A Black-necked Stilt at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Black-necked Stilt at Bear River Migratory Bird RefugeBlack-necked Stilt at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2500, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that I have seen my first of the year American Avocets and not long after they arrive Black-necked Stilts will also be making their appearance too. Stilts and Avocets often feed and breed in the same locations here in Utah and Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is a great place to see them in large numbers. This Black-necked Stilt was photographed the same day and same location that my American Avocet from yesterday was taken, the auto tour route of Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

Black-necked Stilts seem so snazzy in their black and white plumage, long pinkish legs and ruby-red eyes!

Mia

I am wandering again, please feel free to share this post!

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An Adult American Avocet in its breeding plumage

Adult American Avocet in its breeding plumageAdult American Avocet in its breeding plumage – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/3200, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Three days ago I saw my first of the season American Avocets flying over the causeway to Antelope Island State Park and I let out a gleeful “whoop”! There were four of them flying quickly towards the south and not one of them made a sound. Soon there will be thousands of American Avocets lining the shoreline of the causeway, and the other locations in the Great Salt Lake ecosystem that appeals to them.

The American Avocet above is in breeding plumage, I photographed it on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge auto tour route in April of 2012. There is plenty for the avocets to eat at the refuge and there are brine flies to dine on in the Great Salt Lake.

These elegant shore birds always delight me but truthfully shorebirds always do.

Mia

P.S. I’ll be on the road for a bit, please feel free to share this post with your friends and family.

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Long billed Birds and Preening

Long-billed Curlew preeningLong-billed Curlew preening

Preening in birds is essential for keeping their feathers clean, arranged correctly and for some birds it is a way to distribute oils from the uropygial gland which helps to keep the feathers clean and healthy. For some shorter billed birds the process looks relatively simple to me but for long billed birds it seems a bit more difficult. Long-billed Curlews are easily able to access the uropygial gland and the feathers on the back of their bodies but are unable to reach some feathers near their head and neck because of the length of their bills. I have seen them preen the easily accessible feathers first then rub their heads and necks against the freshly preened feathers which seems like a way to distribute the oils from the uropygial gland to those hard to reach areas.

Preening Roseate SpoonbillPreening Roseate Spoonbill

For some long billed wading birds the preening process appears to also be a challenge. This Roseate Spoonbill image shows how about the closest that they can use their spatulate bills is where the long neck of the spoonbill meets its body.  Like the Long-billed Curlew I have seen them rub their heads and necks over freshly preened body feathers to help distribute the oils.

Preening American OystercatcherPreening American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatchers have relatively long bills but to me they appear to have fewer challenges preening than the Roseate Spoonbills and Long-billed Curlews.

American White Pelican preeningAmerican White Pelican preening

American White and Brown Pelicans have long necks and bills and the oils from uropygial gland are especially important because the pelicans are in and on the water often and the oils help to keep their feathers dry and buoyant. This American White Pelican image shows the pelican rubbing its neck and head against the other freshly preened feathers to distribute the oils much the same way as Long-billed Curlews, Roseate Spoonbills, American Oystercatchers and other long billed birds use.

These birds also use their feet to scratch and that may help distribute oils and remove debris from the feathers they can’t reach with their bills. I haven’t observed the birds I have posted here preening each other but do know that some species like Common Ravens do.

Birds are amazing…

Mia

 

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Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge after spring has sprung

Bear River National Wildlife Refuge starting to green upBear River National Wildlife Refuge starting to green up 2011 - Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/1500, ISO 250, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 35mm, natural light

The snow has melted in the Salt Lake Valley where temps have been unseasonably warm thanks to the “Pineapple Express” and although winter hasn’t left it has begun to feel like spring which means it won’t be long before spring has sprung up all over Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge!

It will take a while for the ice to melt on the Bear River and the snow to melt on the surrounding mountains before the marshes start to green up but I know that before long it will.

Male Marsh WrenMale Marsh Wren – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 400, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

The male Marsh Wrens will begin calling from the tops of Cattails and finding materials to construct nests with. The calls of the Marsh Wrens can be heard the best on the auto tour route where some of the prime nesting habitat for these saucy little wrens is less than 10 feet from the road.

Spring time White-faced IbisSpring time White-faced Ibis - Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/640, ISO 400, +1.0 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Soon the White-faced Ibis will migrate north by the thousands and Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge provides excellent feeding habitat for these wading birds and hosts the largest breeding colony of White-faced Ibis in North America. The mudflats and wet meadows of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem draw these ibis into the area. Bird watchers will some times catch glimpses of vagrant Glossy Ibis mixed in with the White-faced Ibis too.

When these White-faced Ibis are startled and take flight they can sound a little like a pig oinking.

Male Yellow-headed Blackbird displayingMale Yellow-headed Blackbird displaying - Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/320, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

The mechanical sounds that Yellow-head Blackbirds make will soon mix in with the calls of the Marsh Wrens on the auto tour route. When the males are displaying they are flashy with their dark bodies, yellow heads and they seem to be unable to resist singing from dawn until dusk.

Muskrat at Bear River National Wildlife RefugeMuskrat at Bear River National Wildlife Refuge - Nikon D200, f5.6, 1/320, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Besides the great bird watching at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge there are opportunities for wildlife watching too. There are Mule Deer, Skunks, Long-tailed Weasels and plenty of Muskrats to see. I once saw a skunk that was the color of caramel on the north side of the auto tour route which delighted me because I usually only see them in the typical black and white colors.

Bear River Migratory Bird RefugeBear River Migratory Bird Refuge - Nikon Coolpix S550, f3.5, 1/712, ISO 64, 6mm, natural light

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is a critical habitat for migrating birds from both the Pacific and Central Flyway of North America. Millions of birds stop to rest and feed before heading further north to their breeding grounds. Some of the birds I see and photograph during the summer at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Montana probably stop over at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in early spring before they head to Montana.

Western Grebe flapping its wingsWestern Grebe flapping its wings - Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/2500, ISO 320, -1.0 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Western, Clark’s and Pied-billed Grebes are commonly seen along the auto tour route. Before long Western and Clark’s Grebes will make their appearance in the thousands at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge to mate and rear their young. If I am lucky I will get to see their amazing courtship displays which including rushing.

Cliff Swallow in flightCliff Swallow in flight - Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 400, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Five species of Swallows visit or breed at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. They are Cliff, Barn, Tree, Rough-winged and Violet-green Swallows. The three species I see most often are Tree, Barn and Cliff Swallows. This Cliff Swallow was photographed as it flew into its nest. I hope this year that I will be able to see and photograph some Violet-green Swallows because so far they are a nemesis species for me as far as getting a decent image of them. Swallows feed on the midges and mosquitoes found at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

American White Pelican Close upAmerican White Pelican Close up - Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 250, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

There are already American White Pelicans arriving in northern Utah and soon there will be tens of thousands of these huge white birds. American White Pelicans nest on Gunnison Island in the Great Salt Lake but the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is a key location used by the pelicans for feeding and loafing around.

I didn’t include the shorebirds I see, photograph and love at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge because this post would be extremely long if I included them nor have I included the raptors I will see in the spring. I guess I will have to do separate posts about them before too long.

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in the spring is a show I know I don’t want to miss!

Mia

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Caution: Spring Birds Ahead

American White Pelican at Bear River Bird RefugeAmerican White Pelican at Bear River Bird Refuge – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2000, ISO 500, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Yesterday my friend Shyloh reported seeing 50+ American White Pelicans at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area which made me dance at my desk. It won’t be long before the American White Pelicans are back at Bear River National Wildlife Refuge which is where I photographed the pelican in the image above last spring.  I hope that I’ll be photographing these birds soon at Bear River NWR and at a pond close to where I live.

American Avocets and the Great Salt LakeAmerican Avocets and the Great Salt Lake – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 278mm, natural light

American Avocets will soon make their appearance at Farmington, Bear River and along the causeway to Antelope Island. I checked and the first American Avocets I saw last year was on the 26th of February. Soon hundreds of thousands of American Avocets and other shorebirds will find their way back to Utah and the Salt Lake Valley. I’m surprised that I haven’t seen any Yellowlegs yet as they seem to show up early. The American Avocets above were photographed along the causeway to Antelope Island State Park.

Why the “Caution” in my title?

Because my bird photography addiction is definitely going to get stronger with the arrival of the birds of spring!

Mia

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