Bear River National Wildlife Refuge – Christmas Day 2012

bear-river-christmas-day-mia-mcpherson-3627North 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 because of bright skies, snow on the ground, birds and the expansive views. 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 Bear River Christmas day 2012Bald 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.

bear-river-christmas-day-mia-mcpherson-3633 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.

Hatch year Great Blue Heron on Christmas DayYoung 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  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.



  1. Sharon Hallowell December 29, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Nice, Mia…saw the original post on Facebook’s NWR page! Sharon

    • Mia McPherson January 6, 2013 at 1:33 pm

      Hi Sharon, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  2. hummingbirdlover December 27, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Hi! I sure miss the snow. Beautiful pic’s and every one of them so crisp and clear! You do such great Images. Have a Happy New Year 2013!

    • Mia McPherson January 6, 2013 at 1:33 pm

      Hope you get some snow this winter Mom!

  3. Fern Culhane December 26, 2012 at 11:41 am

    another wonderful posting, Mia. Bear River NWR is a national treasure! eager to visit again!

    • Mia McPherson January 6, 2013 at 1:32 pm

      I agree Fern, Bear River IS a National Treasure.

  4. Laurence Butler December 26, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Brrrr! This made me chilly, and that Heron looks pretty cold too.
    Lovely shots!

  5. Bob Bushell December 26, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Beautiful photos of somewhere I shall never go to, and the brilliant Bold Eagle, lovely.

    • Mia McPherson January 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      Bob, I hope you can visit Bear River MBR through my lens. Thanks so much for your comment.

  6. judy watson December 26, 2012 at 10:40 am

    the eagle is a stunning shot! Beautiful gorgeous scenery!!

    • Mia McPherson January 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      Thank you Judy, Bear River is a gift!

  7. Frank December 26, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Hello Mia
    I Found your site on the Nature Blog Network, and me
    looked at you .. equal to the first photos of the eagles are absolute eye-catcher
    you have a very nice page with fantastic pictures ..

    • Mia McPherson January 6, 2013 at 1:29 pm

      Frank, thanks so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. Thanks for your kind words on my work also.

  8. Rohrerbot December 26, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Mia Mia Mia…..fantastic! I think you and I are of the same mind:) Someday we’ll have to meet. This is my idea of spending a day off on holiday. That’s the Eagle shot I’m talking about:) Absolutely gorgeous! My primary focus was the observation of Snow Geese(and being able to distinguish Ross’ Geese) with the hopes of observing the Bald Eagles……but the Snow Geese stole the show:) Lovely shots! Looks cold:) Have a great rest of the year. Chris

    • Mia McPherson January 6, 2013 at 1:27 pm

      Chris, I hope that some day we do meet, I’d be tickled to meet both you and Kathie! I do love holidays mornings when I can be out in nature soaking it all up like a human shaped sponge 🙂

  9. Sherry in MT December 26, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Totally jealous of that eagle shot! You really made the scenery pop out (even though we are all in white and brown ick right now). So do the herons hang there all winter cuz that looks like one COLD bird! We had a run of short eared owls way north of hear that the bird watchers were all excited about. Too far away for me to go for pictures tho.

    • Mia McPherson January 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      Sherry, we are in the brown ick now. I dislike these inversions! But Christmas day sparkled and it showed in the landscape images. Thanks for your comment.

  10. Earl December 26, 2012 at 7:11 am

    Awesome Eagle. The other day we seen two Barn and two Short eared owls out there.
    Hope you had a Merry Christmas Mia.

  11. Dan Huber December 26, 2012 at 6:53 am

    Stunning photos Mia. They made me gasp and think Wow. Happy Holidays to you 🙂

Comments are closed.