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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Yellowlegs, January 2012 Bird of the Month

Greater Yellowlegs
It is Winter here in Northern Utah and most of the Shore Birds have moved on to warmer climates, but one shore bird remains throughout the winter months, the Yellowlegs. But wait there are two species of Yellowlegs the Lesser and the Greater Yellowlegs. The challenge is to identify which is which.

Of course they both have long yellow legs for which they are named, their markings are almost identical, so how do you tell the difference? If you are lucky enough to see a Greater and Lesser together side by side you can see the Greater Yellowlegs are slightly bigger, but there are other markings that help ID Greater and Lesser yellowlegs.
Lesser Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs The length of the bill is the same as the width of the head, Greater Yellowlegs the bill is longer than the width of the head. Lesser Yellowlegs have an all dark bill while the non-breeding bill of the Greater Yellowlegs is lighter gray at the base.
Lesser Yellowlegs have a straight pointed bill.
Greater Yellowlegs have a slightly upturned bill that is more blunt.

Lesser Yellowlegs breed in open boreal forest with scattered shallow wetlands. Winters in wide variety of shallow fresh and saltwater habitats.

Greater Yellowlegs breed in muskeg, wet bogs with small wooded islands, and forests (usually coniferous) with abundant clearings. Winters in wide variety of shallow fresh and saltwater habitats.

Both actively feed wading in shallows foraging for aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, particularly flies and beetles. Occasionally small fish and seeds.

Greater Yellowlegs with Winter Plumage American Avocets
Lesser Yellowlegs with Long-billed Dowitchers
Both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs are found throughout most of North, Central and South America.

Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs are my pick for Birds of the Month for January 2012

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Redhead Duck, December 2011 Bird of the Month

The Redhead Duck is my pick for Bird of the Month for December. The Redhead is a permanent resident of the Great Salt Lake Wetlands and is one of the most abundant waterfowl of the area. Redheads can be seen during the winter months and they also nest in the wetlands of the Great Salt Lake.
Male Redhead Duck is a beautiful duck, Chestnut red head, gold eyes, black breast and rump, gray wings, steel blue bill with a black tip. 
The Canvasback is similar in appearance to the Redhead with a chestnut red head, black breast and rump, but the Canvasback has red eyes a sloped forehead, slanted black bill and black face. The back of the Canvasback is much lighter canvas color than the gray back of the Redhead. 
Both Redheads and Canvasbacks are Diving Ducks.

Redheads are parasitical nesters often laying their eggs in the nest of other ducks letting other species set the eggs and raise their young.
A strikingly beautiful duck and one I am always excited to see, the Redhead is my choice of December 2011 Bird of the Month

Backyard Birds

Cedar Waxwing
This morning I noticed more than usual activity in my yard, most of my trees and bushes were bustling. There was a large flock of Cedar Waxwings, moving about the shrubbery in my yard. There were Juncos, Robins, Scrub Jays, Flickers and House Sparrows. I noticed that the Waxwings and Robins were feasting on the berries of my Juniper tree. I took some pictures none are great because I had to take them from my kitchen window. I had great fun watching the bird activity this morning here are a few pictures.

American Robin
Female Oregon Dark-eyed Junco
Western Scrub Jay
Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwings drinking water from the melting snow on the roof of my neighbors shed
Waxwings eating Juniper Berries
Cedar Waxwing
Another Waxwing you can see the red waxy buds on his wings that give this bird it's name
Male Oregon Dark-eyed Junco

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Plethora of Pintails

There is something awe-inspiring to me to watch waterfowl land and take off. I must not be the only one because a lot of paintings I have seen of waterfowl are of them either landing or taking off.

I went out to Farmington Bay yesterday to look for a Hudsonian Godwit that has been sighted out there this week. I didn't see the Godwit but there were a lot of waterfowl. I came upon this large group of mostly Northern Pintails with a few American Wigeons included as they were feeding on salicornia (picleweed) on this playa.
They were very active working the playa feeding on the mineral rich pickle weed.

A few American Wigeons mingled with the large number of Pintails

I sat and watched them for about ten minutes and took over a hundred pictures. Then as I started to drive off they all got up. Very nervous because this is after all the hunting season. Though these birds are safe where they are at, they are in the Waterfowl rest area. No hunting allowed in this area of Farmington Bay. Unless of coarse you are shooting with a canon or nikon etc.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Favorite Birds of Prey Photos

Red-tailed Hawk, I felt very fortunate to have gotten this picture one of my over all favorites.
None of these pictures are new, I'm pretty sure I have posted most if not all these pictures before. I haven't been able to get out for a while and today was the first measurable snow storm of the year for the Wasatch Front. Winter is always a good time to view Birds of Prey so I thought I would post some of my favorite Birds of Prey photos.
I have hundreds of Bald Eagle photos but this one is probably the best.
Northern Harriers are the most abundant hawk at Farmington Bay in the winter months
Not only my favorite Kestrel photo but one of my favorites of all my photos. A better camera and lens would have made this photo extraordinary, I like the sunflowers and white background that make this bird really stand out. I felt very fortunate to capture this bird as it took off. This Kestrel took off from the sunflower swooped across the road and caught a meadow vole.
It was New Years Day 2008 my brother in law and I had been looking at the assortment of waterfowl at the Kaysville Ponds. On the way to take him home driving through a neighborhood perched on a power pole was this Merlin. He patiently sat there and let me take 20 or more pictures.
New Years day 2007 we saw 9 Short-eared Owls 
There was an eruption of Barn Owls in 2007, unfortunately it was a cold rough year for the Owls and many did not make it. I occasionally see them but no where close the the numbers of the winter of 2007.
I have seen Great Horned Owls at Farmington Bay but unable to photograph any of them. The only Great Horned Owls I have photographed were at the ranch at Antelope Island
While I have seen many Prairie Falcons at Farmington Bay this is the only one I was able to photograph. I took this picture in 2007.
I have taken a lot of photos of Red-tailed Hawks this is the only breeding adult I have photographed.
I think the Northern Rough-legged Hawk is the most beautifully marked of all the buteos. 
I took this picture in my backyard. This Sharp-shinned Hawk took advantage of my bird feeders. though when he comes and takes a bird from my yard it quiets things down at my feeders for a while he is not unwelcome. I'm always excited to see a Sharpie in my yard.
Not a winter bird the Swainson's Hawks have all flown south for the winter. This bird was one of two that were hatched in our neighborhood this year making it 5 years in a row that Swainson's Hawks have nested successfully in my neighborhood.
Not that crazy about winter but birds of Prey make the cold months much more tolerable.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

November 2011 Bird of the Month Hermit Thrush

This picture was taken in October of 2010

The Hermit Thrush is a fairly plain looking bird, shades of gray and brown, spotted breast and a rufous tail that it often wags or flicks up and down. Like it's distant cousin the American Robin I find this member of the Thrush family quite photogenic.

My first sighting of a Hermit Thrush many years ago was at the spring at fielding Garr Ranch on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. I usually will see Hermit thrush every time I visit there. They are late migrators and I often see them into December.

Hermit Thrush stay low in thickets flitting about I rarely see them higher in the trees than eye level. They often forage on the ground. This bird is showing its rufous tail.
Hermit Thrush seem to be as interested in me as I am them. I have found them one of the easiest birds to photograph. This picture was taken October of 2011
I often see Hermit Thrush in my yard during migration, I am always exited to have them visit.
I added this back shot to so how it looks from behind, although the lighting doesn't show the rufous in its tail very well
One of my favorite birds the Hermit Thrush is my pick for November Bird of the Month

Monday, October 10, 2011

Another Antelope Island Adventure

My Brother in Law Frank Clawson and I got out to Antelope Island for a wonderful day of viewing nature. We both added a new life bird to our life lists and had a great time watching all Antelope Island has to offer.
Eared Grebe Left and Horned Grebe on the right
Every year during migration we seem to get an invasion of rare or uncommon birds along the Causeway at Antelope Island. a couple of years ago we had a good number of Bonapart's Gulls and Sabines Gulls, we often get quite a few Whimbrel, a couple of years ago we had nearly a dozen Long-tailed Ducks, Surf Scoters and White-winged Scoters. We occasionally see Horned Grebes but this year seems to be the  invasion of Horned Grebes.
Horned Grebe
Harlequin Duck one female is not exactly and invasion but a very rare and exciting bird for the Great Salt Lake
Here is a vary rare find at the Great Salt Lake a female Harlequin Duck
This little girl has created quite a stir and has been the main attraction on the Causeway for about 2 weeks now. I finally got out today to see her and add the Harlequin duck to my Life List
This Female Brewer's Blackbird was very tame
I noticed while processing these pictures that it looks like she has an abbess on her left leg, I hope she'll be ok
Monarch Butterfly
This Monarch Butterfly looks pretty haggard but still beautiful
Painted Lady Butterfly
Western Meadow Larks were everywhere and quite active today
Sage Thrasher
Sage Thrasher
Loggerhead Shrike
These White Pelicans were putting on quite a show, they got up off the Great Salt lake and circled caught the thermals.
A view of the Wasatch Mountains from Antelope Island. Up until a week ago we were enjoying tempratures in the mid 80s Last week storms came in and now the the mountains are snow capped.
A shot of the Causeway 
Not a bird but a rare and beautiful migrant passing through from Wisconsin. The Great Salt Lake attracts all kinds on migrants
There were four Coyotes down on the shore and wading in the shallows probably looking for sick waterfowl and wading birds.

There were a lot of Bison grazing right on the edge of the road and seemed to pay no attention to the passing cars

Here are some of the birds we saw at the Ranch
Great Horned Owl 
The Northern Flickers were very active and vocal This female stopped long enough to get her picture taken
the area around the spring was alive with Hermit Thrush this one and the one in the next picture seemed as interested in me as I was in them.

Other birds seen
Ruddy Duck
Northern Shoveler
Western Grebe
California Gull
Ring-billed Gull
American Avocet
Black-necked Stilt
Northern Harrier
Common Raven
Black-billed Magpie
White-crowned Sparrow
American Goldfinch
American Coot
Barn Swallow
Cliff Sallow
Tree Swallow
Brown-headed Cowbird
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Wilson's Warbler
California Quail
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Dark-eyed Junco Oregon race 1st of the season
Heard but not seen
Ring-necked Pheasant
Cedar Waxwing