Gunlock State Park, a few birds and Mojave Joshua Trees

Sunset view of Gunlock State ParkSunset view of Gunlock State Park

I’m back from my trip to southwestern Utah earlier than I hoped to be but there were not that many birds to photograph this time of the year and despite coming home early I still had a wonderful time exploring an area of Utah that was new to me. It started at Gunlock State Park; which I have been to before, but the lower altitude of the Mojave means hotter temps and that can be uncomfortable for camping. The reservoir at Gunlock State Park is much lower than it was in 2010, they really need water there.

The setting sun on the clouds over Gunlock State Park IThe setting sun on the clouds over Gunlock State Park I

The sunset made for spectacular colors on the clouds overhead. At first this clouds was kissed with gold.

The setting sun on the clouds over Gunlock State Park IIThe setting sun on the clouds over Gunlock State Park II

Then pink hues and just a touch of gold.

The setting sun on the clouds over Gunlock State Park IIIThe setting sun on the clouds over Gunlock State Park III

Then deeper violets and blues  just before it got dark. It was warm but the little bit of a breeze made it quite comfortable.

The morning sun on Joshua TreesThe morning sun on Joshua Trees

The next morning found me in an area I have never been to before, Beaver Dam Wash Conservation Area and the Mojave Desert where Joshua Trees are the tallest trees around. Joshua Trees are in the Yucca family and their bayonet shaped leaves look as sharp as any Yucca I have ever seen.

Joshua Tree on a hillJoshua Tree on a hill

Joshua Trees were given their name by the Mormon settlers but long before they arrived the Cahuilla Native Americans used the leaves to makes sandals and baskets and harvested the seeds and flower buds and still identify with this plant as a valuable resource and call it “hunuvat chiy’a” or “humwichawa” and if I can learn to pronounce those words it would be my preference to use what they were called before the pioneers arrived.

Male House Finch on a Joshua TreeMale House Finch on a Joshua Tree

The birds in the Mojave were few but I can see why spring would be a better season to visit for more bird activity plus I would love to see the desert in bloom. I saw so many different kinds of cactus under the Joshua Trees and I could visualize what it must look like. The birds I saw the most of were House Finches and that took me a little by surprise because I have grown to think of them as urban birds and I was glad to be proved “wrong”.

Adult Red-tailed Hawk perched on a Joshua TreeAdult Red-tailed Hawk perched on a Joshua Tree

I did see two Red-tailed Hawks on the way to Lytle Ranch one of them was close enough to even take images of as it perched high on a dead Joshua Tree. When I first saw the hawk I thought its tail looked a bit odd then I realized that it was the dead leaves of the tree not its tail. The bird stayed put for a long time and didn’t flinch even when a cattle truck rumbled by…

Red-tailed Hawk lifting off from a Joshua TreeRed-tailed Hawk lifting off from a Joshua Tree

And just when I was about to put my camera down without even a warning poop it lifted off.

I enjoyed my journey to Beaver Dam Wash and the Mojave Desert even though I didn’t see the birds I hoped to photograph, every journey is an adventure. To be savored. To be relished.

Life is good.


Wildness and Connections

Clearing FogClearing Fog

This quote strikes a chord within me because I feel very connected to nature and wildness and that connection is with me every day of my life. I’m not separate from nature I am part of it. We all are.

I might purposely separate myself from people who affect my life in a negative manner by blocking them out but I can’t fathom blocking out nature. I need it as surely as I need air.

There are those people who can separate themselves from wildness and who connect to money and greed instead but I have to wonder if they are whole. I wonder if they are complete behind the wall they have built to disconnect from wildness, nature and themselves.

I’m back from my trip to extreme southwest Utah and the Mojave Desert, more on that later!


Sandwich Tern and a pastel sky

Sandwich Tern and a pastel skySandwich Tern and a pastel sky – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 310mm, natural light

I have tons of images I haven’t processed and last week while searching for a Royal Tern to post I came across this Sandwich Tern I had taken in Florida in 2009. Quite often while I lived in Florida I practiced my flight shot skills by photographing the gulls and terns at Fort De Soto’s north beach because they were plentiful and they were in flight a lot.  When the bait fish were running just off the shore there could be hundreds of gulls, terns and pelicans in a feeding frenzy and that made for loads of flight shots and quick action.

And they are beautifully graceful too.


I’ve pre-scheduled some posts to be published while I am away. Please feel free to share them.

Solitary Willet in soft morning light

Solitary Willet in soft morning lightSolitary Willet in soft morning light  – Nikon D70, handheld, f5.6, 1/250, ISO 200, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 300mm, natural light

This Willet image was taken on August 12, 2007 which is now over seven years ago and I can easily recall how thrilled I was to photograph this shorebird. Shorebirds were the spark that ignited my passion for bird photography that continues to consume me today. I loved the light, the luminescent blue of the Gulf of Mexico, the glow of the sun on the sand and the very relaxed pose of the Willet.  I loved that the bird was comfortable with my presence.

This was taken on my first DSLR; the Nikon D70, and an inexpensive lens; the Nikkor 70-300mm VR,  and I still have both of those in my camera bag. I should note that this image is publication quality even though I used inexpensive gear.

I often get emails where the person writing wishes that they had the gear I have today but in all honesty quality images can be achieved with older cameras and lenses that you won’t have to save for years to purchase. It is about knowing how to use your gear and practicing often.

I was delighted with this image in 2007 and I am still delighted with it today.


Swainson’s Hawk in evening light

Light morph Swainson's Hawk in flight over the Centennial ValleyLight morph Swainson’s Hawk in flight over the Centennial Valley – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

A month ago I was in the Centennial Valley of Montana camping and the hawks I spent the most time photographing were Swainson’s Hawks. The Swainson’s were fueling up for their long migration to Argentina through the Isthmus of Panama and then south through the Andes. Their migration can take up to two months and cover 14,000 miles.

I’ve shared the photographs of this birds young earlier in these previous posts:  A Very Obliging Swainson’s Hawk JuvenileLight morph Swainson’s Hawk juvenile in low light and  Bird Photography Isn’t Easy But It Does Have Its Rewards.

This adult usually was within eye sight of the juveniles but at times it would fly away to where I couldn’t see it. One of the young hawks was very vocal and called to the adult quite often but when the adult didn’t respond it would search for prey on its own. It is a tough life for these young raptors and many don’t survive their first migration or beyond their first year of life.

I am seeing fewer Swainson’s Hawks now in Utah because most of them have already headed south but in April I expect I will squeal with delight when I see them here again.

Life is good.