American White Pelicans, Sandhill Cranes, Swainson’s Hawks – Spring Migrants On The Wing

American White Pelican flight over Bear RiverAmerican White Pelican flight over Bear River – Nikon D810, f8, 1/2500, ISO 500, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I have heard reports of spring migrants arriving in Utah and honestly after our dreary weather I am getting anxious to see them myself.

By this time of the year I have usually seen my first of the year American White Pelicans so I need to keep my eyes on the sky overhead and on the water too. In the early spring both the American White Pelican and Tundra Swans can be seen so I have to pay closer attention to the big white birds at Bear River MBR, Farmington Bay WMA and Salt Creek WMA to make sure I don’t assume I am seeing one or the other of these two species and make a mistake in identification. I do get excited to see them both on the same body of water.

Three Sandhill Cranes in flightThree Sandhill Cranes in flight – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 500, -0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

A few days ago I saw and heard my first of the year Sandhill Cranes. I feel their calls deep in my heart and they can even make my eyes leak when I see them dancing, prancing and displaying. There is something about these large birds that simply resonate within me. The Sandhill I saw flying the other day was way off in the distance in low light and for a bit I thought it was an eagle or a heron until I saw the stiff wing beats I associate with these cranes. I am so happy to already have them back in Utah.

One serious looking Swainson's HawkOne serious looking Swainson’s Hawk – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

There have also been reports of Swainson’s Hawks, one sighting was even reported very close to where I live. This would be very, very early for Swainson’s Hawks to return but with our climate changing the way it is I wouldn’t be surprised to see one flying overhead. I know I will be looking for them.

We still have our winter birds and the spring migrants have begun their journey north so my bird photography is likely to pick up and get exciting soon if the clouds will give me a break.

Life is good.



  1. Utahbooklover February 20, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Wonderful images all. Another cold front Monday to remind us winter isn’t over yet.
    But mostly it seems that climate change is beginning and spring does comes earlier

  2. Humming bird lover February 20, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Hi sweetie!
    Love your photo’s this AM! Sun is out, but wind is still chilly!

  3. April Olson February 19, 2017 at 11:14 am

    Lovely photos. They are starting to arrive. It won’t be long until our wetlands are full of winged diversity.

    I saw my first 5 pelicans and sat for 2 hours in the rain listening to the Tundra Swans Friday at Farmington. While I was out walking the dikes I thought I heard Sandhill Cranes but I did not see them even though my camera telephoto. It was a lovely day despite the rain. Not the best for bird photography but the way you feel about Sandhills I feel about Tundra Swans. Their sound rejuvenates my soul.

  4. Patty Chadwick February 19, 2017 at 9:36 am

    Nice series…has the look of Spring to it…especially like the composition in all three, the background in the second(can almost hear their calls) snd the 4 planes in the last—the small bush in front, the bird on the wonderful rock, the silver-grey vegetation and the blue sky beyond…

  5. Bob McPherson February 19, 2017 at 7:41 am

    It is always the darkest before the dawn.

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