Ring-necked Pheasant male in autumn grasses and pickleweedMale Ring-necked Pheasants in autumn grasses and Pickleweed (from 2010) – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Some days when I don’t go out to photograph I look back through my files to find out what birds I had seen around the same time last year so I’ll know what birds I might find in certain locations. I also like looking back through the files because I find images I haven’t edited yet.

There are quite a few Ring-necked Pheasants to be found at the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area but they can be a challenge to find out in the open. I photographed these two males (one is mostly hidden) last year. We’d already had frost so the Pickleweed had turned crimson red in some spots, combined with the straw colored grasses this turned out to be a rather colorful image. Ah, autumn is very beautiful.

Juvenile White-crowned SparrowJuvenile White-crowned Sparrow (from 2010) – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

I like the subdued colors in the image above of this juvenile White-crowned Sparrow. The leaves on this shrub had already fallen and pale golden grasses made for a nice background setting. Despite the bird and the setting having similar coloration the birds stands out very well.

Pied-billed Grebe at Farmington Bay WMAPied-billed Grebe (from 2008) – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 320, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

The Pied-billed Grebes that I have seen very little of during the summer are now making their appearance. They might be “plain” birds but what they lack in color they make up for with their attitudes, they are feisty little grebes. I’ve seen them chasing after Red-breasted and Common Mergansers with fish to try and grab the food, Red-breasted Mergansers outweigh the Pied-billed Grebe by approximately 1.3 lbs. and  Common Mergansers out weigh them by 2.4 lbs. Pretty gutsy birds.

Red-winged Blackbird maleRed-winged Blackbird male – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/500, ISO 400, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

In October and November large flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds can be found in the Salt Lake Valley along with similar flocks of Starlings and Yellow-headed Blackbirds. I love the sound of the flocks lifting off in unison when I can hear the “whoosh” of their wings.

The Red-winged Blackbird above posed for over 10 minutes on this cattail giving me plenty of time to get my exposure right, photographing black birds is a challenge. When the temps get really chilly Red-winged Blackbirds (and other species) get “sticky”, meaning they are less apt to fly off right away.

Male Northern Harrier in flightMale Northern Harrier hovering in flight (from 2010) –  Nikon D200, f5.6, 1/500, ISO 640, +1.0 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Autumn means more Northern Harriers in the local places where I photograph birds, although harriers are year-round residents in the Salt Lake Valley, I see them most often and in greater numbers during the fall and winter. Male and female harriers look very different from each other. The male is often called the “Gray Ghost” though I’ve had many hits on my blog for the key words “light morph northern harrier”. The females are darker, brownish and have paler yellow eyes than the male.

Red-tailed Hawk on the ground with the Oquirrh mountains in the backgroundJuvenile Red-tailed Hawk (from 2010) on the ground with the Oquirrh mountains in the background – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Raptors like this juvenile Red-tailed Hawk move down from the high country during the autumn to the valleys to stay during the winter, the past few weeks I have seen their numbers increasing.

This Red-tailed Hawk was basking in the morning light near the top of an earthen dam with the Stansbury Mountains in the background. I couldn’t have asked for better light.

Photographing autumn birds is a delightful time for me in Utah, the beautiful fall colors delight and enthrall me, the air gets nippy and I find myself feeling a surge of energy whenever I am outdoors. I’m thinking  about adding new base layers to my clothing, warmer, insulated boots and buying a box of hand warmers so I don’t freeze my finger tips off.

Yes, I am looking forward to the birds I’ll see and photograph this autumn and winter but just being out there with them is great too.

Mia

One Comment

  1. Laurence B October 28, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Beautiful photos as always. I especially like the Blackbird pose. With the drooping wings and one raised foot that’s sort of fiddling with the branch, he looks like a caped villain plotting his next mischief.

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