to get a few images for my efforts. Me and the sun were deadlocked in a heated battle of which I knew my time would soon be up. I drove up and down the deserted country roads hoping for a close encounter of a burrowing owl gracious enough to allow its portrait to be taken. I am always amazed at how well most of them seem to sit for a photographer. I wish short eared owls would be as friendly as the burrowing owl as they seem to be short with their patience for us photogs hoping to capture their beauty on film.

burrowing owl
A burrowing owl giving me a slightly different pose.

I was able to get a few images of the burrowing owl, one of which on an old wooden fence post which I prefer over the metal t-posts used on many of the fences where I search for owls. I still haven’t captured my ideal owl image yet, at least for the burrowing owl that is. I seem to get great images but none yet on the preferred perch. I will keep looking and enjoy the time spent out photographing owls and the rest of what nature has to offer.

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A Recent Butterfly Field Trip Has Given Me a Great Love For Butterflies

boisduval's blue (Plebejus icarioides lycea)

Recently I have been bitten by a bug. Nothing serious or what one might think from such a statement but rather the butterfly bug. You see, yesterday I went on a field trip here in northern Utah to go look at some butterflies. I have always liked butterflies but didn’t know much about them and just kept my fondness to mostly photographing them. This field trip changed all of that and for the better.

boisduval's blue (Plebejus icarioides lycea)
boisduval’s blue (Plebejus icarioides lycea)

I learned a little about some of the unique behavior butterflies have and also learned there are so many unique and beautiful butterflies out there I had not heard of. I am always awed by the monarch and swallowtail butterflies but I learned yesterday those species are only a small drop in the butterfly bucket and, just like birds, there are so many unique and interestingly beautiful species out there to learn and appreciate.

Small wood nymph (Cercyonis oetus charon)
Small wood nymph (Cercyonis oetus charon)

This field trip introduced me to a Mr. Todd Stout who led a very informative and educational as well as enlightening field trip to the top of the wasatch mountains to observe butterflies. He operates www.raisingbutterflies.org as well as the Utah Butterfly Field Trips page on facebook. If you are interested in learning about butterflies or thinking about trying your hand at raising butterflies like I am give Todd a shout on his website or facebook page. He is extremely knowledgeable about butterflies and could quite possibly light the fire for butterflies within you too.

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A Small Brag With My Resident Juvenile Coopers Hawk

juvenile coopers hawk

Ok, I have to admit I am pretty lucky some days. Today is a good example. I am sitting here in my backyard editing butterfly photographs I took today and have been hearing a screeching sound off in my trees for about an hour. I know it is one of the juvenile coopers hawks that were raised in a nest in my yard this year. What I didn’t know was it was down on a very low old tree stump where I could get a photograph.

juvenile coopers hawk
Juvenile coopers hawk perched in my yard tonight.

I got up to change the water and decided to walk over and see where he is at. Low and behold he was on his favorite perch this whole time and I didn’t think to go check it out until now. His never ending squawking tells me just maybe he and his sibling are now fending for themselves. I haven’t seen the parents for a few days and the calling is almost non stop so it sound like mom and dad have left the area to force the youngsters to start to fend for themselves. I sure hope they make it. Each year I get a nest of coopers hawks in my yard but I never get to see just how many make it to adulthood. Well, back to my butterfly editing but I was ecstatic I had such a great opportunity to see one of the juvenile coopers hawks in my yard just now.

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A Drake Cinnamon Teal Keeping An Eye On Me

drake cinnamon teal

I admit, despite how humbling it is however to do so, I have a few nemesis birds I most definitely struggle getting great images of. I have a few, with the northern harrier at the top of this list mind you, I struggle to even get a poor photograph of. The drake cinnamon teal is one of those birds I do struggle with on a regular basis. I have achieved a few images here and there but nothing I would call stellar.

drake cinnamon teal
A drake cinnamon teal poses for the camera.

This image, obtained a few months ago on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, is one of those good but less than stellar images a few of my nemesis birds only occasionally seem to allow me to obtain. It depicts a resting drake cinnamon teal, one of my favorite ducks for sure, where he is keeping a close eye on my as I sit in my truck watching him from afar.

Each spring the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is flooded it seems with cinnamon teal anxiously awaiting the start of another breeding season. They are pretty common on the refuge but not always easy to photograph at this time. I find the males are less concerned with the casual human observer but the hens seem to be kind of skittish and take off at the least sight of trouble, causing the drakes to tag along in hopes of the upcoming breeding season endeavors to fall upon them. This particular drake cinnamon teal was by himself, which is kind of strange this time of year as many of them are out trying to impress the ladies. Well, I am glad he took the morning off from the constant dating efforts because he did give me a good image of one of my nemesis birds and I am glad for that.

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Reminiscing About The Importance Of Good Light On A Cloudy Afternoon

I am sitting here on my porch on this very windy, cloudy afternoon. I don’t have to tell you how many photographers hate such conditions, especially when photographing birds. There are, however, some subjects that actually do well in the soft, filtered light from a few clouds but this amount of clouds as well as stiff winds can only cause even the most patient photographer to pack his things and head for home. Light is what photography is all and when we don’t have good light or even enough average light it makes the job of getting a great image pretty hard.

A case in point is the two images I have posted below. One is a very tight crop of the other. It is a species of heron I frequently see on the Bear River Migratory Bird refuge but the species isn’t what’s important but rather the images themselves. I took them on a very sunny bright day where the light was very good. It gave me enough light to work with to capture great color on the bird as well have enough light to open up the aperture to blur the background and foreground, cutting down on the distracting vegetation. Well, almost that is.

I took this image to highlight the head features of this particular heron as the lighting conditions were great. The angle was not, however, as I had to shoot through a bunch of weeds and annoying vegetation. But because of the great light I was able to crop it down quite a bit to get the part of the bird I was hoping for, the head and beak for a type of head study. The image worked out quite well even despite the heavy cropping from the original image. On a cloudy day where I would have to use a much lower shutter speed or a higher ISO setting I would not have been able to get such a crisp, sharp image and the colors would not have been so brilliant either.

This is the result of photographing on days with great light, meaning full sun. Don’t get me wrong, there are many days I go out and photograph on cloudy days and I have gotten some great images but nothing beats photographing on a full sun type of day when the light allows you to play with the camera settings a bit and yet not lose too much light to get the image you want. Always think about light and how much you have when photographing. Photography is about capturing light and it is the most important thing a photographer needs to consider when going out and photographing outdoors. Great images can be had in many different conditions but the best images with regards to color and sharpness usually come from days when the light is in great abundance like it was on this particular day.

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Taking The Camera To The Limit And Playing With Different Settings

utah sunset

When I shoot sunsets I hope for bright colors and distinct patterns. I love it when the sky lights up with brilliant reds and pinks in a fire show of color and patterns. Sometimes, however, it doesn’t happen and I have to get creative to come home with something for my efforts. Some of the time I zoom in and try and capture a small, very small section of the sunset but when nothing at all is happening and I have nothing to hone in on I have to take a different approach.

utah sunset
Recent Utah sunset with quite different camera settings than I usually photograph with.

I have learned, mostly by trial and error, a photographer learns a lot by pushing the limits of the camera and playing with the camera settings. I think most photographers get so accustomed to doing things the same old way, taking the same old pictures, because that is how it has always been done. There is nothing wrong with keeping with what works as much of the methods of photography these days are tried and true but sometimes we have to throw the rules out the window and improvise. That is what I like to do the most, break the rules but only after I have learned them.

utah sunset
Recent Utah sunset changed over to black and white.

These two images of the same sunset are a good representation of what I am referring to. This particular sunset had no color at all. In fact, when I went to upload the images I could not find a “normal” version of the sunset on my computer. Reason being I am sure I ended up not taking one because the sunset didn’t offer anything normal to photograph. What I had to do was tweak the setting in my camera on one and try a different photo editing on the other but it might surprise you to find out which was which. The soft blue version is actually the one straight out of the camera and the black and white is the one I ended up changing in a photo editing program to try something different.

I played around with the camera settings to help offset the lack of color and try to end up with something a bit different but still something truly “captured” by the camera and not a photo editing trick. Each time I go photo a sunset I end up trying a few different things with my camera to see what I can come up with. Most of the time, however, I admit it doesn’t work but occasionally, like on this particular sunset my efforts paid off. I am beginning to offer a hands on style of photography class to teach people some of these things I do to shoot sunsets in a different manner. Unlike boring class room settings my classes are hands on out in the field shooting. I am a true believer the only way one learns isn’t talking about photographing but rather just going out and doing it. No matter if the skill level is novice I can help one take a better photo almost immediately with my hands on style of outdoor photography class.

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My Best Butterfly Image So Far

western tiger swallowtail

Aren’t butterflies beautiful? Photographing them is a pure delight of mine. It’s not an easy endeavor, however. These gentle creatures can surely be a most difficult subject to capture in the perfect setting as they flutter around from flower to flower in search of pollen. It is hard to nearly impossible to predict when and where they will land, thus making it almost impossible to try and plan for a great shot. For me a great shot includes a colorful flower, a nice smooth, soft colored background without a lot of distracting features and a great close up featuring the butterfly in all its glory.

western tiger swallowtail
Western tiger swallowtail

Although I have taken many butterfly photographs I truly love this image is quite possibly my best so far. To make it even more special for me it is of a western tiger swallowtail butterfly which I have only been able to photograph on a couple occasions. It has a great soft colored, smooth background. It has a brightly colored flower for the butterfly to perch on and it is a close up of the butterfly with no distractions at all in the background, thus giving all the attention to the subject in the image. I have to say I am extremely pleased with how this one turned out. Summer is in full swing and hopefully I will have more opportunities to photograph more butterflies, including a variety of other species if possible. This image, however, is a perfect example of what I hope to achieve with my future images of these beautiful creatures.

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The Wet Muddy Story Behind A Recent Waterfall

It’s no secret if you photograph waterfalls with me you might come home a little wet and muddy. It’s how I like it. Photography is a challenge and sometimes the challenge is the environment we shoot in. For me a few days ago it was a small waterfall where I came home a bit muddier and wetter than usual, especially for such a small stream.

Sometimes I end up wet and muddy when photographing waterfalls, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

On this particular day I found myself stuck in a deep bog for a few minutes. I had my expensive camera in one hand and my phone in the other, trying to not drop either one in the sticky swamp-like predicament I found myself in. I have photographed this waterfall before but do not remember such soft ground conditions but this year we had a very wet spring so I am chalking up this particular situation to the result of mother nature and the wet spring she gave us.
I like to find my images where other people overlook.

As I have mentioned before, I have photographed this waterfall before. It is small in size but makes for a great image I think. It is one of those small and out of the way places I like to go to photograph. These kinds of waterfalls are overlooked by most people because they aren’t big and grand in nature. But with a little bit of work and proper composition even the smallest waterfall can show off its natural beauty as well as the big ones. I don’t remember if previous times I have had the double waterfall going on but on this one I wanted to include the smaller waterfall the the left as part of the story I was trying to capture and tell.

Sometimes the angle I want leads me to getting a bit wet.

The trick to these small waterways is finding the right angle for composition. Sometimes, however, that means getting a little wet. For me it is all about composition when it comes to small waterfalls. You keep in the image what is important to the story you are trying to tell and cut out all the rest. I usually end up in the water in some way, shape or fashion like I did here by standing in the small cool mountain stream. Sometimes, I am sad to confess, I have found myself sitting down in one of these mountain streams to get the angle I want. It is actually a bit refreshing on a very hot summer day to take a quick plunge into the icy mountain water.

Small waterfalls can be just as unique and interesting as the big ones if photographed the right way.

With the advent of the modern DSLR cameras getting the right angle for composition is quite a bit easier than it was with the old film cameras. The live view screen makes it a snap to see what the final result will be and if any changes need to be make.

The final image, a waterfall I have photographed a couple of times now in fact.

Well, I am pretty pleased with the final result. It cost me a pair of shoes and a pair of pants but it was well worth it. I have photographed this small waterfall before and I am sure I will again down the road and each time I enjoy it as if it was the first time I have captured it on film. It reminds me to think angle and composition before anything else because it isn’t an easy waterfall to photograph because it is so small and getting the correct angle means ending up wet and muddy but as I have said before that is how I like it when photographing waterfalls.

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What A Difference The Sun Makes On A White Faced Ibis

white faced ibis

A white faced ibis from a couple weeks ago. This image may look a bit different and there is a reason why it does. I turned it black and white because the original image was so poorly colored because of the low light from the clouds and also the sun, what little there was, was coming from behind so the bird was back lit. It didn’t offer much in the way of color but I loved the pose so I opted to try it in black and white

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A white faced ibis from the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in low light.

For comparison I posted this image taken a few days later of another white faced ibis on a patch of reeds. This time the sun was out and one can see the brighter iridescent colors on the ibis. Having full sun makes all the difference with color but sometimes one can play with an image in poor light and still get good results.
white faced ibis
With the sun one can see the bright colors of the white faced ibis.

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Something Beautiful In An Ordinary Place

As an outdoor photographer there is little that brings more joy when finding something so beautiful but from an ordinary place. I love it when I am on a photography excursion and is having a hard time finding something worth while to photograph and then all of a sudden in a least likely place I come across something remarkable. I did just that a few days ago in one of the local canyons.
I had gone up to the top of the wasatch mountains to see what I could find to photograph. It has been many years since I ventured up to the top of the wasatch mountains even though I look at them every day. I was having no luck and was headed home until I came across the spot depicted in the first image, a grassy side hill. Not very exciting I admit but it wasn’t the hill itself but what was on the hill which made my day.

I noticed the area was loaded with butterflies. Lot and lots of butterflies. I am no expert on the matter but I could see they were some kind of swallowtail butterfly. Everywhere I looked on this plain, gentle sloping mountain meadow were lots of these large yellow butterflies. I was in heaven.

I love chasing butterflies for photography, literally. They can be a hard subject to photograph as they are always moving about from one flower to another. This particular place had more butterflies than I had ever seen so I opted for a different approach, sit and wait.

I was able to sit down at a central spot among a patch of wild flowers and let them come to me. An approach to butterfly photography I rarely employ but on this occasion it was the easiest due to the massive numbers of butterflies and the fairly steep hillside I was on.

I think I was there almost an hour or more. Passerby’s on the nearby mountain road might have wondered what a middle aged man with a camera was doing sitting on a sloping hillside in a patch of wild flowers but I didn’t care. I found what I was looking for, something so beautiful in such an ordinary place. It is testimonial to photographers everywhere to always keep ones eyes open and never give up until the sun goes down. There is always something unique or beautiful to photograph, you just have to find it and that usually takes some time, patience and perseverance like it did for me on this particular day.

I admit I have no clue what particular variety of swallowtail butterfly this individual is. I will do some research on the matter to understand more of the butterflies I love to photograph so much during the summer but until then I am going to enjoy the summer months searching for and photographing butterflies as much as I can.

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A Burrowing Owl On The Hunt

burrowing owl with a vole

Ok, I have to admit I am rather proud of these images of a burrowing owl after a couple of successful hunts. It is quite hard to catch them with prey, at least for me it has been, so having the opportunity to get a few great images of a burrowing owl with prey, in this case I think it is a vole, is a dream come true for me.

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A burrowing owl after a successful hunt.

Patience is the key to great bird photography. Some days I have it and some days I too am found being frustrated things just aren’t happening like I want. With nature, however, the outdoor photographer has to be patient and very observant and take what nature gives him. I had no idea on this day I would find a burrowing owl with prey but I kept being vigilant in my efforts to find an owl to photograph and it turned out the several hours of driving around searching for this predator paid off in a big way for me.

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Returning to feed its young this burrowing owl stops for a minute before heading to the nest.

When I teach photography seminars I stress the importance of being ready and knowing ones camera and settings. This is vital. Opportunities such as these are rare and come and go quickly. The outdoor photographer has to be ready to take the shot with the right camera settings or he will miss the image of a lifetime. Each subject or setting has different camera setting requirements such as bird photography, sunsets or photographing waterfalls, for example. Even within each situation the changing light may even cause one to need to change a few settings quickly or lose the shot so one has to be pretty comfortable with the camera and how the change settings back and forth. This comes from experience and practice. Lots and lots of practice but going out photographing things in nature is one of the most relaxing things I have ever done so even though it is practice it is quite enjoyable.

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Another successful hunt for this burrowing owl.

I don’t know when or even if may ever get the opportunity to photograph and observe burrowing owls with prey again. It was quite a remarkable moment for me to witness. Owls fascinate me, as do all birds, but on this day finding and photographing such a rare moment in the life of a burrowing owl was a remarkable experience I will always remember and cherish.

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In Flight Pelicans On The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

american white pelican on the bear river migratory bird refuge

It is summertime and that means one thing, well for me at least, pelicans in flight over the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. The american white pelican is a summer resident to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, actively feeding on the carp and other fish in it’s shallow waters. I have personally seen groups of pelicans on the refuge in large pods searching for food which possibly numbered near a thousand birds. Quite a sight to see when that many birds are in one location.

american white pelican on the bear river migratory bird refuge
An in flight image of an american white pelican on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

Photographing pelicans in flight takes high precedence for me when I visit the bird refuge. In fact, many trips during the summer are devoted mainly in search of pelicans where I can get in flight and take off images of them. They are such graceful birds in flight and make for a superb subject to photograph. Photographing flying birds isn’t always an easy proposition but the american white pelican is one of those species where the beginning photographer can have some success in photographing them in flight. They are common and relatively easy to find where an in flight image can be obtained. Their large stature and size makes for a much easier target to focus on when in flight.

american white pelican
The american white pelican is a summer resident on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

My favorite images are pelicans gliding very low above the water, just inches away from their wingtips touching the water. I am not sure how they can fly so low to the water and glide for such a long period of time between wing flaps but it does make for a very impressive image when it has been achieved. It is one of the pelican shots I do find the most difficult to obtain but I love the challenge. Usually when I find them they are in either take off or landing mode so the gliding behavior is one I don’t get to photograph very often but is one I always keep an eye out for in hopes of being successful.

american white pelican on the bear river migratory bird refuge
An american white pelica taking off in flight on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

It is summertime and even though the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge has some low water areas which has altered the patterns of the american white pelican feeding habits it is still a great time to visit the refuge to see it’s abundant wildlife. The american white pelican can still be found on the refuge during this low water period so make plans to visit the wildlife refuge and see what it has to offer in the way of bird watching, great scenery and quite often very dramatic sunsets.

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Another Burrowing Owl And My Least Favorite Kind Of Light

burrowing owl

I am in owl mode. I love them so this time of year I go and look for owls to photograph any chance I get. Burrowing owls are fairly easy to find and photograph so they are a common subject for me. Typically when I go out in search of owls it is late in the day, early afternoon so the sun isn’t in the best of spots for the location I tend to frequent. I always try to get front lighting on my subjects so it shows the most available detail and color but sometimes I have to be satisfied with what mother nature gives me. This recent image of a burrowing owl is a great example. The amount and angle of light was great but was coming from the wrong direction, directly behind the owl giving it back lighting. Other images I have shot have not turned out as well on birds with back lighting but this one turned out rather well. It still gave lots of color and detail to the owl despite not having direct light on its face and front feather. I will always prefer front or even side lighting as opposed to back lighting when photographing birds but sometimes I am pleased with the results like I am with this one.

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A burrowing owl with some back light.
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My First Burrowing Owl Of The Year And That Pesky Metal Post

burrowing owl on a metal fence post

As most of my followers probably know by now I am not a fan of metal fence posts in wildlife photographs. I prefer a more natural look with a bird on a natural perch or even an old wooden fence post but when a golden opportunity arises to photograph ones first burrowing owl of the year you take it no matter what the owl is sitting one. This image is my first burrowing owl for 2017. To me it is a superb shot, very clean background with a soft color. Both things I really strive for in portrait style shots with birds. It gives all the attention to the owl where it should be. In fact, the only thing I would change about this image is that pesky metal fence post which seems to be a common sight for me lately when photographing birds. Not a deal breaker by any means when one gets a shot like this but it does leave something to strive for as this photographer is still in search of the perfect owl image on an old fence post.

burrowing owl on a metal fence post
A burrowing owl on a metal fence post.
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It’s Time For The Boys Of Summer

american white pelican on the bear river migratory bird refuge.

It’s time for the boys of summer to return. No, this isn’t a baseball reference per say but a mention of another summer pastime I look forward to each year, photographing the american white pelican. I often refer to them as “the big white bird” and they are a true staple of summer photography for me as I love to watch them glide high on the summer thermals. This particular image was taken on the Bear River Migratory Bird refuge on a very familiar place but one that was altered from a storm this past winter. The tree had blown over from high winds last year. It was a common place for many birds to roost during the day and now it looks like in its altered position it may still offer its services to a different clientele.

american white pelican on the bear river migratory bird refuge.
An american white pelican sitting on a log on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.
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A Western Meadowlark In A More Natural Setting

singing western meadowlark

One of the goals I have when I photograph birds is to try and get them in a natural setting. It doesn’t always happen but that is a goal I strive for. Sometimes, however, one has to make exceptions when the opportunity arises like I did the other day but more about that in a minute.

The western meadowlark can easily be described as one of my favorite songbirds, if not my all time favorite songbird. I have been trying to get a really clean, sharp image of one singing in a natural setting all spring this year. I finally achieved it, well, at least I think so. The first image is my best effort to date, a western meadowlark singing on a sage brush perch. It has a very clean, soft colored background and not cluttered and it’s on a natural perch. So what’s not to love, right?

singing western meadowlark
A singing western meadowlark on a sage brush perch.

The second image is one I am using for comparison, an image already posted on some of my social media outlets. It is one of my best portraits of a western meadowlark except, of course, for that pesky metal fence post. It to has a clean background and soft colors behind the bird and if it wasn’t for the metal fence post I might actually like this image more than the first but I just can’t wrap my head around an unnatural setting for such a most beautiful bird so between the two the first image has a much higher probability to be printed than the second.

singing western meadowlark
A singing western meadowlark in a less natural setting, a metal fence post.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love both images but for me a wall hanger of a bird should be in a more natural setting if and when at all possible. The first image is what I am after but the pursuit is not over but only has begun. I am in search of a similar image but on an old wooden fence post. I know the irony with this endeavor as an old wooden fence post is still a man made object but there is just something so unique about a bird perching on such a pedestal singing its spring time song I am willing to overlook it to try and fulfill the image that is in my head I am in search of.

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The Burrowing Owls Are Back

burrowing owl

Saturday afternoon I decided to take an owl excursion of sorts. I went out in search of burrowing and short eared owls. Last year was a banner year it seemed so I was hoping for the same this year. So far on this first owl excursion I have only seen 2 short eared owls and 5 burrowing owls but I am hoping this is the start of another great year for owls. This burrowing owl was the only one which gave me an opportunity to get a photograph yesterday. It sat just long enough for me to snap a quick picture before it flew off further away from the road and well out of photography range. I am excited for another summer photographing and observing these beautiful birds.

burrowing owl
The burrowing owls have returned for another nesting season.
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Canada Goose Take Off Series

canada goose on the bear river migratory bird refuge

A few weeks ago I took a drive out to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge to see how the flooding has affected the refuge. Along the drive I came across a canada goose on a canal road so I stopped to take its picture. It gave me a most interesting take off series so I decided to post the series this morning as the weather is still cloudy and no chance to go photograph anything. Spring is here and time to get out and see this great natural world we live in.

canada goose on the bear river migratory bird refuge
Canada goose on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.
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Canada goose beginning its take off on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.
canada goose on the bear river migratory bird refuge
Canada goose on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.
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Upstroke wing beat of a canada goose taking to flight on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.
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Down stroke wing beat of a canada goose taking to flight on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.
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Another Great Horned Owl Opportunity

Earlier today I went out and photographed a great horned owl in my yard but it was very cold, windy and cloudy. Well, it’s still cold and windy but the sun came out, at least partially, for a few moments so I went back outside and tried to get another shot of this handsome owl and a short video of him perching in my tree. Here is the result of my efforts with one photo and a short video below it.

great horned owl
A great horned owl roosting in my tree.

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My Great Horned Owl……Revisited

Ok, I love owls. I never get tired of seeing them, especially the ones that frequent my yard. Lately I have had a great horned owl roosting in my trees but rarely perched in a photographic spot and rarely when the light is decent to photograph. Well, today he was back and the light was horrible due to the low clouds but the owl was in a better spot, not perfect but better, so I opted to try a couple shots of him. Continue reading My Great Horned Owl……Revisited

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Female House Finch at the Feeder

One of the more common birds at my feeders, especially during the cold winter months is the house finch. They often squabble with the american goldfinches over the limited perches at the feeder to partake of the thistle seed I set out each day for them. A few weeks ago I wanted to capture on video a house finch at the feeder. I was hoping for one of the brilliant red males but they seemed to be a little bit camera shy that day so I ended up with this female house finch instead. The wind was blowing so the feeder was swaying a bit. Winter is the best time to put out a feeder and watch and photograph birds in your yard.

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Song Sparrow on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Along with photographing birds, I like to watch birds. The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is one of my favorite places to watch birds in their natural settings. Recently, on a cloudy and rainy day, I found myself on the refuge and although the light was too low to shoot still photography I opted to record a simple video of a common but interesting bird on the bear river migratory bird refuge, a song sparrow.

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A Portrait of an American Kestrel

American kestrels are the smallest member of the falcon family. A very common bird here in Utah but one that is hard to photograph because of their skittish nature. They don’t sit still very often and rarely let me get close enough for a good shot, even with a large telephoto lens. Continue reading A Portrait of an American Kestrel

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Pied-billed grebes on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in severe winter conditions

The other day while visiting the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge I came across a small flock of pied-billed grebes in a pocket of open water. Lately the temperatures have been at or below 0 degrees F at night and have rarely gotten above 20 F during the day the past few weeks. This has led to the refuge being completely frozen over except for these very small pockets of open water kept open by the birds to feed and roost. I am not sure why these birds don’t migrate and leave these harsh conditions but they seem to get by and manage. I have seen several locations on the refuge like this one, small pockets of open water with a congregation of pied billed grebes as well as a few other species of birds depending upon the open water for survival. The refuge in the winter time is a harsh place for birds but they are very resilient.

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A Barn Owl Hunting in the Wind

A few days ago I headed out to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge for a birding and photo excursion. It was super cold and windy and even though I brought along my camera equipment, like I always do when I am on the refuge, I didn’t expect to see much but I still had hope of seeing something photographic.

The wind was fairly stiff and as I drove up to the refuge parking lot I noticed a barn owl hunting up and down the road, using it’s wings to soar ever so slowly just above the frozen ground in search of mice. I rarely see owls flying in the day so I was surprised by this sight but I quickly pulled over and grabbed my camera and took what shots I could while the opportunity was available.

Barn owls are beautiful animals and I have had them in my yard many times but I have never had a chance to photograph one on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge until now. After watching it fly over the marsh, back and forth, it came back near the road where I was sitting in my vehicle. The owl hovered for a minute then dove into the snowy bank. It finally caught a mouse and I was able to get a few shots of it before it grabbed it’s newly found meal and headed out on the frozen ice to eat it.

Even though the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is mostly frozen right now it is a great time to see raptors. I was able to come across 2 bald eagles, 2 falcons, several rough legged hawks, a couple unidentified hawks, numerous northern harriers and this barn owl, all within a couple hours on the auto tour route. It’s a great place to visit year round no matter what the weather is like.

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Barn owl on the bear river migratory bird refuge.

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barn owl
Barn owl hunting on the bear river migratory bird refuge.

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barn owl eating a mouse
Barn owl in the bear river migratory bird refuge eating a mouse.

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Barn owl in the snow on the bear river migratory bird refuge.

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barn owl
Barn owl hunting on the bear river migratory bird refuge.

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The Northern Shovelor

The northern shovelor, a common waterfowl species found on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge has never really caught a lot of my attention due to it’s common nature, until now. I was fortunate enough the other day to come across a couple of drake northern shoovelors while out looking for tundra swans on the refuge. For some reason, instead of bolting and flying off they decided to stay and pose.

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A pair of northern shovelors.

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A pair of drake northern shovelors on the bear river migratory bird refuge.

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Northern shovelors on the bear river migratory bird refuge.

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northern shovelor
A pair of drake northern shovelors on the bear river migratory bird refuge.

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The Return of the Tundra Swan

One of the most beautiful and magnificent birds on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is the tundra swan. Twice a year, during both spring and fall migration, the refuge plays host to thousands of tundra swans making their way either south or north, stopping to rest and feed on the vast wetlands produce by the bear river. Continue reading The Return of the Tundra Swan

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My Resident Barn Owl

Over the past month or more I have had a barn owl living in my backyard trees. It has been there each and every morning, faithfully perched on the same branch facing the same way, sleeping off the night’s hunting activities. With the onset of winter a few days ago, my resident barn owl disappeared on me. It seemed the rain, high wind and eventual snow, not to mention the sub-freezing temperatures might have encouraged the owl to find better accommodations. Continue reading My Resident Barn Owl

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A Visiting Great Horned Owl

I am lucky to have owls fairly regularly around my house. I often hear great horned owls hooting at night and see them in my large trees in the yard from time to time. I am also lucky to have the occasional opportunity to photograph them in my yard, like this shot I got of one a week or so ago perched on a large branch in my backyard. Nothing beats waking up in the morning and going outside to have this view in your yard.

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A great horned owl perched in a tree in m yard.
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The American Goldfinch, Revisited……Again

I admit it, I am a huge fan of the american goldfinch and photograph them as much as I possibly can. I love their soft chirps and their brilliant yellow plumage in the summer. They are the primary bird species I put feed and water out for each year. Along with the house finch, the american goldfinch makes up the bulk of my winter bird population at my feeders and some days I have 40 or more of them at my feeder at any given time.

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An american goldfinch in my yard, perched on a sunflower branch.

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Winter plumage american goldfinch perched on a sunflower.

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an american goldfinch perched on a cold fall day.

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Taking a Shot at the House Sparrow

The house sparrow is a much maligned bird in the birding world. It’s non-native and invasive reputation around here in North America has given many bird watchers a less than positive view of this little bird. I for one like the house sparrow, as I do all birds. It can be a pest around the feeder and I do have them in great numbers around my house year round but I still like having them in my yard. Continue reading Taking a Shot at the House Sparrow

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Feeding American Goldfinches

Bird feeding and bird watching are great activities one can enjoy year round. Winter is the most active time at a bird feeder due to the low amount of natural food and water. I put out a simple tube feeder year round for goldfinches and finches of all varieties that might stop by for a quick meal. Sitting and watching birds at a feeder is a relaxing way to unwind for the day. I encourage anyone thinking about trying bird feeding to give it a try. Start simple with a simple feeder and some seed and go from there. I love goldfinches and house finches so I use a tube feeder and thistle seed to attract these varieties of birds but other feeders and blends of bird seed can attract a wide variety of different bird species and you will have days at the feeder where you will see new birds you have never seen before. Put out a feeder and find out how fun and enjoyable bird feeding and bird watching is in your own backyard.

american goldfinches
american goldfinches at a thistle seed feeder.

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Western Pygmy Blue Butterfly

The western pygmy blue butterfly is one of the smallest butterflies in the world. It can also be one of the hardest to photograph because of it’s such small size. I was able to photograph this super tiny western pygmy blue butterfly on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge a month ago while out looking for birds to photograph. They are hard to spot and often hard to photograph but well worth the effort. Keep your eye out for one of nature’s smallest creatures, the western pygmy blue butterfly.

western pygmy blue butterfly
One of the smallest butterflies in the world, the western pygmy blue butterfly is less than half the size of a dime.
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A compilation of my sunset photography and my guitar music

Photography and guitar music are my two biggest passions. I have played guitar for almost 30 years, just for myself, and I have been into photography about the same length of time. I decided to combine them into a short video depicting one of my favorite photography subjects, sunsets. All the sunset photographs were taken by myself and all the background music was written and performed by myself. I hope you like it.

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Western Grebe Reflections

A few shots of a western grebe and it’s reflection from the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. The floating reflection of the western grebe has always been a tough shot for me to get for some reason. Here are a couple of the better shots of the western grebe which I have been able to get this past summer. Continue reading Western Grebe Reflections

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A Collection of Monarch Butterfly Shots

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Monarch butterflies are fascinating creatures. I often spend time searching for the monarch butterfly on the bear river migratory bird refuge each fall in hopes of catching them feeding or resting on a sunflower to photograph and make into greeting cards. Today was one of those days, well sort of. I started out in search of birds to photograph this morning but as I drove up to the refuge gate I realized my effort to photograph birds might not work out too well today as the youth waterfowl hunt was underway and most of my usual spots were already taken. Continue reading A Collection of Monarch Butterfly Shots

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Images of the American White Pelican

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The american white pelican is a very common visitor on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge during the summer months. This large white pelican, one of the largest birds in North America with a wingspan up to 9 feet long, is commonly viewed on the Bear River Refuge in large groups fishing for carp and other species of fish found on the fresh water marsh.

american white pelican
american white pelican

The american white pelicans have been studied and observed to favor isolated islands for nesting. This is quite true for this Northern Utah population as it has been said most if not all of the birds are found to nest on one remote island in the far reaches of the Great Salt Lake, gunnison island.

american white pelican
american white pelican

Gunnison island has been mentioned to be one of the three largest colonies in western North America. This northern Utah colony of american white pelicans has been estimated to have around 18,000 nesting birds on the Great Salt Lake and an average population of around 25,480 in July and August with a peak number of birds occurring at an incredible 85,834 in 1997.

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american white pelican

I spend a lot of time on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge watching and photographing the american white pelican. They are easy to spot and easy to watch on the refuge, making them an ideal bird to come see on the Bear River Refuge. Photographing them can also be a fairly easy task as they are often feeding close to the auto tour route, making them an easy target for the bird watcher as well as the bird photographer. Keep an eye out for the american white pelican while visiting during the summer months. I have sat and watched them for hours in one spot, watching them fish, preen, rest and interact with other pelicans and bird species. My favorite is when one comes in for a landing, using those long white wings to effortlessly glide down to the water and make an splash landing. They have been described as being very awkward on their feet but very graceful in the air.

american white pelican
american white pelican

During the summer months the american white pelican can often be seen splashing around in the open water, taking a bath and cleaning their plumage of white feathers. They are also been known to try and steal a freshly caught fish from other pelicans. I have observed this behavior many times as one pelican makes a great catch of a large carp and needing a few minutes to swallow the large fish gives other pelicans the opportunity to try and make the successful fisherman drop his catch.

american white pelican
american white pelican

What ever your interest, bird watching, photography, or both, the american white pelican is a great bird to get to know and enjoy on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and other wildlife management areas in northern Utah along the Great Salt Lake shoreline.

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american white pelican
american white pelican
american white pelican
american white pelican
american white pelican
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The End of Summer

Summer is fading fast. It looks like all my hummingbirds have moved on and the bees are in a feeding frenzy, cleaning out my hummingbird feeders almost daily. Soon it will be fall with cooler temperatures, shorter days and fall like colors in the mountains. I will miss the bright yellow of the vibrant sunflower and the quirky antics of the migrating hummingbird but fall and winter offer their own rewards, mostly somber and solitude-like scenes for me to photograph and enjoy. Fall is soon upon us and it is time to enjoy the end of summer.

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sunflower

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The chase is on

Quite often birds during breeding and nesting season get very territorial and protective of their small patch of real estate. This phenomenon isn’t limited to birds in the same species category but can often cross those barriers as well. Many times a smaller bird will run a much bigger bird out of it’s turf. These moments are spur of the moment and hard to capture on film but I was lucky to get just a moment one summer on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge when a red winged black bird had just about enough of a snowy egret and undertook the task of running the much larger bird out of the area. It was a sight to behold.

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snowy egret
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Head study of a great blue heron

This past summer while photographing birds on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge I came across a great blue heron that for some unknown reason sat and posed for me while I took photographs of it. That is quite unusual, especially just a few feet away, as most of the time I get a quick fleeting shot of the heron as it launches to leave the scene. but for some reason this one defied all odds and stayed put and gave me a great close up shot of it’s head and beak. something I haven’t been able to do until now, even with a big telephoto lens.

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great blue heron
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A most unusual backyard bird

About a month ago I had the most unusual sighting in my yard with regards to bird watching. The unusual part isn’t because the bird sighted is rare by any means. In fact, during the summer it is a very common bird here in northern Utah with one of the largest breeding colonies in north america, if I am remembering my facts correctly, here on one of our national wildlife refuges, the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. All over northern Utah during the summer months the white faced ibis can be seen feeding in flooded agriculture fields and pastures, probing for microorganisms in the soft deep mud with their long curved beaks. Their arrival each year is a sure sign spring is close at hand. So why is this such an unusual sighting? Well, the unusual part is they aren’t a bird often sighted in a backyard setting like they were earlier this year in my backyard, only a few yards from my house. At first it was just a couple birds but the flock grew and grew and by midday there was about 30 of them in my small patch of wild grasses. Despite the low light from the low hanging clouds I opted to get a few shots of these unique birds in such a close setting. Usually they don’t sit well for the camera so I had to take advantage of the rare but most welcomed situation. The white faced ibis are gearing up to head south for the winter now as it’s once again that time of year but I can always remember them as my most unusual backyard bird sighting.

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My Favorite Hummingbird

With hummingbird season coming to a quick and early close this year I often think about my favorite hummingbird of the year, and quite frankly possibly of all time. This tenacious little hummingbird showed up one morning at one of my feeders, looking a bit wore out from the constant battles and squabbles migrating hummingbirds endure on their journey. This little hummingbird seemed to have gotten into a few too many scrapes as it’s tail feathers were completely gone from the in-flight bickering over food. I watched the feeders off and on all day that day and to my surprise this feisty little bird kept coming back time and time again, even after getting chased off countless times, sometimes resulting in an aerial display of 2 hummingbirds in winged aerobatic duel. If you have never seen migrating hummingbirds protect a feeder then you haven’t seen some of nature’s most tenacious creatures. They don’t hold back and often times chase their rivals for unseen long distances and many times feather fly as the two, and often times more, hummingbirds try and settle who is in charge in a in-flight combat session. It’s part of their charm, their tenacious and feisty demeanor within such a tiny little frame. Well, I saw my favorite hummingbird, a black-chinned hummingbird of unknown age and gender, fighting for a spot at the table many times that day and I was impressed with how resilient it was even after so many losing efforts to partake of the sugary meal at hand. Hats off to my favorite hummingbird. I hope your journey is successful.

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black chinned hummingbird
black chinned hummingbird
black chinned hummingbird
black chinned hummingbird
black chinned hummingbird
black chinned hummingbird
black chinned hummingbird
black chinned hummingbird
black chinned hummingbird
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Marsh Wren Basics

The marsh wren, possibly the smallest resident of the marsh is a tough subject to photograph. They are tiny, very active as they are never sitting still, and live in a dense jungle of thick cattails, reeds and other marsh vegetation. Photographing them can be quite tricky. Certain times of the year lead to an easier time of it than others. Like most birds, spring is the easiest time to photograph and watch the marsh wren. The male is occupied with nest building and finding a suitable mate for the year. The male builds numerous nests to both attract a female and to trick potential predators by numerous fake nests. Photographing the marsh wren in the spring calls for patience and some luck. The luck comes in finding an active nest site where the male is constantly working on its nesting area, only stopping for a bit to call from a high strand of cattail to pronounce its territory and to possibly attract a mate. Its not hard to find an active nest site but the difficulty and the luck comes in finding one that isn’t buried deep in the marsh vegetation, rendering it almost impossible to photograph. Once a good spot is found the patience part of the equation takes over as it is patience that allows the photographer to watch and study and follow the feisty little bird to a routine in it’s territory where a predictable and photograph-able perch can be found. I was able to do just that this summer. I spend many an hour on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge on a couple of active nest sites on the auto tour route and was able to get the following shots of a marsh wren. They are fun and challenging birds to photograph and when you get a good shot of one you come away learning something about marsh wrens, outdoor photography and bird photography for sure.

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marsh wren
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marsh wren nest
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Female Black Chinned Hummingbird

Hummingbird season is quickly coming to a close here for the year. It seems they have started to migrate out a couple weeks sooner than normal. Usually I still have a decent population of the migrating marvels after the labor day weekend but the past 2 weeks I have seen a steady and steep decline at my feeders. I am still seeing a lone hummingbird make an appearance at the feeders but I don’t have the quarrels and squabbling over the feeders like I did a couple weeks ago when I would have up to a dozen birds fighting for a spot at the dinner table at one time. It seems most of the birds I am still getting at the feeders are female black-chinned hummingbirds. I still get a young rufous hummingbird as well but I have noticed a lot of female black-chinned hummingbirds still passing through. I don’t know why they are still so abundant and the other 3 regional species have seemingly moved through a bit earlier. I was able to get a couple good shots of a female black-chinned hummingbird on a salvia flower as well as a good close up of a perched black-chinned hummingbird, resting from the days labors I suppose. It’s sad to see them go for the season but they will be back in the spring and so will my feeders, ready for their yearly patrons.

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black-chinned hummingbird
black-chinned hummingbird
black-chinned hummingbird
black-chinned hummingbird
black-chinned hummingbird
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Western Grebes on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

I am a frequent visitor to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. It offers some fantastic bird watching opportunities for both the novice and expert birding enthusiasts. It is a huge wetland at the bottom end of the bear river where it opens up into the great salt lake. It offers nesting and resting habitat for both migratory and resident birds and other forms of wildlife. Birds, however, are the main draw to the refuge for it’s daily birding visitors which drive the refuge auto tour route and one of the most common birds on the bear river migratory bird refuge in the summertime is the western grebe. A nesting species on the refuge that offers spectacular water courtship dances during the spring and summer. This year I was fortunate to see an active nest of western grebes which had set up shop fairly close to the refuge auto tour route. I was able to film a little of their daily routine, nest building and incubation exchange of these two nesting western grebes. It’s something very few people get to see and because of the close proximity of the nest to the road I was able to capture a little of their hidden lives to show other bird enthusiasts as well as anybody else that might be interested in bird watching. I will say, however, I did wait until now, well after the nesting season was over, to post the video as to not bring any undue and excess pressure to the nesting site as it was very close to the road. Although it is incredible to watch such scenes in the wild we must also remember they are wild animals and can be sensitive to too much pressure from the well meaning viewers. The video was actually shot from the auto tour route from inside my vehicle, allowing the grebes to behave as they normally would. Quite often birders want to get a closer look and get out of their vehicles and try to move closer to such sensitive sites and many times theses birds may abandon their nests. I have found the best way to view birds on the refuge is to drive slow, stopping along the auto tour route to listen and search for birds and to stay inside my vehicle. It makes a great viewing blind as many birds on the refuge are accustomed to vehicles but very wary of foot traffic. Visit the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge throughout the year for some of the best bird watching opportunities available in the united states, especially for waterbirds and waterfowl. It is an incredible place to view and get interested in migratory birds.

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American goldfinch on a sunflower

I usually spend most of the winter photographing american goldfinches in my yard. They are quite plentiful and eager to pose for the camera during the winter but it has been hard for me to get a great shot of a fully colored male american goldfinch in it’s summer plumage. They seem to become less interested in my feeders as more natural food becomes plentiful when spring makes an appearance, just about the time they are starting to molt in their summer plumage. This year I decided to not do a vegetable garden and out of lack of desire to keep it cleaned up this year a ton of wild sunflowers have grown up in the garden. It didn’t take long for the goldfinches to find them and since then I have had a little luck getting some birds to cooperate for portrait shots, even though the goldfinch’s summer plumage is starting to fade as they are molting back into their winter attire. I did get this one decent shot of a male american goldfinch, still pretty vibrant yellow and black. I am excited for the winter bird feeding season to get here but at the same time I am sad to see the extraordinary colors of the american goldfinch begin to fade back to their more drab winter colors.

american goldfinch
American Goldfinch
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Backyard photography

One of my favorite venues to photograph is my own yard. I love finding stuff to shoot with my camera at my house. Not only does it save time and the expense of traveling but it is quite rewarding to be able to go outside and find something beautiful to share with others right from your own place. Tonight I was able to do just that. I had the urge as I often do this time of year to go out and photograph hummingbirds. I usually like photographing them over flowers but my efforts to get a flower garden started in my yard the past two years hasn’t quite gone as well as planned. I have had a struggle getting some color in my yard besides wild sunflowers but while out this afternoon I noticed one purple flower in my large patch of sunflowers. I am not sure what kind it is or even if I planted it but I noticed the hummingbirds would give it a brief look due to it’s color so I kept my eye on it hoping to get a shot of a hummingbird around it. My efforts tonight paid off as I did get one shot of a hummingbird investigating my lone patch of color in my otherwise bland yard. It might only be a small patch of color but its enough to put a smile on my face today with this shot.

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Black chinned hummingbird

In my neck of the woods, we get 4 types of hummingbirds, with one being pretty uncommon to see. We get broad tailed hummingbird, rufous hummingbirds, black chinned hummingbirds and the calliope hummingbird. The calliope is one I have only seen 1 of in my life, up in the mountains around 9000 feet this summer but never at my house. Broad tailed and rufous hummingbirds are very common in the fall during migration and are found fighting over my numerous feeders all day long. The black chinned hummingbird, although not uncommon around this region, is one hummingbird I have had very little luck in getting a good flying shot of. They don’t seem to be as aggressive over the feeder as the rufous hummingbird and quite often get run out of town by the more aggressive rufous hummingbird. The other day I sat and photographed hummingbirds at one of my feeders and the first bird that came in was a black chinned hummingbird. I was lucky enough to be ready to get one shot of him before he left, never to be seen again that day as the feeder was dominated the rest of the afternoon by a pesky and determined young rufous hummingbird. It’s only one shot but I am glad I was able to get a good flying shot of a black chinned hummingbird this year. I don’t get to see them as consistently as I do the rufous and broad tailed hummingbirds so even one shot of one puts a smile on my face. We are in the middle of the fall migration right now so I am hopeful I will get another shot as I am still seeing an occasional black chinned hummingbird at the feeders.

black chinned hummingbird
black chinned hummingbird
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Rufous hummingbird head study

The rufous hummingbird is one of the most beautiful hummingbird out there. It is definitely my favorite of the regional hummingbirds we get out west. I haven’t had much luck getting a real good shot of a male rufous hummingbird over the past couple of years. They migrate early and I am usually not in hummingbird mode when they are passing through. This year I started watching for them about a month earlier than I usually do so hopefully I can get some great shots of these beautiful little birds. I was able to get a decent, not great but decent, shot of a male rufous this evening before my good light left me and I had to call it quits for the evening and just sit and watch them without a camera. It’s still fun but I love the challenge of trying to get a super great shot of a hummingbird and never knowing what species will come to the feeder next is also part of the excitement.

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A couple of quick hummingbird shots

Yesterday I came home and noticed an adult male rufous hummingbird at my feeder. It was the first time I have seen an adult male at a feeder in my yard. I was excited and immediately grabbed my camera and began to watch the feeder for when he came back to feed. Well, I never saw him again. I guess he was passing through as their migration south has begun and he just stopped by for a quick snack. I stayed positive and hopeful as it was the first hummingbird I have seen in my yard for a couple months, since spring migration actually. I don’t get summer residents like a lot of people do for some reason so I have to wait for the influx of southbound travelers to my yard each fall to get any abundance of the little guys. Sitting at my feeder yesterday I had time to reflect at how many feeders I have at three different locations, family members houses. I counted 16 feeders dispersed at three locations covering a distance of 45 miles apart. I am a hummingbird addict of sorts. I love photographing them and seeing which varieties will come pay me a visit. Yesterday, however, my efforts paid off as another rufous came to the feeder. It wasn’t an adult male like I had seen before that day but any hummingbird at the feeder is a good hummingbird at the feeder. I was able to snap a couple quick close up shots before he too left and was never to be seen again. Well, I am not disappointed I only got a couple quick glimpses of hummingbirds but rather excited actually. It’s hummingbird season and I am ready for them.

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Baby on board with Western Grebes

One of the most fascinating behaviors in the bird world to me is how baby grebes will ride on their parents back while they are young. They can often be seen resting on their parents backs as their parents float around in the water. Quite often one of the parents will be diving under the water in search of small fish or minnow to feed their hungry family and will bring it to the baby riding on the parents back. I was out on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge a couple weeks ago and witnessed this behavior. It is very common to see the youngsters riding around on their parents backs from hatching and quite often through the month of July on the refuge. I was able to capture some photographs of this strange but cute behavior.

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Great Blue Heron on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Lately I have spent a lot of time photographing baseball games, following a little league team around to several local tournaments and trying to catch the action. It has taken me away from my love for birds and bird photography so the other day I took a break from editing thousands of baseball pictures to go relax and visit the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. It was a great day as great blue herons were in great abundance although they weren’t too willing to sit for a portrait. I was, however, lucky enough to get a couple shots of a flushing great blue heron before it got out of sight. They can be tricky birds to photograph as often times they won’t sit still for a picture and at other times they seem to want to pose for the camera. Either way, they are a fascinating bird and one of my favorites to photograph.

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Water Conservation for the Great Salt Lake

Our water resources here in Utah are in high demand and that demand will only increase as our population continues to grow. We are the second driest state in the nation and we need to start conserving our water before it’s too late. There are many important demands and uses for our water resources but we all need to find ways we can conserve and use less water each year or we may find ourselves without it. For example, the Colorado river has been drained to the point it doesn’t even reach the ocean any more due to too much water being pulled out of it. We face a similar scenario here in Utah as we watch the Great Salt Lake dry up because more and more water is being taken out of its rivers for other uses. We could lose one of our states greatest natural resources if we keep taking more water out of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem than it can handle. There are many important uses for water in this state but all of us need to start thinking of conserving water or we may lose an an incredible recreation area and ecosystem. The Great Salt Lake and all its tributaries and marshes provide a great source of economic benefit to the state through recreation and tourism, not to mention just the intrinsic value of having such a great and unique natural place so close by. Water conservation does matter and can affect us if we choose not to conserve. And by the way, this picture was shot on the great salt lake a couple of months ago and normally this spot would be under 5-10 feet of water and is now a mudflat. Food for thought.

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The American Avocet

The american avocet is a summer resident on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. It is one of the priority species the refuge directly manages for. They are an interesting and quirky bird, often found squabbling over a small patch of territory during breeding season. Like many birds the american avocet molts and changes it’s feathery attire from a drab winter coat to a more colorful breeding plumage. When they arrive on the refuge they are already colored in their breeding plumage and will transform back into their winter plumage in late summer. Avocets don’t usually stick around when the cold weather hits but this past year I witnessed avocets on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge all the way until about Christmas time with temperatures dipping down in the single digits and most of the refuge locked up in winter’s icy grip. They are a great bird to come explore and get to know on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and soon they will make their return to the refuge for yet another breeding season.

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An american avocet on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
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Photographing Great Blue Herons

Great blue herons are a favorite bird of mine and I spend a ton of time on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge watching and photographing them. These unique fishermen offer a great opportunity for birders and photographers alike to get a great portrait shot of one of nature’s skilled and incredible birds who fish for a living. Their slow and stealthy technique, often standing completely still for 5-10 minutes or more, offer a great opportunity to photograph these birds. Quite often it is hard to get great action shots on moving birds but a fishing great blue heron is a prime opportunity to get a great shot of a heron. Visit the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge this summer to see these great birds in action.

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Great Blue Heron fishing on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
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Red Winged Blackbirds

Red winged blackbirds are one of my all time favorite birds. I love their sweet sounding spring songs as they perch high on a cattail and declare their territory towards other male blackbirds. They also offer a unique and challenging subject to photograph due to their dark black feathery attire, allowing for little contrast for the bird. Often times when a camera reads the extremely dark feathers it over compensates and over lightens the background as it tries to tone down the dark subject. It is also often a challenge to get a good clean facial shot of a blackbird, especially looking towards the camera because of the dark feathers and little contrasting color on the bird. But these aspects are why I love photographing the red winged blackbird so much. It is a great challenge to get a good clean sharp shot of these birds because of their very dark attire and the tricks it often plays on a digital camera. Spring time isn’t too far away, even though the calendar still reads February, because the male red winged blackbirds have started their annual ritual of singing each morning to declare their territory. It’s a sure sign spring is just down the road.

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Red winged blackbird perched on a reed on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
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Red winged blackbird
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Red winged blackbird
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red winged blackbird
red winged blackbird
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Neck Collared Swans

Photographing and watching birds has been a life long passion of mine. It is challenging and rewarding to get a great photograph of a wild bird in a natural setting. But for me there is more to it than just watching and photographing birds. I love birds, always have ever since I was a little kind, and bird migration fascinates me. When I was younger I wondered how biologists figured out when and where birds migrate to each spring and fall. It seemed like an daunting task as many birds migrate thousands of miles each year. I got my answer when I had the opportunity to help the state and federal biologists band waterfowl on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge many years back. We went out in air boats at night and netted numerous ducks that were flightless due to their summer molt. Once caught and back on shore the birds were tagged with metal leg bands and the day and location and band number were recorded for future reference if the bird ever was caught again or harvested by a waterfowl hunter.

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Banding birds and getting reports from hunters has aided in valuable knowledge of bird migration but it has a limit. Unless the bird is caught again in another study, the only other way for the bird to reveal vital migration information is to be harvested by a hunter, which means it can only give valuable data once. Another method of marking birds so they can be spotted by anyone countless times, such as birders or biologists any time of the year, is to put a neck collar on the bird along with the standard aluminum leg band. The neck collars are colored and have large numbers and letters on them, making them easy to spot and record without having to harvest the bird. This allows for more sightings of a particular bird all along the migration route and throughout the year, giving more detailed data of a birds migration, survival and behavior.

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I have been fortunate to see two separate neck collared tundra whistling swans on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, one in 2013 and one just a week ago. I was able to record the numbers and send in the date, location and neck collar markings to the Bird Banding Laboratory in which I received a certificate on when and where the swans were banded. It’s cool to note that the swan in these pictures is actually the swan referred to in the certificate.

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It’s really cool to find out such information about a wild bird and know where it has been and how old it is. So when you are out watching swans on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, keep your eye out for swans and also canada geese with plastic colored collars around their neck. Record the number, color, date and location and send it to the Bird Banding Laboratory on their website http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl/

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Great Salt Lake Black and White Sunset

Photographing sunsets on the great salt lake is one of my all time favorite things to do. It offers a very unique and serene setting and countless miles of shoreline to find a great spot. Today I found myself out on the great salt lake again in search of another sunset, much like I do on any day there are a few clouds forming in late afternoon. It’s quiet and peaceful out on the lake shore. One thing I have been getting into more and more lately are black and white as well as sepia versions of sunsets. They are more somber and moody. Tonight the sunset didn’t quite show any spectacular colors so I thought they would look more unique in a black and white format. I might be the only one but I am really liking black and white sunsets and waterscape shots. Here are a the results of my efforts today on the great salt lake. Most of them are in black and white but I did add one color shot that I liked.

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american goldfinch winter

It has been a very mild winter this year. It’s only mid February and we have had many days in the 50’s and even 60’s for temperatures. I don’t mind the warm weather at all, in fact I am loving it with one exception. I have noticed ever since the weather turned from the short but brutal cold temperatures we had earlier in the year, dropping down to near zero degrees at times, the american goldfinches in my yard have been less eager to come and feed at my feeders. Earlier this winter when it was much colder I have had 30-40 at any given time but with the warmer temperatures its rare to have more then 5-7 now at any given time. I am glad they aren’t having to deal with the colder temperatures and can find more natural food with the current and long standing lack of snow cover but I do miss them watching them squabble over a perch on the feeder. I have noticed also some are just barely starting to get some of their summer yellow feathers to come in as well.

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American Goldfinch
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Bird Watching and Photographing at Home

I love to get out and see new places and even photograph in places I have frequented often. But the times I enjoy the most are those times I get to sit in my own yard and just watch nature’s bounty around my house. Today I was able to do just that, spend a few minutes watching the american goldfinches and house finches come to my feeder. I was able to get a few good shots although photographing them was secondary to me just being able to sit and watch them for a few minutes and not have to do much else. Bird watching is a great way to relax. I sometimes forget how enjoyable it is when I am out trying to find cool things to photograph. It’s nice to be able to just sit and watch the birds and enjoy them. They can remind us how important nature is and how easy it is to enjoy, even in our own backyards. Put out a feeder and water container for the birds this year in your own yard and enjoy what comes to visit.

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Winter Solitude on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Winter is a quiet time on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Most of the birds have migrated south and the marsh is overcome by a thick layer of ice. It is quiet and peaceful on the refuge at the time but not completely barren of visitors. Winter time brings down bald eagles and rough legged hawks to the refuge in search of winter food. In mild winters, like we are experiencing this year, tundra swans often return early to the refuge hoping to find pockets of open water in which to rest and feed on. But sometimes the most beautiful things on the refuge this time of year are the things often taken for granted, the peace and solitude of being out in nature. I try to find things often overlooked when out photographing. Things which I find beauty and peace in and which might have a small story to tell, such as a feather from a migrating tundra swan blowing in the wind and being caught on a reed. The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is a great place to visit year round, and even when it isn’t filled up with much of the millions of birds that frequent the sanctuary each year it has beauty on it in all of its forms.

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Swans on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Spring migration is a favorite time of mine. Although spring is still a couple months away the current warm winter we have been having here has led to tundra swans stopping short on their southbound migration and staying on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Typically tundra swans leave the refuge right after freeze up but this year I have seen swans on the refuge all winter long. Yesterday and today I ventured out in search of birds to photograph on the refuge and came across large numbers of tundra swans on the bear river bird refuge. It is a bit early for tundra swans to be on the refuge as it is usually frozen up now but to my surprise there were possibly thousands of swans and a good portion of open water on the refuge.

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Tundra swans on the bear river migratory bird refuge
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Tundra swans on the bear river migratory bird refuge
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Migrating tundra swans on the bear river migratory bird refuge
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Tundra swans are showing up on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
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Tundra swans on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
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Tundra swans on the bear river migratory bird refuge
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summertime butterflies

Summertime offers an abundance of things to photograph, especially wildflowers with butterflies and moths landing on them. They can be tricky at times as quite often they don’t sit still, especially when you get too close but the effort is well worth it when you succeed in getting a great shot of a butterfly on a wildflower. This is one I did last year in Cache National Forest.

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Great Salt Lake Sunsets

Some of the most incredible things I have ever seen in my endeavors in photographing nature are sunsets on the Great Salt Lake in Northern Utah. It offers incredible views and spectacular colors on those days when the clouds are around to offer up one of Utah’s spectacular sunsets. I visit the lake as much as I can and I have rarely seen sunsets which rival those shown over the Great Salt Lake. They are just plain spectacular and the whole Great Salt Lake itself deserves a trip to explore and understand and appreciate its beauty, both its natural wonders and it’s wildlife. Visit the Great Salt Lake and see what kind of sunsets and other natural treasures it has to offer.

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Visit the Great Salt Lake for spectacular sunsets
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black and white sunset

As many people know, I love to photograph sunsets. I love the color and the unique and individual nature of each one. Some are grand and glorious in color and have spectacular cloud shapes and formations and others are soft and subtle with less distinctive cloud arrangements but all offer a great scene. Lately I have been playing around with black and white sunsets, something not often done because sunsets are always associated with vibrant colors. But for me, sunsets are more than just about color. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great sunset with lots of deep rich color but I also love the moody aspects of sunsets that can be brought out with black and white shots. Shots which can highlight the cloud formations and the reflections on glass smooth water. I will continue to chase sunsets and the vibrant reds, oranges and pinks they often throw but I am also now looking for the other side of sunsets, the moods brought out which only black and white shots can offer.

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American Kestral Posing

One of the hardest birds I have tried to photograph is the american kestrel. It’s quite perplexing as they are very common birds. But for some reason they just don’t sit still for me when I am in range to photograph them. I was able to get a quick portrait shot of an american kestrel the other day as it sat and watched me fumble with my camera, trying to change lenses before it flew off. I had been out shooting portraits and forgot to change lenses when I arrived at the wildlife refuge entrance. Lesson learned the hard way. But I was able to get one good shot of him so I came away happy.

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american kestrel
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Just For a Brief Moment

Photography is about seeing something unique in a large setting and being able to cut it out from it’s surroundings so it tells a story. There are so many things around us that are beautiful and unique if we look close enough and spend the time to see the world around us. I have driven past this particular place a 100 times but it only takes the one time, the right time, in the right light to see something that wasn’t there before. The key is being able to cut out what detracts from the story or setting and keep just that part which says something to the photographer and it may not speak the same thing to all those who see it. It never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t stop and enjoy scenes like this when those rare occurrences happen and they just drive on by. I was heading home when I shot this and I had all my gear packed up and wasn’t even thinking there would be anything to shoot that late and in this location but you never know and you can never control when nature shows itself in all its beauty and grandeur. A photographer just has to be ready for those moments when they happen at a moments notice because, much like this particular moment, they only last for a few minutes and when they are gone they are gone. A great photographer once wrote that he would rather photograph an ordinary subject in extraordinary light than photograph an extraordinary subject in ordinary light. I fully agree with that statement. This particular spot is very plain and ordinary and I never really gave it much thought until I saw it in this light. I have tried to photograph it before but in ordinary light and it just isn’t the same as it is when the light is working in one’s favor, if only for a fleeting moment.IMG_0968a

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Sunset Over The Bear River Bird Refuge

A couple days ago I realized I haven’t been out photographing sunsets in a long time so I decided to grab my camera and head out to one of my favorite places to visit, the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Being we are right in the middle of a cold snap this winter I didn’t expect much open water as I love to photograph reflecting sunsets over water. I was surprised and glad I was met with a lot of open water. The sunset didn’t disappoint either. It ended up being a spectacular show of colors and reflection.

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Great Blue Heron on the Refuge

Today I found myself going through some old photographs I took on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and I came across this shot of a great blue heron. I can’t remember why I never edited and produced this photograph in the past but I like it a lot so I am finally showing it. Great blue herons are common visitors to the refuge with some staying year round. During the summer months they are quite common on the refuge auto tour route but not always easy to get a photograph of as many times they will fly off before you get close enough for a shot, even with a telephoto lens. But once in a while they stay put and show off a bit, just like this one did for me last summer. He was about 30 feet away when I took this shot and stayed and fished right in front of me for 20 minutes or more before flying off to a different spot to fish. Great blue herons are a favorite of mine on the refuge and one big reason I keep going back to the refuge.

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Great blue heron on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
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Water off a ducks back

A couple days ago I had the urge to brave the cold and see what birds are still hanging around the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. The temperatures have dropped significantly this week and knowing most if not all of the refuge water would be frozen I went but with the expectation of not seeing as much as I normally do when the refuge has open water. As I came across one of the water control structures I found a small patch of open water and a single ruddy duck. I stopped and watched this bird for a minute and it began to dive and come back up. I noticed something peculiar on it’s back as it came up from a dive. A large bead of water would form on the back of the duck and the duck’s feather appeared to be completely dry. I know ducks use oils from glands to keep their feathers “water repellent” but this is the first time I have actually witnessed it in person. It was about the only photography I was able to do on the refuge that day but it was well worth it.

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The Right Moment

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Sometimes photography is all about planning and preparation but sometimes it’s about being in the right place at the right time. I don’t necessarily think of it as luck as a photographer still has to be prepared and ready for such opportunities when they do arise as well as knowing locations that would offer such situations from time to time. I do believe, however, no matter how much preparation and planning goes into photographing nature and the outdoors, especially wildlife, there is a level of opportunity that cannot be controlled and a photographer has to relish and make the most of when those times occur. I had such an opportunity last winter on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge while looking for rough legged hawks, a common winter visitor on the refuge. All I was hoping for was a good photograph of these unique birds but what I found on my camera when I got home to edit the photographs was way more than I was hoping for with the exact moment caught with my camera. It wasn’t chance I found the hawks on the refuge and it wasn’t chance I was ready when one made it’s appearance but I will admit the result wasn’t anything I could have planned or even thought of when I shot the photograph. It is one of my favorite photographs because of the unpredictable results. A copy of this photograph is available in our shop page under prints and greeting cards.

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Todays Visitor

I get a lot of birds in my yard and trees throughout the year and that is always exciting. One frequent visitor stirs more excitement, however, than most other birds and he paid me a visit again today. I got to see another great horned owl in my yard today, up close and personal. Too bad it was a cloudy day with little light so I couldn’t get any great shots of him but just having him in the yard is worth it. The past few nights I have hear a lot of hooting outside but as morning comes around all I see are remnants of him with droppings and owl pellets in the driveway. He is a frequent visitor but rarely do I get a chance to get a great photograph of my favorite visitor. Hopefully he will be back again soon when there is more direct sunlight for a better portrait of him than what I was able to get today.

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great horned owl
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American Goldfinch

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Photographing birds is a very strong passion of mine. It’s something I feel I am still learning at and have a long way to go but every once in a while I get a photograph I am pretty proud of. Today is one of those days. After sitting for several hours, watching and trying to photograph goldfinches at my bird feeder I finally filled up my camera card and decided to call it a day and go look at what I had captured. Today was a slow day, the birds just weren’t coming in to the feeder at all, possibly due to the unseasonably warm and dry winter we are experiencing. I thought I didn’t get much as I didnt take many photographs due to the lack of birds and not much memory left on my card. To my surprise as I was looking through my photographs for the day I came across this one of an american goldfinch which really caught my eye and made the whole morning of sitting and waiting for long periods of time with no birds well worth it. As a photographer the one photograph out of hundreds and hundreds that resonates within you when you first see it on the computer makes all the frustration of all the time sitting and waiting and not ending up with much for the days efforts. I prescribe to the theory and notion if an outdoor photographer gets 1 stellar photograph out of maybe 50 or even 100 that is a good day. Not to say there aren’t others that arent good and arent print worth but rather I am talking about that spectacular photograph that just grabs you the very instant you see it and you know its a keeper. This particular american goldfinch photograph will most definitely be added to my shop as a greeting card, print and framed art for anybody wanting a copy of it. I hope you like it as much as I do.

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american goldfinch
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Getting Excited About Bird Watching

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As an outdoor photographer, I love to photograph anything in the outdoors that looks cool and can result in a great picture but one of my favorite subjects to photograph is birds. I love photographing birds and just watching birds in general. I love seeing new birds at my feeders I haven’t seen before and I love seeing the first arrivals each spring at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge as birds return from their winter homes.

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house finch

Bird watching is a simple activity to get started with but can lead to many hours of enjoyment for many years to come. I have always loved birds and can sit and watch them for hours. I remember when I was a young boy one saturday my father took me to a local wildlife management area to go bird watching. That day is forever engraved in my head. It really sparked my interest in birds and bird watching.

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american avocet at the bear river bird refuge

Recently I have started to get interested in what kinds of birds I may have around the house so a couple years ago I started off with a simple hummingbird feeder. I had never seen any hummingbirds at my house before so I didnt know what to expect or if I would even see any but I put out a feeder in hopes of seeing one. It wasn’t an hour after my feeder was out I had numerous hummingbirds swarming the feeder. I was amazed at how many hummingbirds were in my yard and I didnt even know it. It started to get me really excited to see what types of hummingbirds I will get at the feeder each day. I now look forward each spring to when I can put out the feeders again, waiting for that first sighting of a hummingbird.

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hummingbird

I think people would be amazed at how many birds might be in their yards if they put out a simple feeder and wait to see what comes in. For the past few years I have been putting out seed feeders to attract any and all types of song birds and I have been amazed at the results. I had no idea I had so many american goldfinches in my yard. At times I would have 30 or 40 of them in my feeder tree, the tree I hang my feeder in, at a time fighting over the best spot at the bird feeder.

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american goldfinch

The exciting thing is when I see a new bird at the feeder I haven’t seen before. Yesterday while photographing the american goldfinches I had a bird at the feeder I had not seen before. As it turns out it was a pine sisken, a bird I can now cross off on my checklist of birds I have seen. Bird watching is like having Christmas each time you go out and watch the feeder, you never know what you will get but it’s exciting to sit and watch as birds come into the feeder, hoping for that new, never seen before bird to make an appearance.

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pine siskin

But bird watching can be more than just a feeder at home. I find myself visiting the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge many times a week looking for new birds I may not have seen before. Last summer I cam across one I have never seen before, a green heron. It was another bird I could check off of my list and another bird I was introduced to by bird watching. Finding new birds at the Bear River Bird Refuge is exciting and keeps me coming back, looking for more new bird species each time I drive around the auto tour route.

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green heron

To get involved in bird watching all one needs is a desire to learn about birds. You don’t have to know much about birds to enjoy them and love watching them and finding species you haven’t seen before. You don’t have to be an expert bird identifier either to enjoy the activity. I am the worlds worst bird identifier but that doesn’t stop me from bird watching and loving being out looking for birds. I usually keep my bird book with me to help make an identification and I frequent many bird pages on Facebook where people are always helpful with identifying pictures of birds I am struggling with making an identification on.

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pine siskin and american goldfinches at feeder

If somebody wants to get into bird watching I would suggest getting a simple bird identification book and a bird checklist from their local wildlife agency or ornithological/Audubon society to keep track of birds they have seen. A pair of binoculars or a spotting scope will also help in spotting and making identification of birds but all one really needs is a desire to go watch and learn about birds. I do a lot of bird watching in my own yard, where I really don’t need any fancy equipment but rather just a simple bird feeder, my bird book and a chair. I find myself often sitting for hours watching the feeder during the day when I have the time.

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loggerhead shrike at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Bird watching is a fun and very enjoyable activity for anybody at any age. It can be done in one’s own backyard and will offer many hours of enjoyment and fun for a lifetime. Get started today and get out and go bird watching.

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Tundra Swan

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Each fall and spring the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is full of migrating tundra swans. One of the first sure signs of spring is on it’s way is the arrival of northbound migrating tundra swans on the refuge. Quite often these birds arrive when there is still much ice on the Bear River Refuge but it isnt long before the ice gives way to open water, allowing these majestic birds to feed and rest for a bit on their long journey north. Each spring the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge hosts a Swan Day on the refuge to celebrate these magnificent birds. It is a great day to come visit the refuge and see these great birds before they are gone for the season, only to return on their long journey southward in the fall.

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Fall House Finches

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Fall is a great time for photographing birds. One of my favorite birds to photograph is the house finch but it can be a hard bird to get great shots during most of the year. These birds are fairly elusive for me and my camera for much of the year but late fall and winter provides a great opportunity to photograph house finches as well as a variety of other song birds. Putting out a feeder with thistle seed and having some patience often pays off on getting these elusive birds to come and pose in front of the camera. Try putting out a feeder and some wild bird seed in your yard this winter and see what kinds of birds you may have around to watch and photograph in your own backyard. It is one of my favorite winter activities and I wait all summer for this time to photograph bird species which are fairly hard to photograph during the summer months.

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Another great way to attract more birds to your yard all year long is to put out some fresh water and a bird bath. I have some hanging water containers I use during the summer months but take them down when temperatures approach the freezing zone. I do utilize a shallow bird bath all year long which attracts many birds to my yard. The important thing to remember is to keep the bird bath and water clean and change it often as birds will leave their droppings in the water. Change it daily if you can and during the winter months I use warm water to defrost the ice in the bird bath and replace it with fresh water. Depending on the temperatures this will allow birds to drink daily at the bird bath for a few hours or more each day before any potential refreezing may occur. Water is critical during the winter months as it is throughout the year and by keeping fresh water around the yard you can attract many more birds to your feeder if fresh water is close by.

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Hummingbirds are one of my favorites.

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Hummingbirds are quickly becoming one of my favorite subjects to photograph. They are so fascinating with how they fly and how one bird will guard a feeder at almost any cost. It seems the protective hummingbird spends more energy fighting over the endless supply of sugar water at my house than it is worth.

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During peak migration it is not unheard of to have a dozen or so hummingbirds gathered around the feeder, all jockeying for a place at the table. This makes for a very interesting photo shoot as I have had many times the crazy little birds come over and scope me and my red lawn chair out when there is such commotion going on at the feeder.

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Nothing is funner than watching hummingbirds and trying to get a great picture of a hummingbird in flight. I have learned a lot about photography buy just trying to photograph these fascinating and often neurotic little birds. It gave me a chance to try things I haven’t done before and I learned a few tricks that not only has helped me with photographing hummingbirds but with other birds as well.

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If you want to add some beauty and have a peaceful activity at your house, put out a hummingbird feeder. It is an incredible way to find peace and joy with such an incredible and beautiful bird. There is something very therapeutic about bird watching and hummingbirds are one of the easiest to attract to ones house.

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The Unexpected Shot

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A couple of weeks ago I wanted to go find a new place to photograph birds so I fueled up the car and headed to the Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge on the northern end of Bear lake in Idaho. I was excited as I planned on some new shots and some new birds from what I had been seeing down at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

Don’t get me wrong, I love taking photographs on the Bear River Bird Refuge but I am out there several times a week so I wanted to change things up a bit. Try something new and unknown.

The Bear Lake Refuge is about 2 hours away, quietly tucked away in the most southeastern portion of Idaho. I had visited it before, many years ago, but I couldn’t remember much about it and I actually had to stop for directions when I got to the nearest town because it had been so long since my only visit.

It was hot and dry on the refuge with low water conditions prevailing on much of the marsh. My visit was sadly becoming a disappointment since the only birds I had seen were Canada geese, a couple of white faced ibis, a family of rudy ducks and a couple of pelicans on the Bear River. I did eventually see a northern harrier off in the distance as I was contemplating my next move, which included leaving and cutting my loses by maybe making it back home for a sunset shot somewhere.

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I was sitting on the bench, far away from my vehicle out in the marsh on an interpretive trail, watching butterflies dance around some purple flowers. I didn’t want to leave without taking a picture or two so I thought this would be a great time to practice taking some pictures on a subject I have not done before, butterflies on flowers.

Not expecting too much I snapped a few quick shots and headed for the car, sadly disappointed in the day’s events. I wasn’t even planning on looking at the pictures when I got home.

Later that night, I decided to take a quick peak at the pictures before I went to bed, thinking the day’s efforts were a loss. Much to my amazement, when I opened the file and looked at them I was stunned. I didn’t expect to have them turn out the way that they did. I quickly looked through them all and started to format them for facebook to share with my friends and their response was incredible.

It just goes to show when you go out to take a certain type of picture always keep your eyes open for the unexpected shot because you never know when or where it may come up. Admittedly, I was so impressed with those pictures, the next day I headed back out to photograph butterflies, ending up at a local mountain spot I knew that had a good hiking trail and meadows in search of more butterflies to photograph.

Most of my favorite shots have been from similar experiences such as this, I head out for one shot and come home with something completely different and totally unexpected. I always try to keep an open mind and my eyes open for those unexpected shots that are always around us if we take a few minutes to find them. And as a final note, the first two pictures on this post with the white butterflies on the purple flowers are from that day on the Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

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How Light Can Change Things

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There are a lot of similarities between life and photography, with the most apparent being success in both are all about what kind of light you look at things through. An example is the photo I attached. It might not mean much to anyone else or be the most exciting picture but it is a good example of this.

I had driven past this place literally a thousand times in my life, never giving it a second look. It is up in Logan right across the street from the Cache County Landfill and not a very attractive site. One day I was coming home from photographing a sunrise and the way the light and shadows were I slammed on my brakes and waded in snow up to my waste to get this picture. Somehow the light made all the difference that day. It was incredible and I wish I could have captured every ray of light that was present. Each time I drive past it now i am reminded of that day and how the light was just perfect and took a very boring and unattractive setting and turned it into one of my favorite photographs.

It’s all about looking at things in the right kind of light. Life is the same way. We can either choose to be down and frumpy all the time or choose to make our own “good light” and see things in a different way. Photography has given me the drive to change how I look at things and try and look at them in a different light because, like the above example, I can see now that anything can look great if we look at it in a whole new light. Even tough life struggles can have a silver lining if we look for it in a different light.

I would suggest to look at things in our lives through a metaphorical camera, looking and searching for the light that takes something unappealing and turns it into something amazing. It is all about what kind of light we look at things with.

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Photograph What You Like

 

pelicansSitting here on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge waiting for something cool to happen so I can try and photograph it has given me a lot of time to think about my passion for photographing birds. I am a true believer in you will naturally get better pictures if you photograph things that interest you. It just makes sense, doesn’t it?

Maybe that is too simplistic to even worry about but people always ask me how I get some of the shots I have gotten. The answer is simple, I love photographing birds and that passion gets me outside photographing as much as I possibly can. That is the first hurdle, actually getting out with a camera and pushing the shutter button and that will happen more if it is a subject you are interest in and the subject moves and compels you to go photograph. And the more you take pictures, the better they will be. Practice makes perfect, right?

The second reason why photographing something you like will naturally turn out better pictures is you will most likely have even a basic knowledge and understanding of your subject and that will also lead to better pictures.

IMG_5576anewI love taking pictures of geese and having a basic understanding of how they act and where they live and what times might be best to find them in certain places all lead to better pictures. One of my favorite series of pictures of canada geese are of a pair taking off. I was able to get that series of shots because I knew enough about geese and knew when they were getting anxious and were about to take off so i was able to take those photos.

I am by no means a bird expert but my passion for birds and passion for photographing birds gives me the desire and ability to take some great shots. Even if it is a bird I am not familiar with, just having a passion for birds in general helps me take better pictures and compels me to learn more about a certain bird species so I can improve on what I am trying to do with that bird.

If you want to take better pictures, start with a subject you are familiar with and find exciting, even if nobody else does. Having a certain level of familiarity of a subject and a passion for it will naturally lead to better pictures.

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