A Look Back At 2012
2012 was a fantastic year for me as a photographer and I am looking forward to the joys that 2013 will bring. Happy New Year to all.
I wanted to share a few images taken two days ago when Antelope Island was covered with a fresh snow fall. The entire island looked glorious and the sunlight caused the snow to sparkle much to my delight. The American Bison were pushing their noses into the snow to clear the way to find grass to graze on.
A covey of Chukars were looking for food in under the heavy blanket of snow. Their beautiful colors, red legs and plumage patterns stand out sharply from the pristine snow.
This image was taken just south of the road to the Frary Peak trail head, it can be hard to believe that the Great Salt Lake comes up to where the rusty colored Phragmites are at times, especially during spring melt.
I’ve had a great deal of fun photographing raptors this year in this area where Farmington complex rocks jut out from the hills. These are the oldest rock formations on the island and are also older than the rocks found at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
This Coyote has many scars on its face most likely from territorial disputes during mating season. The Coyote looks old and one of its ears is very floppy. It also still has snow on its back which probably fell on it during the night.
I love that while I am on the island I can turn in all directions and see mountains, it delights me to see them covered in snow and shining brightly in the sun. On a relatively clear day the Great Salt Lake is a delicious dark blue.
This Western Meadowlark perched on a snow-topped Sagebrush was very cooperative and posed for a long time before it flew away. It wasn’t singing but the bird reminded me that before too long they will have a period of time when it seems they simply can not resist singing their little hearts out during breeding season.
Egg Island Overlook is the northern most point on the island and has expansive views of the Great Salt Lake, the Promontory Mountains and the wide open sky.
Near the marina these juvenile White-crowned Sparrows perched on a snow laden bush with the Great Salt Lake in the background.
I’ve often said that “Some Days are Magic” here on my blog and this day sure felt that way to me. But then, every day in nature fills me with wonder and joy.
North section of the Bear River NWR auto tour route – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/1500, ISO 400, +1.0 EV, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 18 mm, natural light
Christmas Day of 2012 turned out to be as beautiful as I hoped at Bear River National Wildlife Refuge (also known as Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge) because of bright skies, snow on the ground and virtually having the place to ourselves. The Promontory Mountains to the west were gorgeous covered in a blanket of fresh snow. Bear River had some open water but there was also ice along the shore and some of the smaller ponds were frozen over. The lowest temp I saw was 6 degrees Fahrenheit but it didn’t feel that cold because of the warmth of the sun.
Bald Eagle Landing on the Bear River – Nikon D300, f5.6, 1/3200, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited
Just before the maintenance buildings at the start of the auto tour route I spotted this Bald Eagle standing on the frozen surface of the Bear River, it looked beautiful in the soft morning light. The eagle was looking at the ice covering the river when it lifted off and flew a few feet towards something that I couldn’t see. This photo was taken as the eagle started to land on the ice once again. Two American White Pelicans lifted off from the river right after the bridge by the maintenance building, they have hung around rather late in the season. Maybe they just didn’t want to be called “snow birds” by the people down south.
Before seeing the Bald Eagle I spotted a Barn Owl flying but the owl would not let us get close enough for images. During the morning at Bear River NWR and north in the Golden Spike Area we saw Bald and Golden Eagles, Rough-legged Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, a Prairie Falcon and quite a few American Kestrels. In addition I spotted two Short-eared Owls flying over a marshy area. Most of these great raptor were just too far away for photos.
Marshes and the distant Promontory Mountains – Nikon D200, handheld, f14, 1/640, ISO 400, +1.0 EV, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 75mm, natural light
The air was crisp, and the only sounds I could hear when the truck wasn’t moving were the sounds of nature. Rustling Phragmites and Cattails, small birds flitting around and some times further away, the cries of gulls. It was peaceful, relaxing and invigorating all at the same time. What a wonderful Christmas gift.
Young Great Blue Heron on Christmas Day – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2000, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light
On the north section of the very muddy auto route we saw a scattering of around 100 Great Blue Herons, I have never seen so many in an area that size at the refuge. It was pretty amazing to see. right after we headed south I spotted this immature Great Blue Heron standing in a section of open water surrounded by ice, it wasn’t long before the bird flew onto a pile of snow topped vegetation which is where it was when I captured this image.
You might wonder how I know that this is a young bird, the crown is dark and there isn’t any white on top of the head or behind the eye as would be seen on an adult. The rusty colored shoulder patches that adults have aren’t evident and the mottled stripes on the chest of this bird wouldn’t be seen on an adult.
Looking towards Promontory Point – Nikon D200, handheld, f14, 1/320, ISO 400, +1.0 EV, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 22mm, natural light
After leaving the auto tour route was finally saw another car parked on the shoulder of the hard-topped road and that is where I spotted the first Short-eared owl flying over the marshy area. The driver of the car was out taking photographs so we pulled in a distance behind him to see if the owl would fly in close. The young man came up and introduced himself after a bit. David is from Washington State and it was his first visit to Bear River NWR so we told him what we had seen on the auto tour route and I hope he saw some of the birds we mentioned. It was very nice to have met him.
Bear River NWR and the Golden Spike area are always wonderful but yesterday both seemed even more fantastic.
I didn’t have much luck photographing birds and wildlife last week in Great Basin National Park which is located in White Pine County, Nevada but I did take plenty of images of the scenery and the fall colors. This image was taken at the Mather Overlook (9,000 feet elevation) and shows Wheeler Peak (13,063 feet elevation) which is part of the South Snake Range. The mountain ranges in the Great Basin Region are called “sky islands” and they are separated by “seas” of deserts.
While driving down from Mather Overlook there are great views of the Mt. Moriah Wilderness Area in the northern part of the Snake Range.
Poplars and Aspens provided splashes of yellows in the autumn landscape, these Poplars were along Snake Creek. The area also had Pinyon Pines, Junipers, Sagebrush and Rabbitbrush. By the way, the pine nuts from the Pinyon Pines in the area are delicious.
The geological features of Great Basin National Park fascinated me, the mountains, streams, playas, rock formations and deserts kept drawing me into the wilderness and I imagined what life was like here for the early settlers and the Shoshone, Fremont People and Paleo-Indians that lived there before them.
At higher elevations the Aspens had already lost their leaves.
I loved the quietness of the Snake Creek area roads that lead up to the Shoshone Camping Area, this area is away from the busier main section of the park and there are far fewer people in the area.
I spotted some Mule Deer grazing while peering into this Aspen grove. I half expected to see a Bobcat cross the dirt road on the way up and as I stood taking this image I wish I could have heard the trumpeting calls of the Elks. Or the scream of a Mountain Lion.
The beauty of the area touched me deeply as I wandered around listening to the sound of Snake Creek coursing down the slope touching the stark white bark of the Aspens along with the pungent smell of Sagebrush.
I’m very glad to have visited and seen the treasures of Great Basin National Park.
I arrived home last night after spending five days photographing in southwestern Montana and although I am exhausted I am also elated because the trip was simply divine.
With the exception of some intermittent clouds and infrequent light rain in the mornings and afternoons, the light was wonderful and the weather hot during the middle of the day. The winds came up around noon each day but I’m not usually out photographing in the harsher light of mid day.
There must have been a recent hatch of Deer and Horse Flies because they swarmed around me in the hundreds and although they made photography a touch miserable I wasn’t about to let them chase me away from the great opportunities that were presented to me. Besides, their bites aren’t nearly as troublesome as the biting flies found on Antelope Island State Park in the spring.
I took 5,428 photos while I was there so the process of culling and editing them is going to take some time, but after scanning through some of the images I am quite pleased with the results of my efforts.
Because of my photography I’ve been able to meet the most fascinating people, have seen gorgeous scenery, listened to the sounds of nature and have seen the most amazing birds and wildlife. Life is good, very good!
I will be writing more about this amazingly wonderful journey to southwestern Montana but I wanted to post this sunrise image from the campground at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge today as a prelude of photographs to come.
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