A Salt Lake City “Layover” Vacation ;-)

What’s one to do when you travel through Salt Lake City, Utah on your way back home?  Well, spend an additional day or two and get out and see the sights while you’re there.  I mean, it’s sort of like 2 vacations!  😉

The first day we spent was a rainy, cold, and cloudy day at Antelope Island, just outside of SLC.  These bison didn’t seem to mind though, and in fact, I think that they rather enjoyed it.  One of them was jumping and kicking as it ran across the landscape.

IMG_6172That night the rain turned into snow and we woke up to a winter wonderland, which I totally appreciated after feeling like I got cheated out of my winter.  🙂IMG_6202The next morning, we came across this frisky skunk running through the frozen field.  Believe it or not, it was my very FIRST LIVE skunk I’ve ever seen in the wild.  So though the images are far from the greatest, I was quite excited.  Let’s just say, the bar for a better shot was set low.  LOLDSC_2120DSC_2132Lots of raptors were out scouting the area for some dining pleasure.  Several of them were the American Kestrel … such a beautiful bird.DSC_2156DSC_1989With the weather clearing in the distance, the views of the snow kissed landscape were incredibly beautiful.IMG_6213IMG_6216By now, most of you who regularly read the blog know that I have a slight infatuation with Northern Harriers.  Maybe it’s because they have that “owl disc” face and I absolutely adore owls.DSC_2305A great blue heron graced us as well as it glided by us … so lovely against the mountain backdrop.DSC_2263Probably my favorite for the day though was this absolutely stunning rough-legged hawk.  We encountered it numerous times, which was just fine with me.  DSC_2343It’s so amazing to me that a raptor of this size could so delicately land and perch on such a small branch.DSC_2358It surveyed the landscape for perhaps some small critters making their way through the snow.  I love how their leg feathers cover all the way down to their feet.DSC_2377Alas, the time was right for the chase to begin as it launched into the air and towards its hunt and prey.  Just look at those awesome wings and markings.DSC_2404So graceful in flight and quite quiet as well in the silence of the winter … off it went.DSC_2408However, there were lots more of the northern harriers passing through and while they generally are not the most cooperative subjects for photography … some may even find them frustrating and annoying for the way they appear to dodge the lens… but this lady gave me a pretty good pass by.DSC_2307Absolutely stunning to me as it flew by us … with the backdrop of the snowy mountains and the frozen grasses beneath it … it was the perfect send off for us.DSC_2425Of course, one of the best sightings was that of the elusive Jen Hall, who was gracious enough to come down to SLC and spend the day with us.  IMG_6226

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com       http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

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There’s a First For Everyone

Earlier this spring, we took a trip out west … Tom drove cross country from Florida to Washington state … I flew to Salt Lake City and Tom picked me up along his journey.  We were meeting up in Yellowstone NP with some friends, but not before heading over to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah.FullSizeRenderWe had never visited there before, many times driving right past the exit on our way in or out of SLC.  This year was the year to visit and though we got off to a late start, we were certainly glad that we finally got there.

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and is accessed via your vehicle on a 12-mile drive alongside the wetlands within its 74,000 acre boundaries.  Being from Florida, I just LOVE areas that can be accessed by vehicle and when we arrived the weather couldn’t have been nicer.  This was our first time that we photographed the yellow-headed blackbird, which seems larger than our red-winged blackbirds, but behaves quite like them.  They were flying everywhere and seeing that bright yellow head, I immediately thought I was seeing an oriole of some type.  However, it wasn’t and I’m sure I’ve seen them before, just never investigated more about them.  They’re beautiful.  🙂DSC_1400When we had stopped in at the Visitor Center, we educated ourselves as to what we might see along the way.  I was quite excited to hear that we would be seeing grebes … mainly western and Clark’s.

It wasn’t long before we saw our first Clark’s grebe.  Having only been around our pied grebes before (again, at least from what I can remember), I was surprised at how much bigger they looked.  They sure were beautiful too, especially with breeding season in full swing.  DSC_0870Sometimes we would see lone grebes, but before long, we noticed many pairs swimming about.  They look very familiar to the western grebes and in the beginning I had a hard time telling them apart.  Years ago, reportedly they listed them as a species within the western grebe, but then since they nested nearby without inter-breeding, they got their own species.  Overall, their black heads and white around their eyes, made them identifiable to me.  I’ll show the difference in a few images.DSC_0853I just love the way they swam around in unison, with their head positioned in unison as well.  DSC_0963Another difference between them and the western grebes is the color of their bill.  As you can see, this grebe has more of a yellow-orange bill.DSC_1757The refuge also had many other birds including these avocets, possessing their stunning breeding colors.DSC_1050The primary grebes that we saw were the western grebes.  As I mentioned earlier, they possess more black coloration around the eye as well as a greener-yellow bill.  DSC_1488Love that face with that spunky hair.  LOLDSC_1490They are the largest of the North American grebes.  I so wished that we would find some with babies on their backs.  DSC_1592Before long, we could see a storm out of the horizon brewing … it was an awesome sight.  Ultimately, we had windrain … then hail.  FullSizeRenderAs quick as it all started, it made a quick exit.  Thankfully!

I was quite surprised when I captured a great blue heron fly past us … with a red-winged blackbird providing him an escort out of its territorial area.  Love it when little birds boss around much larger ones.  🙂DSC_1022OK, I know that by this point in the day, the light was extremely harsh, but I want to share these images anyway.  This grebe got himself a fish, or so we thought.  Then he swam it over to its mate.DSC_1716She graciously accepted it of course.  It was a tender moment shared and I was quite excited.DSC_1726Down the hatch it went and they celebrated.  DSC_1743White pelicans were also out in force at particular section of the road.  It was fun to see them and I almost felt like I was back at home seeing them.  Well, also due to the immense numbers of mosquitoes out there!  OMG, I thought earlier how happy I was that this was a drive, but in reality, it was HORRIBLE for shooting from the car, at least from my side.  Every time I opened the window I was blasted by the most wicked mosquitoes I have ever seen and I’ve from south Florida (aka mosquito city)!  DSC_1824It was actually better to get out of the car because the winds were strong and kept them from landing on, and biting, you.  Pesky little critters.  The periodic outside walking was great too for capturing the birds without spooking them.  This lovely pair came really close as I sat still by the side of the dirt road.DSC_1834At one point there were 5 western grebes swimming about.  Two sets of paired grebes and then 1 lone grebe, who was intent on spoiling the party for the pairs.  It would approach a pair, then get chased off!DSC_1840At one point after the loner was defended against, the male came back to its mate with the sweetest face.  Though I didn’t get a shot of it, they swam off and danced on the waters surface … like 2 dolphins dancing on the water.  I almost broke into tears, it was so beautiful.  As much as I watned them to, they didn’t repeat their dance of love for me.DSC_1874As you can see by the number of images I took of them, I was fascinated by their look, behavior, and beauty.DSC_1881I kept seeing motion in the water.  Sometimes it was carp which had found their way into the wetlands … very strange to see.  Other times it was muskrat swimming around, gathering up leafy green branches for their home and nest.  I was thrilled to watch them as they went about with their renovations.DSC_1666I had to laugh as the grebes would swim in pairs, but then dive under independently, emerging from the water, looking around for its mate.DSC_1970They were calling out to each other, a sort of “Marco … Polo” game ensuing.  LOL.  DSC_1965Often it would take several calls before they found their way.  I tried helping them out saying “she’s over there” and pointing, but I don’t think it helped.  🙂DSC_1994We were also treated to eared grebes, but they tended to be more shy of the camera lens.  They were fascinating for me to see.  Though I live in Florida and therefore photograph birds often because of that, I’m definitely not a birder by nature.  So it was fun to spend a day trying to learn more about these birds of Utah’s Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.  The eared grebes are the most abundant grebe in the world (I did not know that!)  Also, amazing to me is that it is flightless for 9-10 months of the year.  Amazing!  Though I live in Florida and therefore photograph birds often because of that, I’m definitely not a birder by nature.  So it was fun to spend a day trying to learn more about these birds of Utah’s Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.DSC_1281I love terns and there are so many varieties of them with very distinct differences between the different species.  This beautiful forster’s tern made its appearance for us on our way out.DSC_2090It is the only tern that is almost exclusively found in North America, so that makes it pretty cool to me.  Never knew that either.  DSC_2091We had a great time, mosquitoes and all, at the refuge.  We will be sure to visit again soon. If you’ve never been there, you might want to do the same.  🙂

Next up:  Just a few owls … not burrowing, not eastern screech … hmm, what can they be?

© 2016  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com