An American White Pelican and a cloudy sky

American White Pelican and a cloudy skyAmerican White Pelican and a cloudy sky

I came across this American White Pelican image in my archives last week and wondered why I hadn’t edited it or published it on my blog. Then I chuckled at myself because I am well aware that I have literally thousands of images like this one that I have taken but haven’t processed, there just isn’t enough time in the day to process all of the images I take.

I photographed this American White Pelican in June of 2011 in one of my favorite locations, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. It was a somewhat cloudy day with bits of blue sky showing through the clouds and I believe I was on the west side of the auto tour route when the pelican flew by.

If you ever get to Utah be sure to try to spend a morning or even a full day at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge because there is always something great going on there!


I’m probably still wandering around looking for birds or other amazing things to photograph, feel free to share this post!

American Avocets at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

American Avocet adult in low lightAmerican Avocet adult in low light – Nikon D7100, f8, 1/1000, ISO 640, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

So far I have taken my new Nikon D7100 out into the field four times and haven’t really begun to put it to the test. I have had bad or low light and birds up close or good light and birds that are at a distance. I am looking forward to a day with great light and close subjects soon!

Last week I did spend a morning at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in northern Utah and even though the light wasn’t the best I still had a great time. There were plenty of American Avocets visible from the roads. It is breeding season and even though there are already some chicks running around some of the avocets are still incubating eggs too.

American Avocet eggAmerican Avocet egg in a scrape  – Nikon D7100, f8, 1/640, ISO 640, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Can you see the egg in this image? Some are very well hidden and before the adult left this egg it tugged and pulled some of the vegetation closer to the egg. It would be easy to accidentally step or drive over this egg in the location of this scrape so it is important at this time of the year to watch where we put our feet and watch where we drive.

This is a large crop from the original frame, I did not approach this scrape closely at all.

Hatching American AvocetHatching American Avocet – Nikon D7100, f6.63, 1/4000, ISO 640, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

From the south side of the auto tour route there is a flat area that usually has a thin layer of water over the mud but last week it was very dry, there were two adult avocets there that seemed quite alert so I started to look for small chicks but what I saw instead perplexed me. Out in the middle of the mud flat a tiny bit of movement caught my eye and then I saw part of an egg. This image shows a partially broken egg which is not in a scrape but a very exposed and open area. The chick was moving in the egg and the adults were perhaps 30 feet from it. I wondered if a predator, perhaps a night heron, tried to take the egg away but dropped the egg if the adult avocets chased after the heron. At any rate it puzzled me that this hatching egg would be where it is. I hope the chick made it to safety.

This image represents 0.433% of the original frame, I was a long, long way from the egg

Ethics on photographing nesting birds:

  • Do not approach too closely
  • If the birds show any sign of distress, back away
  • Don’t trim leaves, twigs or branches to get a clearer shot, you may inadvertently attract predators or cause the eggs/chicks to over heat
  • Follow local, state and federal guidelines concerning nesting birds
  • Don’t harass the birds to get an action shot
  • Don’t stay a long time with nesting birds or chicks, that disrupts their normal behavior
  • Always remember that your scent may draw predators to the area of nesting birds or birds with chicks.

For more information on the ethics of photographing nesting birds or chicks: the Principles of Birding Ethics published by the American Birding Association. Also NANPA’s Ethical Practices (pdf)

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is one of my favorite places to visit during the summer to observe and photograph nesting birds and take in the beauty of the refuge.


Western Grebe about to submerge

Western Grebe about to submergeWestern Grebe about to submerge – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 500, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

I often try to capture the eye of a bird diving into the water at the moment just before the eye submerges below the surface. I was able to succeed with the Western Grebe.

It might seem simple enough to capture that precise moment but it really isn’t. I can’t tell you how many times I have failed. I do get lots of practice with Western and Clark’s Grebes at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in northern Utah though which is where this image was taken. The light wasn’t the best but I can try again.


* I don’t know where I will be when this post is published but I bet I am having a great time! Feel free to share this post.

Nesting Cliff Swallows

Cliff Swallows nestingCliff Swallows nesting – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/200, ISO 500, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Yesterday at East Canyon State Park in Morgan County I was able to photograph Cliff Swallows nesting on a cliff face that overlooks the reservoir. Some of the nests were completed and some were still being built. Cliff Swallows are social birds and they usually nest in colonies on natural and manmade structures like bridges, overpasses, culverts and under the eaves of buildings.

After selecting a colony location both the male and the female gather mud pellets to build their gourd shaped nest that may consist of up to 1,200 individual mud pellets. Female Cliff Swallows lay eggs in their own nests and also in a neighboring nest and occasionally the female will lay the egg in her own nest then carry the egg in her bill to a neighboring nest.

Cliff Swallow at Bear RiverAdult Cliff Swallow at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 400, +0.3, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Cliff Swallows are common throughout Utah and are listed as a species of least concern but humans do have an impact on them through the use of pesticides because small flying insects are their main source of food.

The Cliff Swallows I photographed at East Canon State Park yesterday skim over the reservoir in search of prey. It will be a few weeks before the first fledglings start to leave their nests and join the adults on the wing.