April 24, 2017 Malhuer NWR, Oregon

Abandoned Ranch
Abandoned Ranch

More From Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge

Ruddy Drake
Ruddy Drake

Always get a kick out of the male Ruddy Duck and his sky blue bill during breeding season.

Redhead Pair
Redhead Pair
Redheads Takeoff
Redheads Takeoff

Plenty of ducks encountered this week while driving through the refuge and was able to get a few decent flight shots when there was enough light, lots of overcast mornings.

Ring-neck Drake Takeoff
Ring-neck Drake Takeoff
Mallard Drake in Flight
Mallard Drake in Flight
Gadwall Takeoff
Gadwall Takeoff
Cinnamon Teal Pair
Cinnamon Teal Pair

This pair of Cinnamon Teal have been found on this spot every day this week, so I assume she is sitting on some eggs.

Cinnamon Teal Drake
Cinnamon Teal Drake
Avocets
Avocets

American Avocets hunting along the flooded fields.

Long-billed Curlew
Long-billed Curlew
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane

This Sandhill was one of several pairs out hunting the flooded cow pastures along the highway.

Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk

A completely drenched Ferruginous hawk manning his roadside hunting perch during one of this week’s showers.

Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk

The look says it all, he doesn’t care for this weather any more than I do.

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September 29, 2016 Antelope Island State Park, Utah

Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison

Three Days on Antelope Island

Antelope Island Bison
Campground Hazard

At Gros Ventre Campground in the Tetons I had moose wandering through the campsite and here at Antelope Island there are bison passing through. Pays to check wildlife conditions before stepping out the door these days … and I am certainly not complaining about that!

Great Salt Lake from Antelope Island Viewpoint
Great Salt Lake from Antelope Island Viewpoint

This is a panoramic view of the northwest side of the island taken from above the Bridger Campground where I am camped.

The Bridger Campground where I am staying is one of the nicer primitive state park campgrounds I have ever run into. No hookups, but with water and a dump station just a little way from the campground. Mostly nice level pull through sites with nice separation and a great view out over the Great Salt Lake. A large concrete pad with picnic table, fire ring, and shade cabana come with every site. Good Verizon signal and no trees to interfere with satellite reception. Unfortunately, all but two sites are reservable, so weekend stays are all but out of the question, unless you plan a year in advance.

Bison on the Beach
Bison on the Beach
Yellow Flower in Rock
A Survivor!

Got a kick out of this lone flower proudly laying claim to the top of of this rock.

Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison

Sitting low in the Prius, these male bison can seem more than a little intimidating.

Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison

No arguing with these guys over right-of-way on the roads throughout the park.

Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison

Last time I was here all the bison were down on the south end of the island, this time around they all, as in several hundred, seem to be up on the north end, where the campgrounds are located. A fire burned large portions of the southern end of the island and perhaps that is why they are all up here this year. A small group of seven or eight bulls were hanging around, and in, the campground the first two nights I was here, providing many opportunities for closeup shots. But it is a little unnerving to step out your door and have a bison’s butt just fifteen feet away, leaning against your shade cabana’s roof support post.

Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison

I could actually hear this guy groaning as he scratched an itch, must have just hit the spot for him.

Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison
Magpie and Bison
Magpie and Bison

This guy was rubbing his side against the picnic table shelter’s supporting post, and the whole structure was shaking.

Magpie and Bison
Magpie and Bison

The magpies must be harvesting insects, perhaps ticks, from the bison. They must dig a little deep and cause some pain as I saw the bison trying to shake them off each time they would land.

Antelope Island Pronghorn
Antelope Island Pronghorn

Pronghorns and mule deer also roam the island.

Antelope Island Mulie Bucks
Antelope Island Mulie Bucks

This small group of mulie bucks were grazing a distant hillside at dusk one evening, but I just couldn’t get any closer to get any good shots. Pretty impressive rack on the one closest.

Avocets
Avocets

There are thousands of ducks and coots on the lake feeding on brine shrimp and algae, and hundreds of avocets and other small waders patrolling the water’s edge for brine flies. Because of the extreme salinity, there are no fish in the Great Salt Lake.

Feeding Ducks
Feeding Ducks
Threatening Skies Over Antelope Island
Threatening Skies Over Antelope Island

This is a view of the shallow waters on the east side of the island looking towards the hustle and bustle of the greater Salt Lake City corridor.

Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island
Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island
Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island
Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island

My last night here, a storm moved in from the south, and the sky blackened as the sun was setting in the west creating some wonderful light conditions over the water.

Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island
Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island
Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island
Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island

With the sun still shining on the western part of the island and with rain squalls and winds coming up the east side of the island, conditions were ripe for a rainbow and I got to watch as it formed.

Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island
Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island

The sky turned all kind of weird colors, from grey to green to almost red/yellow as the sun sank lower and the storm advanced. I wish I could have taken more shots of this dramatic weather event, but I was rushing home to close windows I had left open, not knowing it was supposed to storm like this.

Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island
Storm Brewing Over Antelope Island

All in all, a pretty spectacular last night of my stay on Antelope Island.

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April 23, 2015 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Pintail
Pintail

Grouse Lek in the Morning, Meadows Near Burns in the Afternoon

Once again I got out really early to get to the Sage Grouse Lek before sunrise.

Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display

Thankfully, the birds were there and doing their dance, unfortunately, the harsh lighting conditions were very similar to my last visit.

Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display

The forecast calls for rain in the next few days, so I shall return when there is a little better light, and will hope the grouse are still into doing this bizarre dance.

Pintail
Pintail
Pintail
Pintail
Pintail
Pintail

After leaving the lek, I drove north on Route 205 to explore the farm roads around the town of Burns. Managed to catch a Pintail Duck taking off from a portion of a small roadside wet area.

Greater Yellowlegs
Greater Yellowlegs

These fields or meadows around Burns are usually flooded in the spring and attract all kinds of birds. This year, a flooded field is hard to find, but Jim Palmer had given me some suggestions for areas to check on, and I did find some productive spots.

A Willet in a Hurry
A Willet in a Hurry

The water I did find off Double Zero Road yielded the above shots of pintail duck, greater yellowlegs, and willet, but the drought has left precious little standing water in the area and there simply weren’t that many birds around.

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl

Acting on another tip from Jim, I drove out Ruh Red Road to pole #132 to check on some burrowing owls, and they were actually there. One of the pair actually was kind enough to almost completely show himself instead of remaining below ground, with just the top of his head showing, as is usually the case with these tiny birds.

Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier

I have driven the northern portion of the main refuge road pretty much every morning since I have been here, trying to get a good shot of one of the many male Northern Harriers here.

Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, i just can’t sneak up on them as the road is made with fairly large crushed rock and therefore produces quite a loud crunching sound as you drive over it. As a result, by the time I am close enough to get off a shot, I am usually shooting at a bird’s butt, or they drop down in the bunch grass or cat tails and are hidden from view. I’m starting to think I’m just not going to get that one great ” Gray Ghost ” shot I initially really thought I would get here.

Tree Swallows
Tree Swallows

These tree swallows aren’t put off by the road noise though.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

And speaking of bird butts and frustration, there is this guy, a beautiful Short-eared Owl who I meet up with every day at the same place on the refuge road, yet just can’t get a shot of him. This is one of the few owls who hunt by day, but he too, always hears me coming and heads off before I can get close enough for a good shot.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

 

 

 

 

 

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

Every morning, and some afternoons, he is sitting on the same bush, just taunting me, and I now must admit, I believe he has gotten the better of me. At least I have some painting reference shots.

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October 17, 2014 Willard Bay State Park, Utah

American Avocets Siesta
American Avocets Siesta

Finally Got My Pheasant ( plus a surprise find ! )

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Made a morning and an afternoon trip to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge today and my patience and persistence finally paid off with my nemesis, the ring necked pheasants ! For over a week I have been being teased by these guys,

Ring Necked Pheasant Running Away
Ring Necked Pheasant Running Away

either they are running and too far off,

Ring Necked Pheasant
Ring Necked Pheasant

or, less often, too close with a poor background.

Ring Necked Pheasant
Ring Necked Pheasant

The light is too low or the grass is too high,

Ring Necked Pheasant
Ring Necked Pheasant
Ring Necked Pheasant Hiding
Ring Necked Pheasant Hiding

or they hunker down and hide as soon as I approach.

But today, I finally had one pose just the way I hoped I would eventually find one, not too far away and without deep grass half concealing his brilliant plumage.

Ring necked pheasant
Ring necked pheasant

Only took a week !

But then, later as I drove the loop road in the refuge where I didn’t expect to find any of these guys, I had a male dart across the road in front of me and run into the grasses by the canal. With only 15 feet of land between the road and the water, I figured I could probably flush him out if I got out of the car and walked the edge of the road. So with the monster 600mm lens attached and camera settings ready for a flight shot, I walked to the edge of the road … and he just exploded out of the grass, less than 20 feet in front of me.

Ring Necked Pheasant Flushed
Ring Necked Pheasant Flushed

Now, it’s not perfectly sharp, a 600mm lens is not meant to be handheld, but it’s not bad at all, I love the action and the blurred background, the long trailing tail feathers, and the backlighting has the wing feathers glowing. I’m actually kind of proud of this shot , mainly because of the degree of difficulty, and the fact that I worked for more than a week to get it.

Then, only a little farther along the loop road, I received a totally unexpected treat … a long tailed weasel !

Long Tailed Weasel
Long Tailed Weasel

Can’t say I have ever seen one of these before, and got a big kick out of watching him bounce around amongst the reeds and grasses.

Long Tailed Weasel
Long Tailed Weasel
Long Tailed Weasel
Long Tailed Weasel

He is tiny, so getting him without the grass concealing most of him took a little doing, but I was pleasantly surprised by how fearless he was of my presence, he almost seemed curious about me, and kept coming out and standing up to check on me.

But eventually, he went back to doing what he was here for, hunting for lunch,

Long Tailed Weasel With Lunch
Long Tailed Weasel With Lunch

and he proudly showed me what was on the menu.

Long Tailed Weasel With Lunch
Long Tailed Weasel With Lunch

I couldn’t resist more shots of the American Avocets in a small pond on the way out of the refuge.

American Avocet Reflection
American Avocet Reflection
American Avocets Siesta
American Avocets Siesta

All in all, a successful day at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

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