First Snow of the Year – Winter Birds Ahead

/, Barn Owls, Birds, Davis County, Utah/First Snow of the Year – Winter Birds Ahead

Barn Owl in flight near the snow covered Great Salt LakeBarn Owl in flight near the snow covered Great Salt Lake – Nikon D810, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

Well, it finally snowed in the Salt Lake Valley last night and when I woke there was a layer of snow on the grass outside my window. Even though it is still dark I can tell that the road is wet and shiny but not snow covered. It looks like winter is on its way.

Two days ago it was a record breaking 73°F in Salt Lake City and in nearby Colorado many cities were reporting temps in the 80 degree range. Usually before now there is enough snow to have opened the ski resorts in Utah, not so this year.

But this morning the snow on the ground has me thinking about the birds I hope to see and photograph this winter. It is challenging to photograph birds in the snow whether the light is low or bright but I truly enjoy the testing my skills and the cooler temps.

I photographed the Barn Owl in the photo above in February of this year as it flew over snow covered mud flats that surround the Great Salt Lake from the causeway to Antelope Island State Park.

Maybe I will finally get images of a Snowy Owl or better images of a Gyrfalcon, I can dream, right?

Life is good.


I am dreading the winter inversions but I guess our governor and many of our legislators think that serving industry and allowing uncontrolled pollution is more important than clean air and serving the people of this state. Denver cleaned up its infamous brown cloud so the Salt Lake Valley could too if we had effective leadership. We don’t though. However; if they could make money off of cleaning up the pollution that causes the inversions we’d have the cleanest air in the country.


  1. Humming bird lover November 18, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    Hi! I always love any Owl as you know! No snow here in Va. soon tho! Crazy temps here.too Love your Barn Owl! Great shooting! Love ya much mom

    • Mia McPherson November 19, 2016 at 8:57 am

      Thank you Mom, I love you!

  2. Jane Chesebrough November 17, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    Wow, that is an extreme drop in temperature!Like the barn owl and hope you get your wish with the other sitings.

  3. Pepe Forte November 17, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    I love winter. It’s my favorite time of the year and your image of the barn owl sets the mood perfectly. Thanks Mia.

    • Mia McPherson November 18, 2016 at 4:18 am

      Thank you Pepe! I love winter too.

  4. Elephant's Child November 17, 2016 at 11:59 am

    Love the owl. Of course.
    And also live with the inversion factor. And the resultant haze of things I would rather not breathe in winter.

    • Mia McPherson November 17, 2016 at 4:30 pm


      I am so sorry you have to deal with inversions too. They suck!!

  5. Utahbooklover November 17, 2016 at 11:08 am

    Great image! Nice to finally get some cooler weather and a bit of snow too. I was in Denver two weeks ago and saw the same warm weather there. They only have mountains on one side of the city, unlike the Wasatch front, so the air was good. They are also in drought however.

    • Mia McPherson November 17, 2016 at 11:17 am


      Thanks, that Barn Owl was a delight.

      Denver is in a natural “bowl” and during the 70’s into the 80’s the pollution there was also trapped by inversions and it was absolutely horrible and the butt of many jokes across the country about the cloud of pollution that hung over the city. I lived there in the late 70’s and can attest to how bad that brown cloud was. I used to jog after work there until I realized how much of that crud I was inhaling. They still have bad days there but have taken many steps to reduce pollution and air quality has improved significantly. I noticed that when I lived in Colorado from 2001 through 2004 when I would drive up to Denver in the winter.

      • Utahbooklover November 17, 2016 at 12:01 pm

        Didn’t realize Denver was in a bowl. I found this history at

        Spectacular views and closeness to nature are just a couple of reasons why people choose to live in Denver. Unfortunately, air pollution hanging over the city by the 1970’s had a name – the brown cloud. Denver’s location at the foot of the Rocky Mountains makes it prone to temperature inversions in which warm air traps cooler air near the ground, preventing pollutants from rising into the atmosphere. From the 1970’s-early 1980’s the Denver area exceeded certain EPA air quality standards nearly 200 days annually.

        Since the 1980’s through today, stricter federal emission guidelines for vehicles led to several technological advancements in engine design including catalytic converters, fuel injection, and oxygen sensors. Industrial sources were also required to install pollution controls and implement best practices.

        Since 1995, Denver is in attainment for all pollutants except ozone and the looming brown cloud is visibly reduced. Ozone continues to be a persistent problem during the summer and current activities are focused on reducing ground-level ozone.

  6. Patty Chadwick November 17, 2016 at 8:49 am


  7. Grace Dunklee Cohen November 17, 2016 at 7:28 am

    Inversion is a frighteningly huge issue in greater SLC. My son moved from Salt Lake up to Park City and there are so many days when the valley is completely hidden by the thick, toxic particulate trapped between the mountains. It almost looks like a great sea when observed from above. I love SLC but couldn’t ever consider moving there unless the pollution issue can be cleared up. Here in NH, they applied scrubbers to our dirty coal-burning power plants and eliminated 12 TONS of particulate pollution per day. It can be done – if people keep petitioning elected officials and demanding action through the right channels. Organize, Write letters, make phone calls, send letters to the editor – and support all with factual information and statistics. Persistence will win in the end!

    • Mia McPherson November 17, 2016 at 11:42 am

      Grace, I knew about the inversions before moving to Salt Lake City but I just didn’t know how many days of the winter were so severely affected by it, how my own body would react to it and even how it affects the quality of my images by turning the sky all kinds of funky colors. This is a subject brought to the attention of our elected officials on a constant basis and they continue to ignore the pleas of the people to clean up the air in favor of industry. They tell us to not drive on bad days citing pollution from autos but continue to allow business to exceed pollution levels mandated by the EPA.

      It can be done but to be done we need to remove the politicians from office that allow us to suffer from the inversions, hard to do in this state where theocracy that values money so deeply rather than a democracy where the will of the people is heard and acted on. They have the facts, they don’t care. They have the science, they don’t care.

  8. Bob McPherson November 17, 2016 at 6:44 am

    Gorgeous photo, Mia.

  9. pennypinchadventure Tim Traver November 17, 2016 at 6:37 am

    This photo picks up the utter softness of the barn owl’s feathers. Light seems to be reflecting off the snow. Barn owl is now such a rare sight in Vermont! A lovely hopeful image to wake up to. Hope Utah can clean up its inversion act. So important.

    • Mia McPherson November 17, 2016 at 11:43 am

      Thank you so much Tim.

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