Tundra Swans Of Bear River MBR On The Wing

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Tundra Swans flying east over the marsh at Bear RiverTundra Swans flying east over the marsh at Bear River – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2500, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Seeing a few flocks of Tundra Swans in flight two days in northern Utah was a reminder that these big, white swans have already begun their migration to their breeding grounds on the tundra of northern Canada and Alaska. There are far fewer of them here now than there were just a month ago.This past winter I’ve been fortunate to photograph them up close at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in good light and not so good light. I’ve photographed them on the water and on the wing.

Tundra Swan flying and cloudy skyTundra Swan flying and cloudy sky – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 640, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I’ve sat and listened to them calling, photographed and watched them bathe, preen and fluff, eat, and even get a touch aggressive with each other. I’ve photographed them landing, taking off and in flight up close and from a distance.

Low light Tundra Swan in flightLow light Tundra Swan in flight – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

We only see Tundra Swans here during the winter and early spring because they overwinter here and for me at least the time they are here doesn’t seem quite long enough because I can’t always get to the refuge as often as I would like.  They are amazing birds to observe and photograph though for the time that they are here. This summer when it gets hot here I know I will wonder how their breeding season is going on the tundra.

Winter scenery at Bear River Migratory Bird RefugeWinter scenery at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge – Nikon D810, f11, 1/2000, ISO 500, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 50mm, natural light

I had forgotten that I had taken this landscape of the refuge & Promontory Mountains on the 6th of March until I uploaded the cloudy sky photos I took up north two days ago. I smiled as soon as I saw them on my monitor. We didn’t see much snow on the Promontory Mountains this winter so the day I took this photo I felt I had to because of the clear sky, the snow and how the mountains reflected on the calm, icy cold water at the refuge.

It was an exceptional winter for photographing the Tundra Swans of Bear River MBR.

Life is good.



  1. Pepe Forte March 29, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    Mia, I think your landscape shots, especially this one at Bear River, are absolutely stunning! The swans are gorgeous too. What a gift you have and what a gift you are. Thanks.

  2. Elephants Child March 26, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    You have reminded me that I very rarely see our black swans in flight. Or not more than a lazy glide across the lake.
    Loved seeing these beauties – and that incredible landscape.

  3. April Olson March 26, 2018 at 11:58 am

    Beautiful, I will miss them also. This year I made a video with my camera so I could listen to the call. I’ve lost track of how many times I have played it.

  4. Patty Chadwick March 26, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Love both swans with beautiful backgrounds and landscape with its snow-covered peaks…their reflections in the mirror-like water…..so very beautiful!!!

  5. Marie Read March 26, 2018 at 8:51 am


  6. Liz Cormack March 26, 2018 at 6:36 am

    Great shots of the Tundra Swans but an absolutely amazing shot of the mountains!! Just beautiful.

  7. Tim Traver March 26, 2018 at 6:00 am

    It’s nice to see these exceptional images of Tundra Swans this morning. We see them very rarely in Vermont, and even more rare, Trumpeter Swan (though there has been one in the Champlain Valley recently). Thanks for sharing. What an amazing place, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and the backdrop of the mountains…a big blue circle on the map of our future trip West.

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