Franklin’s and Ring-billed Gulls Flying in Smoky Skies

/, Birds, Box Elder County, Franklin's Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, Utah/Franklin’s and Ring-billed Gulls Flying in Smoky Skies

Ring-billed Gull flying in a smoky skyRing-billed Gull flying in a smoky sky – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/3200, ISO 640, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I spent some time photographing at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge yesterday morning in horribly smoky conditions. Northern Utah is full of smoke from wildfires in Utah and surrounding states. Before dawn it looked like fog but the smell of smoke was every where. When the sun came up over the Wasatch Mountains to the east it was a glowing, red orb and I wasn’t sure there would be enough decent light to photograph birds and create nice images of them.

I did take some nice Ring-billed and Franklin’s Gull photos in flight over the water of the marshes at the refuge despite the smoky sky. This Ring-billed Gull flew past as it looked down towards the water but it didn’t slow down at all and continued to fly towards the east.

Franklin's Gull flying in a smoky skyFranklin’s Gull flying in a smoky sky – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/4000, ISO 640, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

There were plenty of Franklin’s Gulls flying past in the smoky sky, some of them just flew by but a few landed on the water and some of them even caught fish while I watched and photographed them. It won’t be too much longer before the Franklin’s Gulls will migrate and I know that I will miss these beautiful gulls while they are gone for the winter. Of all the gulls I have ever heard I love their calls the most.

Smoky Skies over Bear River MBR September 2017Smoky Skies over Bear River MBR September 2017 – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 320, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 95mm, natural light

I did take a few landscape images to show the smoke in the air over the refuge, it doesn’t look too bad close up but the further away you look the worse it gets. The Promontory Mountains are barely visible in the background of this photo.

Another Utah wildfire started while I was at the refuge yesterday east of Ogden in Weber Canyon and the smoke from that fire was horrid. Several homes have been lost already and I hope that today the firefighters will be able to get it under control. That fire even shut down I-84 for a while.

The fires out here in the West have been devastating this season and we still have a long way to go before the wildfire season ends. We need rain badly.

Life is good.



  1. Laura Culley September 6, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    Sigh…I have friends in Ogden, a vet and falconer. I’ve needed to contact him. Think I’ll do that now.
    I know folks don’t like gulls much, but they were my first bird species to make me drop my jaw in awe. When I was a kid and we didn’t know any better, I used to delight in feeding them bread chunks and oyster crackers each summer when we vacationed in Florida. They’d show up in huge flocks. That was a MAJOR delight every year. I still love watching them fly, but I’ve learned better about what to throw to them 🙂

  2. Elephants Child September 6, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    I so hope the fires can be controlled. They are a destructive fact of life here.

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