Sandhill Cranes courting on the shore of the Great Salt Lake Sandhill Cranes courting on the shore of the Great Salt Lake – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/640, ISO 400, +0.7, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Spring releases: If you have gotten bored with watching the same old movies during the cold days of winter be sure to look at these previews of the spring season.

The starring role of the picture above belong to the tall, svelte Sandhill Cranes. They love to dance, are flashy in appearance, they make sure that you know they are around with their exuberant voices and the camera loves them. They love to travel in the spring and fall and really rack up the frequent flyer miles. During the winter they fly south like some of the wealthy “snowbirds” where they put on shows for large audiences and the paparazzi. They never disappoint whether they are in the wilds of southern North America or when performing for smaller audiences of the north. Have I mentioned the camera loves them? Rumor has it that they will soon be making their first 2011 appearances in Utah.

American Avocets yearly sequel American Avocets yearly sequel – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 400, +0.3, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 500mm, natural light.

Having spent the cold months gowned in white American Avocets (Recurvirostra americana) develop a lovely delicate apricot blush prior to their first spring sequel. They have enchanting curves, long willowy legs which combined with their graceful ballet style movements makes them show stoppers. Although they prefer to perform on the shores of inland lakes and marshes during the summer they do occasionally like to stroll and play in the shallow water. They prefer to perform during daylight hours when the natural light shows them at their best and by nature they are not “night owls”.

Dramatic Double-Crested CormorantDramatic Double-crested Cormorant – Nikon D200, f9,1/320, ISO 320, +1.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Dark, dramatic and powerful with piercing eyes Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) take the center stage of lakes and ponds in early spring. Often cast in the role of a villain because of their intense gaze, their moody looks and the way they spread their wings like Dracula’s cape. Personally I find their actions extremely interesting and they strike some fascinating poses.

Young male Long-billed Curlew in flightYoung male Long-billed Curlew in flight – Nikon D200, f5.6, 1/640, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

The aerial performances of the Long-billed Curlews (Numenius americanus) spring time courtship displays start at sunrise in the open grasslands of Utah. Their whistling call is hauntingly beautiful and the flashes of cinnamon under their wings are eye catching.  Our largest shorebird in North America, they are graceful and uniquely interesting. Their acts combine breathtaking acrobatic dives and fluid aerial movements at speeds that make the Cirque du Soleil pale in comparison. I’m anxiously awaiting the premier of the beauties this spring and they always get a “two thumbs up” from this audience member.

American White Pelican lifting offAmerican White Pelican during lift off – Nikon D200, tripod mounted, f7.1, 1/1500, ISO 250, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 205mm, natural light

While large, ungainly and lumbering on land American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) are very adept at synchronized swimming in large groups and their dinner matinees are great to see. They love to soar in the sky too by forming large circular groups whirling up towards the clouds on the thermals, higher and higher until they disappear from sight. Landings and take offs are exciting to see. Their black and white plumage makes them easy to spot from long distances and this wanna be paparazzi can not resist clicking the shutter button when they arrive in town.

Loggerhead Shrike with its tongue exposedLoggerhead Shrike – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 400, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Small but pugnacious Loggerhead Shrikes (Lanius ludovicianus) are quick to voice their displeasure if the audience is too close, I sure wouldn’t want them to chew my ear off. They are rough, tough and don’t care much about their appearance if the leftovers on their bills are any indication. Though their size is the equivalent of a welter-weight these shrikes show that they have the spirit of a much larger and stronger competitor and do not hesitate to get right in the face of anyone infringing on what they call their territory. They will get right into your face if you cross the line. They are; however, a delight to see in action and I wouldn’t want to miss many of their lofty performances.

 Admission Price - FREE!!

These are just a small selection of the cast and characters of the upcoming Spring Season in Utah, there will be many more of our fine feathered friends making appearances who will fascinate, delight, titillate and amuse us. Stay tuned for the best shows on earth, Nature Unleashed

Nothing that Hollywood produces is as exceptional as the show we are about to see!




  1. Julie Brown March 4, 2011 at 7:06 am

    Hi Mia,

    Another fine set of images from you, with gorgeous light. I got to experience Sandhill Cranes for the first time last weekend with a group of photographers at fairly new migration stopover called Goose Pond NWR here in Indiana. We were not able to get as close as you did, but it was fun to get to see and hear them. I really like your portrait of the cormorant. I noticed that you shot it at f9. Do you purposely stop down when the bird presents an over-the-shoulder look-back pose? I recently read that Arthur Morris recommends doing that. Just curious.

    Looking forward to more!

    • Mia McPherson March 4, 2011 at 7:14 am


      Thanks for your kind comments. As I recall I was fairly close to the Double-crested Cormorant when I took the image in this post so I stopped down to f9 because I wanted to get the entire bird in focus, the closer I am to a bird the more dof I will use depending of course on the light, the pose of the bird and my shutter speed. I had my gear on a tripod for that shot so shutter speed was as much an issue to me as getting the cormorant sharp.

  2. Garen Johnson March 3, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    These are just fantastic Mia! I especially love that Curlew shot! And thanks for all the great info you provide! I know its a lot of work and I for one, appreciate it!

    • Mia McPherson March 3, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      Thank you Garen, I have a lot of fun doing this blog.

  3. Kathy Finnerty March 3, 2011 at 11:14 am

    I can hardly wait!!! Lookin’ forward to your wonderful cast of characters!

    • Mia McPherson March 3, 2011 at 2:29 pm

      Thanks Kathy, I hope I can do the cast and characters of spring justice!

  4. Chuck Gangas March 3, 2011 at 9:32 am

    While we may not have the same cast of characters as U(tah), I’ve set up several dates to witness the shows here in New England. Very exciting and motivational post Mia, and really well presented!

Comments are closed.