Photographing the Tundra Swans of Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

/, Birds, Box Elder County, Tundra Swans, Utah/Photographing the Tundra Swans of Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Immature and adult Tundra Swans in flightImmature and adult Tundra Swans in flight – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2000, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Imagine the calls of thousands of Tundra Swans just after sunrise, being surrounded by freshwater marshes in the middle of a desert, seeing distant mountains to the east, north and west and islands in the Great Salt Lake to the south and then imagine clouds floating through blue skies, cool air and sunshine… That is how I spent my morning yesterday and I hope you enjoy the photos I took as much as I enjoyed being there and photographing the Tundra Swans of Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

I thought I’d post a sound recording here of what a flock of 200 Tundra Swans sounds like but what I heard yesterday was amplified by at least ten times. They were loud and I relished hearing them with every fiber of my being.

I know that some of my viewers appreciate it when I post the calls and songs of the birds I photograph and might like to listen to this recording while reading this Tundra Swan post.

Tundra Swans lifting off from the Bear River Migratory Bird RefugeTundra Swans lifting off from the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

There were Tundra Swans on the wing and on the water yesterday morning just about everywhere I looked and while some were way off in the distance there were also more swans that were closer to the auto tour route than I have had the opportunity to photograph there before.

Adult Tundra Swans lifting offAdult Tundra Swans lifting off – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

There were swans flew in and landed on the water to join the flock that was already there and by watching the behavior of the swans on the water I could tell when they were just about to lift off too. They usually start calling repeatedly and stretching their necks up and forward before taking off and then the next thing you know the swans are running across the water before becoming airborne.

Adult Tundra Swans flying over the marshes at Bear River RefugeAdult Tundra Swans flying over the marshes at Bear River Refuge – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

The Tundra Swans are only here in Utah during the winter so I relish every chance I have to photograph these large, white birds. It was truly delightful to spend as much time as I did with them yesterday and I did it without freezing my hands. It has been such a mild winter here with much less snow than we are used to. The mountains behind these swans in this photo should be covered in snow and this year they aren’t. It felt like late March or early April yesterday instead of early February.

Tundra Swan adult flying byTundra Swan adult flying by – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

The Tundra Swans spend the night on the water at the refuge and when the sun rises they begin to call, preen and bathe before taking off to their feeding grounds. Some of the swans remain to feed on the aquatic vegetation.

Adult Tundra Swan in flight on a February morningAdult Tundra Swan in flight on a February morning – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 640, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I took so many photos of the Tundra Swans yesterday that I haven’t had time to go through them all and just picked some of the ones that caught my eye to share here on my blog this morning. This photo caught my eye because of the flight pose of the bird and the interesting background.

Tundra Swan after lifting off from the refugeTundra Swan after lifting off from the refuge – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/4000, ISO 640, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

And this image caught my eye because of the marsh in the background which even though it is out of focus gives this photo a sense of of place and habitat.

Tundra Swan flying over the marsh of Bear River MBRTundra Swan flying over the marsh of Bear River MBR – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/3200, ISO 640, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

And this one does the same but also shows the mountains in the distance.

Tundra Swans, Clouds, Mountains and Bear River MBRTundra Swans, Clouds, Mountains and Bear River MBR – Nikon D810, f11, 1/1250, ISO 500, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 18mm, natural light

This photo shows some Tundra Swans in front of the phrags out in the water and they appear to be little white dots at only 18mm in focal length. They are to the left of the center of this frame. I wanted this photo to show more than just the swans, I wanted it to show the wild beauty of the refuge too. It is a wild oasis for all the creatures that live or visit here and for people too.

Wetlands of Bear River MBRWetlands of Bear River MBR – Nikon D810, f11, 1/1250, ISO 500, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 28mm, natural light

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge provides critical habitat for millions of birds year round, for those that are year round residents, for migrants that fuel up before continuing their long journeys to and from their breeding grounds and for the birds that overwinter at the refuge like these Tundra Swans.

New observation tower at Bear River MBRNew observation tower at Bear River MBR – Nikon D810, f11, 1/2000, ISO 500, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 75mm, natural light

Before heading home I felt that I had to take some photos of the new observation tower at the start of the auto tour route, I am certain that many people will enjoy this wonderful addition to the refuge for years to come.

I had a blast photographing the Tundra Swans at the refuge yesterday and for the first time in a while I forgot about practically everything but the birds in front of me and the peace I find at the refuge.

Life is good.

Mia

9 Comments

  1. Pepe Forte February 5, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    Another series of show stoppers! The landscapes are magnificent…and the swans are utterly spectacular! Thanks Mia.

  2. Grace Dunklee Cohen February 4, 2018 at 6:21 pm

    You’ve captured beautiful photos of these majestic birds, Mia! I had no idea that such amazing birds lived in Denali National Park, but discovered these hardy Tundra Swans in Wonder Lake, swimming through the reflection of Mt. Denali deep in the Alaskan wilderness. Birds never cease to amaze me – and every day I enjoy seeing your beautiful images and learning more about these delightful creatures. Thanks for your educational blog, Mia!

  3. Utahbooklover February 4, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    Thanks for the wonderful images and the link to their calls. Eagles coming this way soon.

  4. Patty Chadwick February 4, 2018 at 1:25 pm

    Loved hearing those beautiful ,big birds as I scanned through those wonderful images…almost like being there….

  5. April Olson February 4, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    Absolutely stunning photos. I just finished downloading my swan photos from today. The lighting was poor but the swans were close and plentiful. I even got a photo of one with a neck band. I made a video so I can re-listen to the sound of there calls. It is number one on my favorite bird sounds. Number 2 is the sound of a murmeration of birds flying over me.

  6. Bob Mcpherson February 4, 2018 at 8:46 am

    Drop DEAD BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS, LOVE THE INFO TOO

  7. Laura Culley February 4, 2018 at 8:23 am

    WOW! Such sheer beauty! Thank so you much for beginning my day with these images!

  8. Patty February 4, 2018 at 7:16 am

    I am so delighted and excited by these marvelous photos! Those swans are magnificent!

  9. Liz Cormack February 4, 2018 at 7:05 am

    Beautiful birds & beautiful scenery. We have lots of Tundra Swans on the Niagara River right now. I try to get out to photograph them as much as possible.

Comments are closed.