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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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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.

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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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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 hunting on the bear river migratory bird refuge.

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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 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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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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american white pelican
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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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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 nest
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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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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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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
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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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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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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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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.

american avocet
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.

hummingbird
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.

american goldfinch
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.

pine siskin
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.

green heron
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.

bird feeder
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.

loggerhead shrike
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

tundra swan

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.

tundra swan

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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.

pelicans