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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January 20, 2015 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Ringneck ducks takeoff
Ringneck ducks takeoff

Sitting Around Waiting for Appointments

I have to admit to getting a little bored sitting around here just north of Yuma. Still have a week or more to go since the HWH replacement hydraulic jack has yet to come in at Sun Bums, and my appointment for a lube and oil at Fisher Chevrolet is next Tuesday. Usually I can keep myself entertained by finding decent birding spots and settling in to do bird photography, but I just haven’t found any place around here where there is any decent action. Even my hummingbird attempts have had to be abandoned due to a steady assault of bees taking over my feeders. So, while I am anxious to head on down the road, I still have more time to kill here in Yuma.

Vermillion flycatcher
Vermillion flycatcher
Vermillion flycatcher
Vermillion flycatcher

The little golf course at Hidden Shores turns out to be a pretty reliable spot to consistently find these very colorful Vermillion Fly( moth? )catchers. This most likely is the same individual I got a few shots of a week ago on the same post. I found a couple more of them as I wandered into the horse pen/trailer storage area off the parking lot there as well. In the bottom image, you can see him shaking the” moth chalk” off his lunch before downing him.

Canvasback takeoff
Canvasback takeoff

This is a new one for me, a canvasback duck, caught taking flight from the waters of the All American Canal in Bard, Ca., about 10 miles west of where I am presently staying.

Takeoff!
Takeoff!

He was accompanied by a pair of Ring-necked ducks and a Bufflehead drake as well as several other Ring-necks. This part of the canal is one of the few places I have seen any sizable number of ducks gathering, but, unfortunately, one is not able to get terribly close to them as the canal is fringed with a dense cover of phragmites and there are No Trespassing signs all along the canal.

Ringneck ducks takeoff
Ringneck ducks takeoff
Ringneck and canvasbacks
Ringneck and canvasbacks

Still, it was nice to be able to at least have an attempt at getting some action shots after such a long period of inactivity. I am really looking forward to heading east and up in elevation to some of the better birding locations in Arizona as soon as I am done with all my appointments here in Yuma.

Ringnecks and canvasbacks
Ringnecks and canvasbacks

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January 9, 2014 Goose Island, Texas

Great blue heron foggy flight
Great blue heron foggy flight

Out real early this morning even though the campground was completely socked in with fog, hoping to find better conditions in the pastures. No such luck!

Whooping cranes in the fog
Whoopers! This is what I am fighting almost every day!

I am not posting this image because I am proud of it, just to let you know why there aren’t any great whooping crane images this trip down here. These are the weather conditions I am encountering pretty much every day and this is the distance the whooping cranes are consistently keeping from anyone with a camera. The top image of a blue heron in flight skimming over the water only 40 feet from me would have been a keeper with a little light. I have never been able to catch one in flight with an outstretched neck like this, they normally travel with their long neck curled back into their chest. But with the fog and mist, thus absence of light, there is no way to get any fine detail in the image, note how you really can’t even see any indication of the water he is skimming over. If not for the reflection of his wingtips, I would assume this was a shot of him against the sky, not flying 3 feet over the surface of the bay.

Goose Island doe's breakfast interrupted
Goose Island doe’s breakfast interrupted

Returning to the campsite, I ran into this doe browsing right on the side of the entry road and got this shot of her facial contortions while downing her breakfast.

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

Goose Island doe's breakfast interrupted
Goose Island doe

Without the contortions, she actually was kind of attractive.

Flotilla of ducks at my campsite
Flotilla of ducks at my campsite

 

Flotilla of ducks at my campsite
Flotilla of ducks at my campsite

Back at the campsite, while processing images, I happened to look up and see a couple hundred Pintails ( ducks ) bobbing and feeding within a hundred feet of my motorhome. This is just one of the reasons I am so fond of this campground, if only they would provide some decent weather so I could photograph these guys.

December 28, 2013 Goose Island, Texas

Duck hunters and decoys
The reason there are no birds around Goose Island

Finally, today there was  an actual, honest to goodness sunrise, and a sunset also! It really has been a dreary stretch of weather here on the Texas coast as of late, grey skies and rain showers pretty much nonstop. Still though, much better than shoveling snow and battling ice.

Sunset over Rockport
Sunset over Rockport
Sunrise over Goose Island
Sunrise over Goose Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, with the sun finally out and some blue skies, I took another spin around the “Big Tree” loop in Lamar in hopes of seeing some whooping crane activity, but once again, nothing to photograph except these shots of duck hunters, sitting 15 feet from the road where last March, I had my tripod set photographing whoopers and ducks. It appears that duck season finally ends January 26th, so, although it appears I will have no luck getting any photographs here now, perhaps when I return in March, the birds will have settled back in.

Turkey vulture
Turkey vulture

 

It seems the only birds that the constant airboat racket and shotgun blasts doesn’t seem to scare out of the area are the vultures, who probably associate the sounds with a good chance to scavenge birds the hunters leave behind.

 

 

I actually have nothing against hunting myself, though I have never been a hunter. Hunters do serve a purpose in keeping numbers of birds, and animals, in check, and the money they pay in licenses and fees goes a long way to saving critical wildlife habitat, and that helps all of us wildlife photographers in the end. However, I do have some concerns about the sportsmanship of some of these guys right here on Goose Island. I have witnessed hunters firing from the boat launch right in the middle of the campground, certainly not safe, probably illegal. Today, while watching a lone duck swim warily in the direction of a set of decoys, only about 50 yards offshore from my location and a good hundred yards from the decoys and the duck blind, I watched as the hunters blasted this poor thing with six shotgun blasts while it was sitting on the water ( guess that is where the ” like a sitting duck ” must come from ), probably not illegal, but certainly not very sporting. I wonder what there might be to salvage, as far as eating, after a small duck has been filled with 6 rounds of shotgun pellets. I have also witness more than one group of hunters hunting from the side of the road here, back where I come from, definitely illegal.

Duck hunters
Duck hunters
Blue Heron swallowing fish
Down the hatch