Birds of Antelope Island – A Mix of Feathered Friends

Yesterday I photographed a mixture of the birds of Antelope Island State Park and had great fun while doing it.

Chukar walking on the Oolitic sand dunes of the Great Salt LakeChukar walking on the Oolitic sand dunes of the Great Salt Lake – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

There aren’t many places on this planet where a Chukar can be photographed walking on an Oolitic sand dune, I’m fortunate that I live where I can do that. The oolitic sand this Chukar is walking on was formed in the Great Salt Lake when calcium carbonate attached itself to brine shrimp feces in concentric layers. The rolling motion of  the waves on the lake give the grains of sand an egg shape. I was glad I saw the Chukars on the sand.

Preening Lark SparrowPreening Lark Sparrow – Nikon D200, f8, 1/1250, ISO 400, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Later in the morning I spotted this Lark Sparrow perched on some dead Sagebrush branches, it preened for quite some time. I especially liked that the background is composed of sagebrush bushes. These sparrows are so handsome.

Mockingbird chickNorthern Mockingbird chick – Nikon D200, f8, 1/1000, ISO 400, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

While I was photographing the Lark Sparrow I kept hearing a short, soft bird call so I kept peeking around my lens to see what making the sound. Before long I saw a tiny head pop up on a sagebrush and I scoped it with my lens. To my surprise it was a young Northern Mockingbird. It took awhile but the chick hopped up onto a branch where I could get a fairly clear shot of it and as an added bonus it had the Great Salt Lake in the background.

Sage ThrasherSage Thrasher – Nikon D200, f8, 1/1000, ISO 400, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Not very far from the Northern Mockingbird chick I spotted this Sage Thrasher, for a change this one was cooperative and stuck around for a bit. It shouldn’t be long before I start seeing their chicks too.

Chukar chick surrounded by Brine FliesChukar chick surrounded by Brine Flies – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

One of the last stops was near the marina where there are boulders that line the shore. We’ve had a tremendous hatch of Brine Flies and even the Chukars are benefiting from that.

Several Chukars with chicks were on the boulders and the muddy shore and oddly enough I also saw a California Quail with the group. California Quail are not common on the island. One of the adult Chukars that was in the mud had the brine flies covering its back almost to its neck. All of those grayish spots in the air, elongated shapes on the boulder the chick is standing on and dark spots on the boulders in the background are brine flies.

Brine FliesBrine Flies

There were flies tickling my face and hands while I photographed these birds, fortunately they don’t bite! This photo shows just a tiny section of the shoreline and a boulder, the small bits of blue is water, everything else that is on the surface are brine flies.



  1. Maria F. June 28, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    I love the Sage Thrasher and Northern Mockingbird chick!

  2. Merrill Ann Gonzales June 28, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Wonderful shots of birds I’d never get to see. Around here we have tiny black flies that swarm in summer…and they seem to be drawn to my sun-glasses for some reason. Once they start swarming on my sunglasses I have to keep swiping them away or else I’d be breathing them.

    • Mia McPherson June 30, 2012 at 1:58 pm

      Merrill, thank for your comment. Flies can be such pests!

  3. Tammy Karr June 28, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Gorgeous photos Mia! I especially like the Chukar chugging along in the sand; what a fascinating photo! That is a massive amount of flies~thank goodness they aren’t biting flies!

    • Mia McPherson June 30, 2012 at 1:57 pm

      Tammy, thank you very much for your comment on these images. I’ve very glad those flies don’t bite!

  4. Azstu June 28, 2012 at 11:59 am

    Fascinating and Illuminating post Mia. Lots of great information to complement the pictures! Thanks.

    • Mia McPherson June 30, 2012 at 1:56 pm

      Thank you Stu, the birds of Antelope Island are fascinating!

  5. zephyr June 28, 2012 at 11:42 am

    i just love visiting your blog…your photographs of birds give me what i crave when it comes to being able to appreciate the individuals.

    The last image in this post is…gulp…stunning.

    • Mia McPherson June 30, 2012 at 1:52 pm

      Zephyr, that last image is just a tiny peek at all the brine flies in and around the Great Salt Lake, on calm days you can see streams of them on top of the water and mounds on the shorelines. It is really indescribable. Thanks for your comment!

  6. Laurence Butler June 28, 2012 at 11:27 am

    yum yum yum! Could walk along the shire with shovel and feast for a week! Pass the salt (lake) please!

    Wonderful images Mia. I especially love your images of Sage Thrashers. They don’t seem to come up anywhere else…

    • Mia McPherson June 30, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      Laurence, you have made me laugh again, shovel up the flies and salt them down!

      Thanks for you comment on my images and this post.

  7. Syl June 28, 2012 at 9:07 am

    The chukar is fabulous..I painted one about a month ago and it is Kentucky in a gallery. The other photos are just so have a way with the camera to capture their personas. The brine flies are something else again. Once again, thanks for sharing with all of us..

    • Mia McPherson June 30, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      Thanks Syl, I feel like I have the best subjects and they are always so lovelY!

  8. Carol Mattingly June 28, 2012 at 7:32 am

    I am in shock at that last image. But mostly I have to say these images are gorgeous as are all of your images. I hope you don’t get tired of hearing me say that because I just have to. Carol

    • Mia McPherson June 30, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      Carol, I don’t get tired of you complimenting my images, I think nature is a great subject for photography because it is so beautiful. Thank you for your comments!

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