American Avocets, American White Pelicans and Sandhill Cranes Have Returned

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American Avocet with head on profile viewAmerican Avocet with head on profile view – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light (2010)

Four days ago I spent the morning at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and in my Rough-legged Hawk post I mentioned that it felt more like late April than February because of the warm temps and the lack of snow and what I didn’t mention then was all the open water, usually this time of the year a large portion of the water on the refuge is iced over but on my last trip the water was all open. As I went around the auto tour route I kept expecting to hear American Avocets even though I knew it was early for them to be back in northern Utah but the warmer temperatures were fooling my brain. I shook my head, laughed at myself and continued on.

But yesterday I got word that American Avocets are back and made an appearance at Farmington Bay where they were seen and reported by many people that were at the WMA for Eagle Day 2018. We do get a few straggler avocets that hang around late into the winter or arrive early in spring but these surprised me because we could still go into a freeze this month or next which could be very hard on these shorebirds and there were more than just a “few” of them.

American White Pelican scooping up food from the waterAmerican White Pelican scooping up food from the water – Nikon D500, f6.3, 1/5000, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light (2017)

And two days ago our own April Olson reported at least 200 American White Pelicans at Farmington Bay WMA and they are back early too. Yesterday quite a few more reports of American White Pelicans came in from the people celebrating Eagle Day at Farmington Bay. If we get a long freeze and the water ices over again the pelicans could also be in trouble because they might have difficulty getting to the fish that they eat.

Sandhill Crane right after the sunriseSandhill Crane right after the sunrise – Nikon D810, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light (2015)

Friend Charles Hurd was at Farmington Bay WMA yesterday with his brother out in the marsh and they saw their first of the year Sandhill Cranes. Sandhill Cranes are pretty hardy though and it isn’t all the unusual to hear of sightings of them here in northern Utah in February. I was delighted to hear some have already come back and I can’t wait to hear them calling again. When I was at Bear River a few days ago I admit I kept scanning the fields and flats for the cranes but didn’t see any.

I’m excited that the American Avocets, American White Pelicans and Sandhill Cranes have returned to northern Utah because I look forward to seeing and photographing them again. I haven’t seen any of them myself yet this year and I find myself anxious to get out to see them now.

Maybe the mild weather and warmer than normal temperatures will last until spring really arrives and I hope they do for the sake of these early birds but we do need more snow in the mountains to fill the reservoirs during spring runoff and it is still winter.

Life is good.



  1. April Olson February 11, 2018 at 9:53 am

    Spoken from my heart too.

  2. Patty Chadwick February 11, 2018 at 8:49 am

    All are beautiful birds, but the soft, subtle colors of the Avocet are particularly pleasing….love the burnt sienna, black and white combination…

  3. Bob mcpherson February 11, 2018 at 7:24 am

    Cool photos, Mia

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