October 22, 2014 Antelope Island, Utah

Great Salt Lake Sunset
Great Salt Lake Sunset

Just Enjoying the Peace and Quiet

Sunset last evening over Great Salt Lake, taken from my campsite. There are only a couple of other people here in the campground, no one within a couple hundred yards of me, and this is proving to be a very peaceful, and unbelievably quiet spot. As serene as the image above. The sun actually sets just behind the hill this time of year, but I imagine in the summer months the setting sun would be visible from the campground.

As I sat in my LazyBoy this morning, enjoying my coffee, and watching as darkness began fading into light, I could see all kinds of movement in the short grass out the front windshield. Turned out to be a “rusk” of jackrabbits ( I had to look that up, of course, at Animal Group Names ) feeding in the predawn hours, at least a dozen of them, but still too dark to bother getting the camera out. Just as it was getting light enough to consider taking a picture, they all headed up the hill, probably to seek shelter from predators that hunt by day.

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

View from the hill above Bridger bay campground
View from the hill above Bridger bay campground

That’s my motorhome in the bottom right corner of the image above, taken just past sunrise this morning.

Rafts of ducks on Great Salt lake
Rafts of ducks on Great Salt lake

There must be tens of thousands of ducks out on the lake. There are rafts of ducks like this scattered all along the shore and out into the bay on the east side of the island. I’ve seen Northern Shovelers, Redheads, Gadwalls, some Mallards, and Ring Necked ducks, as well as gazillions of coots, all far too distant to get any type of photos.

There are antelope on Antelope Island !
There are antelope on Antelope Island !

On my early morning drive out the road to the farm, I finally found some antelope here on Antelope Island. I also saw, but couldn’t react quickly enough to get an image, an enormous Mule deer buck with quite a set of antlers heading into the brush to bed down for the day.

Probably the same as what the pioneers saw
Probably the same as what the pioneers saw

This herd of over a hundred bison was feeding its way north on the island early this morning. This scene is probably not all that different from what the early pioneers could have seen here, or elsewhere across the west.

Antelope Island
Antelope Island

This island has a very peaceful feel to it with it’s own kind of simple beauty, as this shot of the mountain spine of the island glowing warmly in the early morning sun.

Resting bull
Resting bull
Licking his wounds
Licking his wounds

I ran into a small band of bulls browsing along the road and two of them decided to put on a bit of a show. I can’t call it a knock down, drag out brawl, more of a sparring match, just sizing up a competitor, perhaps for a future bout, but interesting nonetheless.

Sparring Bison
Sparring Bison
Sparring Bison
Sparring Bison
Sparring Bison
Sparring Bison
Sparring Bison
Sparring Bison
Sparring Bison
Sparring Bison

And finally, one of my favorites out here, a meadowlark greeting the early morning sun with song. I have never seen so many of these songsters in one place. Both mornings I have been here there is at least one of them outside my window on the lone tree singing away until I open the door to walk the dogs.

Meadowlark
Meadowlark

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October 14, 2014 Willard Bay State Park, Utah

Antelope Island
Antelope Island

A Day Trip Out to Antelope Island

Today I drove down I-15 and took the causeway out to Antelope Island. The island is a Utah State Park with a $10 admission. Getting there you drive the causeway through about 7 miles of dried up lakebed before arriving on the 5 mile wide by 15 mile long island. There were large numbers of gulls, coots, and redhead ducks on the east side of the causeway just as you approach the island and a marina, left high and dry by the drought, on the west side.

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

Meadowlark
Meadowlark

I took a look at the Bridger Bay Campground to see if I wanted to venture out here for a few days with the RV. There were meadowlarks singing from the bushes all around the campground, so that in itself will probably get me back out here.

Meadowlark
Meadowlark

The campground appears well maintained with paved pull through sites as well as backins. Each site has a concrete patio and firepit with pretty decent spacing between sites as well as a great view of the Great Salt Lake from every site. There are no hookups but there is a dump station just down the road. Sites are reservable on #$%&# Reserve America.

Golden Eagle
Golden Eagle

Driving south down the island toward the Fielding Garr Ranch, I spied a large bird riding the thermals above the mountain slopes to the west. Stopping and scoping the bird, I recognized it as the second golden eagle I have now seen out here in Utah. It came close enough on one of it’s loops for me to get a couple of shots.

Bison
Riding bareback
Bison and companions
Bison and companions
Antelope Island bison
Antelope Island bison

 

 

 

 

 

The island is home to around 500 head of bison and just past the ranch on a short stretch of rough gravel road, I found about 100 of them grazing and relaxing in a large field.

Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island Bison
Antelope Island bison
Antelope Island bison
Pronghorn
Pronghorn

One of my favorite animals, as well as the island’s namesake, the pronghorn antelope, was nowhere to be seen until I spotted a solitary animal off in the distance on my way back from the ranch.

From Antelope Island I headed a few more miles south to Farmington Bay Wildlife Management Area.

Farmington Bay Ducks
Farmington Bay Ducks

Here I finally found where all the areas ducks were hiding out. Plenty of ducks, as well as the ubiquitous coots, were scattered in large numbers in the bay south of the access road. Only problem was, there was no way possible to get anywhere near them to get any decent shots.

Western grebe
Western grebe
Western grebes
Western grebes

Farther out along the refuge road, I came across a few Western Grebes that did allow me to get a few shots.

White faced ibis
White faced ibis
Greater yellowlegs
Greater yellowlegs

There were a few other stragglers at this refuge, mainly the lone white faced ibis and greater yellowlegs pictured above, along with some other small waders and a few white pelicans. If only there were some way to get beyond the reeds protecting the ducks from my camera lens.

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January 16, 2014 Galveston Island, Texas

Meadowlark singing
Meadowlark singing

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

Another perfect day, weatherwise! Drove back out to 8 Mile Road in search of meadowlarks and managed to find one cooperative individual. Nothing else out there though which is kind of strange considering the luck I have had in this area before.

Willet at work
Willet at work

Headed back down to the east end of the island and drove up and down the storm barrier a few times but never saw a single raptor, much less my targeted male harrier, so drove along the ship channel beach a bit and found a willet working his way along the waterline.

Black skimmers
Black skimmers

Also found a large flock of black skimmers out on a sandbar offshore but couldn’t get anything decent because of the distance. These are the guys I come down here looking for, trying to get action shots of them flying with their strange beaks skimming the water’s surface in search of small fish.

Drove out to the Toyota dealership and made an appointment for my 20,000 mile checkup on the Prius for Monday morning. Hit WalMart for groceries and the Office Depot for paper and TurboTax on the way back home.

Willet call at sunset
Willet call at sunset

Took an afternoon trip retracing my steps from this morning getting another ( the same? ) willet at the ship canal.

White tailed kite with dinner
White tailed kite with dinner

Back at the campground, I had a familiar looking visitor in front of the motorhome.

Willet at work
Willet
Meadowlark singing
Meadowlark singing
Meadowlark on a wire, Galveston, Texas
Meadowlark

 

 

August 3, 2013 Turtle River State Park, North Dakota

A Birthday Present

I had earlier decided I would stop and rest for 2 days, so had investigated Turtle River State Park in North Dakota online, and figured I would stop and see if I could stay a couple days. I really knew there was almost no chance of getting one of their non-reservable sites on a Saturday morning, but I pulled in to check anyway.

Site #27, Turtle River S.P. N. Dakota
Site #27, Turtle River S.P. N. Dakota

I was given the very last site available, and since it was in the non-reservable section, I could have it for my 2 days. But wait, it gets even better. It turns out to be a little roadside pull through, nestled in the woods, and though the sites are a bit close, they aren’t crammed in side by side, and you do have a bit of privacy, and lo and behold, later that evening, just on a whim, I decided to check to see if my rooftop dish would just happen to align with the tiny bit of sky I had above me through the trees, and after doing it’s whirring and grinding thing, it settled in on a strong signal. Amazing!

Weather is once again, drop dead gorgeous. I know this can’t be normal, I was sort of dreading traveling through this area in the heat of summer, but this is incredible. Today is bright blue skies with white cumulus clouds, temps in the low 70’s with a heavenly breeze, it simply could not be any nicer!

Grabbed a few brochures at checkin and decided to go out on one of the prairie grasslands birding routes, since this may be just flat, boring terrain to most, but to me it is something new to explore. Directions in the brochure were very good and I did get to see what there was to see. This is the worst possible time of the year to go looking for birds in most places, including here. All the interesting spring action is done and the fall movement is yet to come.

White Pelicans on Kelley Slough, N. Dakota
White Pelicans on Kelley Slough, N. Dakota

Nevertheless, it was kind of neat to see several hundred white pelicans on a small slough, where the brochure said they would. And it always seems so odd to me to see these huge white birds you would think would be linked to the sea here in the nations midlands, in farm country. How that many large birds make a living in the summer months on a body of water as small as this is beyond me. There also were several family groups of ducks, coots, avocets, and other small waders along the edges of the slough.

Meadowlark on a wire, Galveston, Texas
Meadowlark on a wire, Galveston, Texas

Thought I might get some nice meadowlark images, you know, sitting on the fencepost singing up a storm. Saw the meadowlarks, just there weren’t any fenceposts, or fences for that matter, all open cropland. I guess you only need to fence your land in for grazing animals, since corn, soy and wheat apparently don’t tend to roam that often. So no meadowlark photos ( how about one from Texas last winter? ).

Killdear in a N.Dakota cornfield
Killdear in a N.Dakota cornfield

 

Did see lots of flycatchers, sparrows, swallows, Killdeer, kestrels and one pair of Northern Harriers doing their thing floating over the edges of the field crops and the cattails along the drainage ditches by the side of the gravel roads.

 

 

If you are ever in this area, this is a place worth checking out. This State Park was a pleasant surprise to me. A little tight for big rigs, almost all the sites are in the trees, probably quite welcome with the hot summer weather, and there is quite a lot to see and do in Grand Forks, just 10 miles back route 2 east of the park. The park itself offers some nice trails and roads for bike riding mostly under the trees. A pleasant 2 day stop for me.