Black-billed Magpie in flightBlack-billed Magpie in flight – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Winter appears to be retreating as spring approaches, the skies are clearing, the grass is getting green and the birds are beginning to think about more than surviving, they have begun to think about the upcoming nesting season. Black-billed Magpies have started the long process of building or rebuilding their nests. It is a process that can take anywhere from 40 to 50 days to complete so at times they start before the snow stops flying.

American Coot at Willow PondAmerican Coot at Willow Pond – Nikon D300, f9, handheld,  1/400, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

American Coots become more and more territorial and will fight with each other over what seems to me; a mere human, the slightest infraction over food or some boundary that I can’t see or understand. American Coots can look quite goofy with their huge, lobed feet yet they can also look pretty mean too with their blood red eyes and pointed ivory bills. This one had its eye on me as I sat on the shoreline of Willow Pond photographing it last week.

Chukar calling on Antelope Island State ParkChukar calling on Antelope Island State Park – Nikon D300, f8, 1/1000, ISO 500, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

The Chukars on Antelope Island have become more visible and audible too. Over the winter I didn’t see them often and heard them less but with the approach of spring they have begun to stand on top of the rocks to call to attract their mates.

There are reports each day of migrating birds appearing in Utah, some of these birds will stay here all summer long and some will head further north to breed. As Spring approaches it is a great time to be a bird photographer in Utah!



  1. eric czyz March 3, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    wow, it s beautifull, the ma&gpie move is excellent (it s a very comon bird but not so easy to catch)
    have a good day mia ☼

  2. Utahbooklover March 3, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Great photo of the magpie. We have lots of them here, along with their closely related crows. I enjoy them both and finally looked up the origin of their strange name: The term “pie” is derived from French, which itself comes from the Latin word “pica”, meaning black-and-white, or pied. Pie forms the basis of most vernacular names for this species. The modern name became established from about 1600 onwards in the midlands and south of England. The species was known as “Piannet” in the north of England at that time. Magpie is derived from “Magot Pie”, which first appeared in Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’. []

    • Mia McPherson March 3, 2014 at 12:58 pm

      Wow Utahbooklover, thanks for the information on the name!! That is fascinating.

  3. Mary McAvoy March 3, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    I’m getting so excited to watch springtime in Utah through your images!!!

  4. elephant's child March 3, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Treats in store. For you, and for us.

  5. Carroll Tarvin March 3, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Mia, I hate to tell you, but Google had a copy of your Black-billed Magpie on my browser this morning. It did credit you with the photo. Hope it had been cleared by you. It is such a captivating photograph.

    • Mia McPherson March 3, 2014 at 11:02 am

      Caroll, was that on a search page in Google? Some of my Black-billed Magpie images get infringed a lot.

      • Carroll Tarvin March 3, 2014 at 12:48 pm

        Mia, it was on “Genieo, Your Newspaper Styled Homepage.” When I clicked on the picture of the Black-billed Magpie your whole blog from today came up. The only reason I clicked on it was because I had already seen your blog and was familiar with that stunning photograph. I have a Mac and use Safari as my browser. The first thing that comes up is Genieo. Carroll

        • Mia McPherson March 3, 2014 at 12:57 pm

          Carroll, Genieo looks like some type of RSS feed aggregator, if you liked my blog or followed the RSS feed it might be showing up in Genieo for you now. I had a program on my phone like it called “Zite” but Zite was a huge memory hog and I couldn’t moved it to my SD card so I deleted it. I miss it though because I could favorite someone’s blog and it would show up on my phone when there was a new post

          • Carroll Tarvin March 3, 2014 at 1:09 pm

            Thanks Mia, I know you have concerns about Google legitimately and wanted you to know what I had seen. Sounds like it is all good. Carroll

          • Mia McPherson March 3, 2014 at 1:12 pm

            Thank you for alerting me about this Carroll. I do have concerns about Google and image infringement so I appreciate this heads up!

  6. Patty Chadwick March 3, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Nice images, but particularly love the Magpie…I have a growing addiction to these birds, and find them beautiful and elegant…they, like penguins wear tuxedos all the time.

  7. Wally March 3, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Mia, terrific photographs (as usual)!

    We don’t have Magpies here but can see similar behaviors in their cousins, crows and jays. Fantastic handling of the black/white exposure issues!

    I’m always fascinated when I see a coot out of the water with their “clown feet”. During breeding season, those silly-looking feet can turn into very real weapons.

    We also have no Chukars here, but our Northern Bobwhite have really begun to whistle in the mornings hoping to attract a mate!

    Thank you for your consistently excellent posts!

  8. Montanagirl March 3, 2014 at 10:05 am

    That Magpie photo is just awesome!

  9. Fern Culhane March 3, 2014 at 8:08 am

    Thank you for the signposts of the approach of Spring…it’s hard to see here except for the annual Philadelphia Flower Show…
    Love your photos! Thanks, Fern

Comments are closed.