Wow, today is the last day of the year 2016! It has been another great year as far as following my passions for bird, nature and wildlife photography.
An adult Bald Eagle on New Year’s Day
I started off 2015 just great when one of the first birds I photographed was a Bald Eagle perched on a leaning post at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge on a gloriously chilly but clear New Years Day. I went out into the field and photographed on 15 days during the month of January.
Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay perched on a snow covered Pinyon Pine
I spent some time in the canyons of the west desert and photographed some scrub-jays in Ophir Canyon and a few months later Western Scrub-Jays were split by the American Ornithologists’ Union into two different species, the California Scrub-Jay and Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay.
February was still bitter cold at times with some snow on the ground but not as much as we have had in previous years.
Fog and a Barn Owl in flight
Early in the month my friend Jolie and I headed out on a snowy, foggy morning to see if we could locate a rare Snowy Owl that had been reported at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. We didn’t see the Snowy Owl but we had fun photographing hunting Barn Owls in flight.
Perched Western Bluebird female
My first lifers of 2015 was photographed from the front window of my Jeep in another canyon of the west desert with my friend Ron when I saw a small flock of Western Bluebirds and we took a bunch of images of them on fence posts close to the road. I’ve seen them before but I count them as lifers when I can focus and take a photo of them.
I spent 14 chilly days in the field in February.
I don’t know if March came in like a lamb or a lion but by then spring had started creeping into the southern areas of Utah. I spent 13 days in the field in March and made two trips to Wayne County, Utah to try to photograph Greater Sage-Grouse on their leks but couldn’t get to the leks because there was still too much snow in the high plateau to drive through.
Adult Peregrine Falcon in flight with a sandstone background
But I did come back from those trips with a few images that delighted me including this photo of a Peregrine Falcon with red sandstone glowing in the morning light in the background.
Yellow-bellied Marmot warming up on a boulder
And a lazy Yellow-bellied Marmot basking in the sun at Capitol Reef National Park. I always enjoy seeing marmots and I saw plenty of them in 2016.
In April I spent 17 days in the field. Spring has sprung and even though mornings were chilly and there was still snow on the mountains the days were wonderful and warm. I delighted in it after the cold of winter.
Box Elder County male Short-eared Owl on wooden post
And I started seeing lots and lots of Short-eared Owls. My first experience of the year was watching a pair of them dive bomb a coyote from a long distance. Later I would be able to obtain frame filling images of them where they seemed to glow because of the morning light and their bright yellow eyes.
Banking Red-tailed Hawk adult
I’d also spot a few Red-tailed Hawk nests, one of which produced two young that they would successfully raise and fledge. I was sad to see the winter birds like Rough-legged Hawks go but I was also happy to see the spring migrants coming in. Shorebirds by the millions came back into the marshes in the Great Basin and millions of them fed and bred near and on the Great Salt Lake.
May and warmer temps arrived. I spent 16 days in the field mostly in northern Utah, on Antelope Island and on the last day of May headed further north to Montana and Idaho.
Turkey Vulture stretching one wing
I spent a lot of time looking for owls in May but I was always delighted to find and photograph other species, especially when they were super cooperative like this Turkey Vulture was in Box Elder County. I really expected it to fly off when I turned around and drove back to where it was warming up in the morning light but the vulture gave me a show by preening, pooping, stretching and thermoregulating.
Short-eared Owl chick parallaxing
May also brought me several opportunities to photograph very young Short-eared Owls. I met up with Marie Read one morning and we photographed owls together along a road in Box Elder County. I enjoyed meeting her and sharing those moments.
June brought cool mornings and hot days. Lots of hot days. I spent 14 days in the field in June.
I helped rescue a Short-eared Owl fledgling that had gotten tangled in a a barb wire fence and soon I will be able to see him at Hawkwatch International where he is an education bird. I’m sorry he couldn’t be released but I know he will be a great bird of prey Ambassador too.
Morning Mist at the Lower Lake of Red Rock Lakes NWR
I photographed sunrises in Montana’s Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge along with finding great birds and wildlife to photograph in Beaverhead County, Montana and Clark County, Idaho. Quiet mornings, fresh air, the sounds of Sandhill Cranes trumpeting, yes, life is good.
Female Red-naped Sapsucker about to feed chicks
I also spent time in the Uinta Wasatch Cache National Forest photographing birds and wildlife there. Being able to photograph Red-naped Sapsuckers in a mobile blind as they fed their young in their nesting cavities was amazing. I didn’t get to see the young fledge or even poke their heads out of the nesting cavities but I was delighted all the same.
In July I only spent 13 days in the field photographing birds and wildlife. I did spend one week up in Montana and Idaho during July and that was great. I saw plenty of raptors, owls and other birds along with the great scenery I love from those locations. I traveled the Gravelly Range for the first time and was awestruck by the beauty of the area.
During the month of July Antelope Island caught fire and when the fire was finally out a little more than half of the island had burned.
Wilson’s Phalarope chick hunting for prey
In Montana I photographed my first Wilson’s Phalarope chicks at the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge along with Killdeer chicks and further away more Short-eared Owl Chicks. The adult birds I photographed were terrific but these chicks often stole my heart.
Fluffed up American Bittern
July would also bring me another lifer to photograph, an American Bittern in the marshes at Bear River Wildlife Refuge. When we first drove past it I thought it was a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron because I am not used to seeing these bitterns, I usually only hear them. But I did a double-take and I am glad I did or I wouldn’t have gotten the images of the bittern that I did.
I also photographed a lifer Northern Pygmy-Owl in Montana in July. I want more images of them and out in the open year of 2017, please?
August was hot. Really hot. Birds were difficult to find. I only spent 12 days in the field.
Burrowing Owl juvenile lift off from an old fence post
But there were still birds to find and owls were among them. By August the young Burrowing Owls spent a lot of time learning how to hunt on their own. They were still young enough to spent plenty of time out in the open parallaxing on fence posts and then taking off after prey.
Great Horned Owl in the marsh at Bear River MBR
And a surprise find of a Great Horned Owl in the marshes of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge delighted me too.
September arrived and cooler days did too and after a long hot summer those cooler days were much appreciated. I only spent 12 days in the field in September but those days were filled with birds, beautiful scenery and the peace that comes with being out in nature.
September first also brought me another lifer bird, a Upland Sandpiper near Golden Spike, only the 9th confirmed sighting in the state of Utah. Wohoo!
Sub-adult Red-tailed Hawk near some railroad tracks
September is as late as I have ever spent time in Montana and Idaho camping and this past September was super for Red-tailed Hawks. I saw and photographed plenty of them.
Predawn view of the west side of the Tetons
I was also grateful to be able to see the sunrise over the Tetons several times from a great campsite in Clark County, Idaho that had spectacular views. The Tetons were 85 miles away as an eagle flies from the campsite where I took this photo. What a view.
Cool mornings, cool days and a but of Indian Summer graced October. For various reasons though I only spent 9 days in the field.
Calling American Pipit
But I made the most of those 9 days. One morning I took hundreds of images of American Pipits as they fed near a marshy area at Farmington Bay WMA.
Barn Owl day time flight
And images of a cooperative Barn Owl flying during the day. The owl delighted everyone who saw it.
The cold mornings in November made me start wearing my polar fleece base layer to keep warm. I spent 16 days in the field in November.
Male Belted Kingfisher wing lift with open bill
There were days when a male Belted Kingfisher was cooperative at Farmington Bay for lots of photographers. Having him be a regular at Farmington Bay was terrific.
Close up of leucistic Red-tailed Hawk in flight
And then seeing and photographing this spectacular leucistic Red-tailed Hawk was one of the highlights of November. This bird was so gorgeous!
Icy mornings, fog, snow and bitter cold arrived in December. I spent 14 days in the field. Most of that was closer to home than normal for this time of the year but I am happy about that because I can be home and warming up in no time! It has been that cold!
Double-crested Cormorant with a large fish
A pair of Double-crested Cormorants fighting over a fish was a great deal of fun to photograph at a local pond. I think they have all moved on now because the ponds are mostly frozen.
Canada Goose and Canada Goose hybrid in flight
And because I was at the pond I was able to see and photograph a Canada x Snow Goose hybrid for a couple of days. It is one beautiful bird.
I photographed 165 days in 2016!
2016 was a good year for me photographically and although I don’t know what 2017 will bring I hope it is filled with birds, great scenery and wildlife. Thanks for tagging along with me in 2016 and sharing my journeys.
Happy New Year’s Eve!
Life is good. Goodbye 2016!
No techs, sorry, way too many images!