Greater Scaup drake at Bear River National Wildlife Refuge

Greater Scaup drakeGreater Scaup drake – Nikon D810, f8, 1.500, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

It was crisp, clear and very cold yesterday morning at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge where I saw a low of 8°F but it was great being back there. The Bear River had ice on it and so did many of the units on the auto tour route. I was hoping to see my first Bald Eagles or Tundra Swans of the winter season there but that did not happen. I did see loads of ducks.

This drake Greater Scaup is making the transition into his breeding plumage an was in among American Coots, a resting female scaup, Pied-Billed Grebes and a single Canvasback. It had warmed up to about 14°F by the time we found them and the coots were actively feeding. It is a challenge at time to isolate just one bird when they are grouped up like they were but in this image I like the out of focus grebe in the background.

Life is good.


Winter American Robin – Turdus migratorius

Winter American RobinWinter American Robin – Nikon D810, f9, 1/640, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

American Robins were first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1766 the species name Turdus migratorius. Turdus is the Latin word for “thrush” and migratorius comes from the Latin word migare which means “to go”. In many parts of North America American Robins are migratory though in some locations they are year round residents. Here in Utah I see them year round.

During the warmer months American Robins start to sing long before sunrise and if you have a window open you might even curse them because their dawn song goes on and on and on.  I love that song… as long as they aren’t right outside my window when I am trying to sleep.

Three states call the American Robin their state bird and quite a few songs have been written which feature them in the lyrics and they are also considered the harbingers of spring. American Robins are spoken about in Native American legends where the story is told that they got their red breast by fanning the dying flames of a fire to save a native American man and a child.

Personally, I love to see American Robins any time of the year and to watch them searching for prey. Common? Yes, but delightful too.


A Great Blue Heron hunkered down against winter’s brutal cold

A Great Blue Heron hunkered down against winter's brutal coldA Great Blue Heron hunkered down against winter’s brutal cold – Nikon D300, f9, 1/250, ISO 200, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400m, natural light, not baited

The official temperature at the SLC Airport this morning is 11°F so I guess it is time to pull out the gloves, hats, winter coats, boots and start layering my clothing to stay warm whenever I head out into the field. It even snowed a little in the valley yesterday and the mountains surrounding the valley are sporting white tops.

Last December I photographed this Great Blue Heron as it hunkered down against the brutal cold. I never used to think of Great Blues having to endure harsh winters until I moved here to Utah. When the water freezes over the Great Blue Herons start to hunt voles through the snow and that is fascinating to watch and photograph. When I photographed this Great Blue there was still some open water for it to hunt for prey in, but not much. I felt for the heron because there was still frost on its feathers from the cold night. It made me shiver.

These wading birds are tough!

Now, to find my gloves.

Life is good.


An American Coot munching on food

An American Coot munching on foodAn American Coot munching on food – Nikon D200, tripod mounted, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 350mm, natural light, not baited

As winter makes its approach here in northern Utah I tend to get excited about the raptors I will see but I try not to forget the common birds I see almost every time I go shooting.  American Coots are common birds and some folks might find them fairly plain but I like them and enjoy photographing them too.

There is a pond near where I live that in the winter and early spring can be a great place to spend an hour or two photographing ducks, grackles, grebes, songbirds and the almost always present American Coots. As long as there is open water there will be birds at the pond. This image was taken during the winter of 2009, my first official winter as a resident on Utah at that pond. Because there are many fisherman and people who walk around the pond the birds are acclimated to human presence and will come close if you have the patience to wait for them.

Photographing coots is challenging because of the high contrast between their black plumage and that ivory white bill but I enjoy the challenges. I’m able to set my tripod down low at the pond and sit on the ground behind the camera to photograph them at the pond even when there is snow on the ground.

So go ahead Old Man Winter, bring it on! I’ll meet you at the pond to photograph these old coots. :-)

Life is good.