American Badger portrait

American Badger portraitAmerican Badger portrait – Nikon D300, f9, 1/640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

I thought I would share another American Badger portrait that I took back in May of this year on Antelope Island State Park in northern Utah. I was delighted to be able to photograph this badger up close and with prey because it isn’t often I have the opportunity to photograph these very wary creatures.

I had hoped to obtain more images of American Badgers this summer and while did see a few none of them were close enough to get high quality images. Maybe next year!

Life is good.


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American White Pelican Portraits

Portrait of an American White PelicanPortrait of an American White Pelican – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

It isn’t all that often that I am able to obtain portraits of wild birds so when I had an opportunity last month to take portraits of this American White Pelican I jumped at the chance. This pelican and another were foraging near a road on the auto tour of Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge when this one came closer to the road than I thought it would. I like portraits because they show details in the face that aren’t as easily seen as compared to a full body shot. In this frame I also caught one of the tiny fish in mid air that the pelican caught about 1/3 of the way from the tip of the bill.

American White Pelican portraitAmerican White Pelican portrait – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/2000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

I like this frame because of the water droplets. I took several other portraits of this pelican that morning along with some full body images too. I always feel honored when wild birds feel comfortable enough in my presence to come closer than I expect. It happened more frequently in Florida because the birds were more used to human presence than they are here in Utah.

Life is good.

Even when it is cloudy and there isn’t enough light to go shooting.  :-)


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The Tapestry of Ecology

Burrowing Owl and the Great Salt LakeBurrowing Owl and the Great Salt Lake

When I search for information to include in my posts about birds and wildlife I often see this phrase “species in decline due to habitat destruction or fragmentation” or something similar and the frequency of seeing that phrase is most likely to become higher. Seeing the words “species in decline” causes me great concern. But we don’t have just “declining species” to be concerned about we also have climate change, excess use of chemicals in our environment being used to control pests and government agencies that should be looking out for wildlife that aren’t.

I haven’t yet read “Song of the Dodo” by David Quammen but I have read the first paragraph of the first chapter and I wanted to share a brief excerpt that connects to the quote in my Burrowing Owl image.

“Let’s start indoors. Let’s start by imagining a fine Persian carpet and a hunting knife. The carpet is twelve by eighteen, say. That gives us 216 square feet of continuous woven material.

Is the knife razor-sharp? If not, we hone it. We set about cutting the carpet into thirty-six equal pieces, each one a rectangle, two feet by three. Never mind the hardwood floor.

The severing fibers release small squeaky noises, like the muted yelps of outraged Persian weavers. Never mind the weavers.

When we’re finished cutting, we measure the individual pieces, total them up—and find that, lo, there’s still nearly 216 square feet of recognizable carpet-like stuff. But what does it amount to? Have we got thirty-six nice Persian throw rugs? No. All we’re left with is three dozen ragged fragments, each one worthless and commencing to come apart…”

I winced when I read those words because I could visualize the habitats that birds and wildlife need to exist unraveling. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I read about it on an almost daily basis.

I recently also read the final 2014 State of the Birds Report and it dawned on me that many of the 230 species on the State of the Birds Watch List of birds that are presently endangered or at risk of becoming endangered list have habitat destruction or fragmentation in common.

The same could be said of other animal species whose habitat has been chopped up leaving them with only fragments of their historical ranges to exist in. We have put them at risk.

It is not all doom and gloom though because many organizations are taking up the conservation cause and making progress with some species by bringing attention to them, educating the general public and taking action. I’ll list a few that are species specific:

Sage Grouse Initiative
Burrowing Owl Conservation Network
American Kestrel Partnership

There are many more organizations that are working hard to prevent the extinction of birds and animals. They are often met with resistance but their determination propels them forward.

We can all make a difference. We can speak for those who can not speak. We can educate. We can take action. One day, one step at a time.

More to come on this topic soon.




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A Merlin, Prey and Fog

Merlin with prey in golden lightMerlin with prey in golden light – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited or set up

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to photograph a Merlin two mornings in a row in the Centennial Valley of Montana, once in low light and once as a fog rolled in. The morning that I photographed this Merlin was cold and the fog rolled in from the lake a few miles away.  The Merlin had prey that appeared to have been cached because it was frozen and because it had prey it seemed less skittish. The light at first was beautiful, warm and golden.

Merlin with prey as the fog starts to roll inMerlin with prey as the fog starts to roll in – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 320, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited or set up

Three frames later the fog muted the warm light. The fog moved in like a wave and soon the sun appeared to be a ghostly orb hanging in the eastern sky.

Merlin with prey in fogMerlin with prey in fog – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/160, ISO 500, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited or set up

Not long after it was difficult to obtain sharp focus on the Merlin because of the density of the fog but I liked the images of the Merlin in both the golden light and the fog.

I am not sure exactly what the prey was that the Merlin was eating, at first I thought it might be a Western Meadowlark and then wondered if it was a Horned Lark or a sparrow. It really doesn’t matter much what it was just that the Merlin had enough prey for energy on that bitter morning to survive.


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Looking ahead to winter

Lesser Scaup drakeLesser Scaup drake – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

The weather has been unseasonably warm here in Utah the past few weeks  but I know that it won’t be long before temperatures drop, snow starts falling and I will have opportunities to photograph birds that I only see here in winter. It felt weird yesterday to see a temperature of 77°F before 7 am but we have had odd weather lately.

Last winter I was able to photograph this drake Lesser Scaup as it floated near some hens at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area. I see these ducks up in Montana during the summer but not here in Utah.

Adult White Crowned Sparrow on a cold winter dayAdult White Crowned Sparrow on a cold winter day – Nikon D300, f10, 1/200, ISO 400, +1 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

It is time to check my winter clothing out to see if I need to add to the wardrobe I wear in the field. It gets bitter cold and I want to be prepared for it.

The White-crowned Sparrows don’t seem to mind the cold much and as soon as the sun warms them they are off searching for food.

Juvenile White-crowned Sparrow perched on frost covered RabbitbrushJuvenile White-crowned Sparrow perched on frost covered Rabbitbrush – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

I see other sparrow species in the winter here in Utah but the White-crowned Sparrows seem to be the ones I see most often. The juveniles look very different from the adults but their song is just as beautiful.

Common Raven on a mound of snowCommon Raven on a mound of snow – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 500, +1.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

The snow will fall, the winds will blow, the fog will blot out the Great Salt Lake and the mountaintops and the freezing temps will chill me to the bone. But guess where I will be? Out in it all soaking up the wintery scenery and being delighted by the birds that make a home in the Great Basin during the winter.

Another wonderful thing happens in the winter and it involves people. During the warmer months my fellow bird-loving and photography friends and myself are spread all over the place like dandelion fluff in the wind but during the winter it seems we all go to a few locations where large numbers of our birds overwinter and form a delightful flock of our own. We catch up and share stories of birds we saw in the warmer months and reveal the journeys we have been on. We complain about the cold yet we have a light in our eyes that says we enjoy it all.

Life is good, isn’t it?


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