All Photos posted on this blog unless otherwise noted were taken by me with my Canon Rebel XTI using a 300 mm zoom lens

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


What would be more fitting than to spotlight the Bald Eagle our National symbol of freedom as the Bird of the Month for July as we celebrate our nation's independence. When I was growing up here in Northern Utah I never saw a Bald Eagle in the wild. they were on the endangered species list threatened with extinction. Because of the use of DDT pesticide the Bald Eagle and other birds of prey like the Peregrine Falcon numbers were seriously reduced till they were on the brink of extinction. Once the use of DDT was prohibited in the United States, Bald Eagle numbers began to increase and they have made a great come back. Last year the Bald Eagle was removed from the Endangered Species list. Now approximately 1500 Bald Eagles winter in Northern Utah and I have counted as many as 350 Bald Eagles at Farmington Bay. We only have a handful of Bald Eagles that nest in Utah the rest go north to Alaska and Canada to nest, so winter is the time to see them here.

All of these pictures were taken at Farmington Bay.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Common Yellowthroat

One of my favorite summer birds in the marsh is the bumble bee colored Common Yellowthroat with it's unmistakable witchity, witchity, witchity call. My first sighting of the Common Yellowthroat was several years ago at Deseret Ranch, then the next summer while birding the Bear Lake Bird Refuge in Paris Idaho I heard them and got them to come close by pishing. I now listen for them at Farmington Bay and today was able to take a few pictures. They are hard to photograph because they stay down in the Cattails and when the do come up they don't hold still very long.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Beautiful Singers Of The Sparrow World

Several years ago as I was hiking up to Delicate Arch I heard a bird singing one of the most melodious songs I had ever heard. I looked at it through my binoculars and saw a beautiful little bird with a black throat and white stripes on it's face. I search my field guide hoping that I had spotted some exotic warbler and I have to admit I was a bit disappointed that what I was looking at was a sparrow. It was a Black-throated Sparrow and a new life bird for me though which I was happy for. As a beginning birder I hadn't yet gained an appreciation for sparrows.
This weekend my family and I returned to Moab after 3 years of missing our favorite vacation spot (check the link for Steve and Nery's Hobbies blog to see more pictures of our trip) I was hoping this time to get some pictures of Black-throated Sparrows. I was not disappointed I saw several but had a difficult time getting a picture. Finally at The Windows Arches I got one to be cooperative and got several shots, though the light was not too good.
I didn't really get any time to dedicate to birding but did casually look for birds while we did our other activities in addition to Black-throated Sparrows I saw; Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Rock Wren, Says Phoebe, Common Raven, Western Kingbird, Bullocks Oriole, Yellow-breasted Chat, Red-tailed Hawk, Turkey Vulture, House Sparrow, European Starling.
I used to fish now I bird because I never get skunked birding.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

My Old Friend Has Returned

I had a fancy maple tree in my back yard that died several years ago but I left it up because it seemed to be a favorite tree for birds to perch on. Last winter during one of the stronger storms the tree blew over So I cut it up and hauled it off with my spring clean up. One bird in particular that liked perching in this tree was an Olive-sided Flycatcher, this bird has been a regular for the last three years and I wondered if it would return this year after removing the dead tree. This morning my wondering was over as I was watching all the activity in my back yard I noticed the unmistakable flight over my neighbors backyard of a flycatcher hunting insects. The bird landed on a bare branch of my neighbor's Locust tree and for the next half hour I watched it take of chase a bug and return to it's branch. I was able to get a few pictures of it.
I am glad to have my old friend back. Olive-sided Flycatcher was the second flycatcher after the Western Kingbird that I was able to identify years ago when I started keeping my life list. My first Olive-sided Flycatcher was at Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake. That was a very good day about 10 years ago when I added several new life birds to my list. In addition to the Olive-sided Flycatcher I added the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Western Wood Peewee to my life list.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Birds of the Month for June, Avocets and Stilts

I picked two birds as birds of the month for June, the American Avocet and the Black-necked Stilt.
Walk through the wetlands this time of year and you are very likely to see hear and possibly be dive bombed by Avocets and Stilts who are mostly finished nesting but still watching after their young as the feed in the ponds and playas. These two species are often found together wading and foraging in ponds. These two beautiful waders nest in Utah, The Great Salt Lake Wetlands are the nesting ground for some of the largest breeding populations of Avocets and Stilts in North America. They arrive in Utah usually in March but I have seen Avocets as early as February. They stay until The end of October and head to Mexico for the wither. Avocets have the copper colored head and upturned bill, in fall their head color changes from copper to sliver almost white. Stilts are black and white with a straight bill and bright red legs.

American Avocet
With its elegant profile and striking coloration, the American Avocet is unique among North American birds. In summer it can be found in temporary and unpredictable wetlands across western North America where it swings its long upturned bill through the shallow water to catch small invertebrates.
Adult Description
· Large shorebird. Long legs.
· Long, upturned bill.
· Black-and-white upperparts.
· Rusty or gray neck and head.
Immature Description
Similar to adult, but head colored light buff.
Cool Facts
In response to predators, the American Avocet sometimes issues a series of call notes that gradually changes pitch, simulating the Doppler effect and thus making its approach seem faster than it actually is.
Nesting American Avocets aggressively attack predators, sometimes physically striking Northern Harriers or Common Ravens.
A female American Avocet may lay one to four eggs in the nest of another female, who then incubates the eggs. American Avocets may parasitize other species' nests too; single American Avocet eggs have been found in the nests of Mew Gulls. Other species may also parasitize avocet nests. Avocets have incubated mixed clutches of their own eggs and those of Common Terns or Black-necked Stilts. The avocets reared the stilt hatchlings as if they were their own.
American Avocet chicks leave the nest within 24 hours after hatching. Day-old avocets can walk, swim, and even dive to escape predators.
Shallow fresh and saltwater wetlands.
Aquatic invertebrates.
Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
3–4 eggs
Egg Description
Greenish brown with irregular dark spots. Pointed on one end.
Condition at Hatching
Downy and able to walk.
Nest Description
A scrape in the ground, lined with grass or other vegetation, feathers, pebbles, or other small objects, or completely unlined.
In its pre-copulation display, the male American Avocet preens himself with water, gradually gaining intensity to the point of frenzied splashing just before he mounts the female. After copulating, the pair intertwines their necks and runs forward.In territory establishment and in self-defense, performs elaborate ritualized displays. One notable display involves two pairs, or a pair and a third individual, facing each other in a circle and then stretching their bills toward each other. Upon the approach of a terrestrial predator, may approach the predator with a teetering gait and outstretched wings, as if on a tightrope. Also crouches on the ground as if incubating, only to move and crouch again in a new location.Feeds in shallow water, while wading or swimming. Locates food by sight and snaps it up, or sweeps its long bill through the water, capturing prey by touch.
Black-necked Stilt
Adult Description
· Large shorebird.
· Black face, hind neck, and back.
· White throat and underparts.
· Very long, thin red legs.
· Long, thin, straight black bill.
Immature Description
Similar to adult, but with scalloped pattern on back and a white trailing edge to wing.
Cool Facts
Five species of rather similar-looking stilts are recognized in the genus Himantopus. They have the second-longest legs in proportion to their bodies of any bird, exceeded only by flamingos.
The Hawaiian subspecies of Black-necked Stilt has the black of its neck reaching much farther forward than the mainland forms. Habitat loss and hunting led to the decline in its numbers. It uses primarily the few freshwater wetlands found on the Hawaiian Islands.

Shallow fresh and saltwater wetlands, including salt ponds, rice fields, shallow lagoons, and mangrove swamps.
Aquatic invertebrates, feeds in shallow water, while wading or swimming. Locates food by sight and snaps it up, sometimes sticking head completely underwater, or swipes the head and bill through water.