Mule Deer doe on the Antelope Island CausewayMule Deer doe on the Antelope Island Causeway – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/160, ISO 400, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm with 1.4x TC at 220mm, natural light

Last week I spent some time camping in southern Utah hoping to find birds to photograph. Well it did not pan out as far as birds go (a little too early in the year for the species I wanted to photograph) but the scenery, weather and the company was fantastic.

The next day after returning to Salt Lake due to the lack of birds I headed to Antelope Island State Park where the birds are not lacking. I admit, I was having “withdrawals, I needed a bird fix.

On the causeway the Mule Deer was running away from the island, I should have known it might have had a reason to do that. The doe paused long enough for a few photos then on towards the island I went.

Willet lift offWillet lift off – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/750, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

The first bird close enough to photograph was a Chukar (common on the island), I got the window rolled down and rested my lens on my noodle and got ready to photograph the bird.

Almost immediately I could feel a stinging sensation on my cheek, then my hairline followed by my wrist. I groaned “The Antelope Island gnats are back!”. It is amazing how much difference a few days can make. The biting gnats come out around the end of April on Antelope Island and they last for weeks. And weeks. For what seems to be years.

They are tiny, little buggers but their bites are big. They don’t take a huge chunk out of you or anything but the bites do make their presence known. I’d written about the need to “Buy cases of insect repellent” in a bird photography blog post here in February and maybe people thought I was joking but you do need those cases of insect repellent for those biting gnats. Even after using the repellent those nasty gnats still find unprotected areas to bite. They are a scourge. After the biting gnats appear there are signs at the park entrance noting the presence of gnats and just how bad they are. “Biting gnats are present” and “Biting gnats are very bad”.

Male Horned Lark on RabbitbrushMale Horned Lark on Rabbitbrush – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

So, just at the time of year when the Pronghorns and the Bison will have their young, the Willets are returning to call on the rocks, when Black-billed Magpie chicks should be hatching, when the Long-billed Curlews are on their nests and bird activity really picks up on the island… the biting gnats come back.

If you have never been bitten by the gnats on Antelope Island, thank your lucky stars and be glad. The itching doesn’t start right away but when it does, you will sure know it! I have to wonder if the gnats bite the birds and animals on the island or if they just prefer humans.

I hereby put the millions of biting gnats on Antelope Island on notice: No matter how many times you break through my insect repellent shield, I am still going to photograph birds on Antelope Island. No matter how much you make me itch or make me gasp from the fumes of the bug juice, I am still going to show up on the island. You might bug me (literally) but you won’t stop me either. And every chance I get I will squash the snot right out of you. You can bite me but you won’t win!

The biting gnats seem to go away once the temperatures hit the 90 degree mark, not soon enough  if you ask me.

I wonder if Calamine lotion would help with the itching in my scalp? Pink hair does seem to be in fashion…

Yes, I am addicted to bird photography.