November-December 2015



December 30, 2015

6th Continuation of: "Diving and Dabbling Ducks",

with today's post featuring the Diving Duck Species, Bufflehead Ducks


Here we see 14 Bufflehead Ducks, with 2 stray Goldeneyes, on the Jordan River at approx. 2300 South, Salt Lake County.




A closer view of 6 males and 2 females...




Even closer...3 males/2 females



Male Bufflehead Duck




Female Bufflehead Duck








Another pair...






Male, airborne!








Female Bufflehead, airborne (running on water!)





2 males...




Into the wild blue yonder!











December 27, 2015

5th Continuation of: "Diving and Dabbling Ducks",

with today's post featuring the Diving Duck Species,

Barrows Goldeneye, a somewhat rare bird for Utah!


I've circled an example of a single adult Barrow's Goldeneye, flying amongst some Common Goldeneyes.



A lone Redhead duck, amongst a string of Barrow's Goldeneyes, as seen along the Jordan River at about 2300 South, each year at this time.



This image features a group of Barrows Goldeneyes, with 4 adult males, 2 females, and one 1st Year Male Barrows Goldeneye (left-center)



Here we see 2 adult males in company with a

1st Year Male Barrows Goldeneye.



A nice example of Barrows Goldeneye adult pair...




Another example...



and a 3rd example of pairs.



I enjoy photographing them in flight!







Here is a female Barrows Goldeneye in flight...



A group in flight... 3 adult males and a single

1st Spring Male Goldeneye



Occasionally, I see this image, when the male points his bill directly towards me, providing an unusual symmetric view!




Finally, here are Barrows Goldeneyes in company with a male Bufflehead Duck, (which I'll feature in my next post!)




December 24, 2015

4th Continuation of: "Diving and Dabbling Ducks",

with today's post featuring the Diving Duck Species,

Ring-necked Ducks, as seen here, male and female.



They are seen here in Winter...



A close-up of this male begins to show the feature (chestnut colored ring around the neck) for which they're named.




However, it is most always hidden...



unless the bird stretches its neck out, as seen here!



It's not uncommon to see both Ring-necked and Redhead ducks mingling. Here (on the right) we see a female Redhead enjoying the company of Ring-neck males and one female (left).



I enjoy seeing this species of Diving Ducks!



This Ring-necked Duck is about to become airborne!













3 airborne Ring-necked Ducks!




One final detailed image of a lone male...











December 17, 2015

3rd Continuation of: "Diving and Dabbling Ducks",

with today's post featuring the Diving Duck Species,

Redhead Ducks, as I promised.


Redhead Duck Males are often seen clustered together as below...



Female Redhead Ducks also hang out together...


It's sometimes difficult to photograph both males and females in the same frame as I've done here.



This particular day, both an American Coot and a female Canvasback decided to join the flotilla!




But, the strangest experience ever, was with a male Redhead Duck..!

One day, a lone male Redhead approached the shoreline, all the time watching me!




This wild duck stepped out of the water, continuing to look directly at me...!



He approached me, saying,

"Are you 'richbyoung', who used to create Models' "Photo-Portfolios" to help them get employment?


A bit startled, I said, "Yes".

He said he was interested in having me do a series of photos to help him!

I told him I would do so, if he would give me permission to post the results on my bird website!

He agreed!

I suggested that he walk the shoreline while I took some full length images, which he did.







I stopped him, telling him we had enough of those; and I wanted to do some ultra-closeups (head-shots) to see what facial expressions he could come up with.



I brought my camera in close, and asked for a "Stern, masculine look"

which he did!



"Great" I said.. now just a few more where you move your head a bit..



"Fine so far...

Wow!! you look like you've 'got an attitude' now! Good job!"



"Perfect pose! Portfolios should always include a 'profile' (side view)...

Well done!"



The male Redhead had some ideas of his own regarding pictures...!


He wanted some 'action pictures' where he could show off his lovely new "breeding plumage" by stretching while swimming! This time he recruited a female to appear with him!




Here, he began his series of stretches!









I congratulated the Redhead Male for being so "photogenic"!

We parted company, with him literally "quacking up" with satisfaction!



I've been "Housebound" for DAYS, due to deep snow!










December 16, 2015

2nd Continuation of studies: "Diving and Dabbling Ducks",

with today's post being the beginning of a

SERIES OF DIVING DUCKS, focusing on a stunning species, the Canvasback Duck, as seen here:



A close-up of a male Canvasback on an overcast day.




Contrasted with the female Canvasback as seen here:



A pair of Canvasbacks on a sunny day...



On an overcast day this male provided me with a series of images where he became airborne by running across the water...



As seen here:









2 pair of Canvasbacks in flight



Having shown examples of this diving duck flying, I now include a series of images showing him diving!



In contrast to the Goldeneyes I posted earlier, this duck really comes high out of the water when diving!



Several of my images show the eye as seen here.





2 male Redhead Ducks encounter a male Canvasback



Comparison of male Redhead duck to the Canvasback...



The image below shows a sleeping female Canvasback in the left-hand corner, and the male canvasback flanked on both sides with

Redhead males preparing to snooze.


I conclude with Canvasbacks mingling with Redhead Ducks, with the Red-heads being the next species of Diving Ducks that

I'll post next time








December 15, 2015

1st Study of: "Diving Ducks" vs "Dabbling Ducks"

Below we see a Common Goldeneye male, in flight, which is a "Diving Duck", typified by smallish wings set back on the body, along with large feet, also set back toward the tail.



Here we see: Common Goldeneyes, female (L), with 2 males, about to fly!



They fly, gaining speed by 'running' on top of the water!!


A close-up of a Common Goldeneye pair 'running' to become airborne!



Another example shows a Goldeneye initially slamming his wings down into the water, providing some vertical lift...




but not enough lift to provide free flight!



It must 'run on water' to become airborne, requiring a substantial open area of water in front of him to do so!




Contrast the above 'Diving Ducks' with some "Dabbling Ducks" shown below:

American Wigeons are "Dabbling Ducks".



They are capable, with the help of:1) their larger wings pushing against the water, and 2) their feet, to attain a vertical motion and become airborne immediately

(There are 2 males on the right, visually superimposed.)



Up, up and awaaaayy! (2 male American Wigeons)




Likewise, Gadwalls are "Dabbling Ducks"...




and with this pair, I illustrate why they are called, "Dabblers"!

Dabbling Ducks tip forward to forage on submerged vegetation, usually favoring small, shallow "potholes" or streams.



As you will see with this male Gadwall, they also become airborne almost immediately with vertical thrust of their wings, and feet.



I was late in snapping the shutter here; but deep "Water Wells" (directly back and on either side of the bird) are evidence of wing-thrust, putting the bird airborne immediately.



The male is airborne, and he retracted his foot at this point.






Male Gadwall, with the Rocky Mtns. for a backdrop!



Mallards are the most common "Dabbling Ducks"






(This is a work in progress, perfect for snowy days!)
















December 12, 2015

Another overcast December day at Willow Pond...

Time for some photo-experimentation on a few Common Goldeneyes!


Common Goldeneye pair under a cloudy sky...(female-L; male-R)




My attempts were to capture these diving ducks as they dive, on a dark, cloudy day!

Male Common Goldeneye




My first attempt to capture the dive...



Another failed attempt...



A female Common Goldeneye in range for photography...



Better, but with motion blur due to slow shutter speed!



Same bird poised again...







Another attempt forthcoming!



I was pleased with this outcome since it shows the bird's eyes momentarily protected by nictitating eyelids for underwater sight!



A female poised for diving...



My best outcome!



A final series...#1






And #3, with the duck's tail waving us goodbye!









December 11, 2015

Recent walks along the Murray/Jordan River Parkway has yielded a few fun birds for me, in sunshine and under clouds!


A male Belted Kingfisher accomodated me on a sunny day, when it was difficult to get sunlight on his face!



A slight adjustment with his head provided needed light!



Rotating his head provided direct sunlight here also.




But these positions weren't always available. Again, the right eye is in shadow.



Fortunately, he 'posed' with direct sunlight on his face here.




Overcast days can produce excellent, albeit different results,

as seen here, with "flat (diffuse) lighting":




Now the entire bird is illuminated evenly and adequately.



A frontal shot shows the bird relaxed and resting.



The position of his head is unique here, showing both eyes.




Continuing with overcast lighting, We can see nuances of head and body coloring on 2 male Northern Shovelers (with a female, centered).

The male on the left is a "First Spring Male Northern Shoveler" showing both male and female plumage coloration, with the male on the right being an "Adult male Northern Shoveler in breeding plumage".


Diffuse light helps us see the similarities/differences.



Overcast conditions help us in seeing a Juvenile White-Crowned Sparrow. with good detail.




Likewise, an American Kestrel, with a tiny amount of diffused sunlight here...



A male Red-shafted Northern Flicker provides an in-depth look at its coloration under cloudy skies.




Back to the river, a surprise Muskrat swims high in the water here.



A handsome male Green-winged Teal here...




foraging amidst a sleeping pair of Gadwalls!




I finish this post with a classic image of a pair of Green-wing Teal from the Murray/Jordan River area:










December 7, 2015

This past weekend (Saturday, Dec 5), I was fortunate to locate, for the 2nd time, the single Ross's Goose at Willow Pond, amidst a huge flock of Canada geese!




About this time, a woman with a dog walked into the scene, sending the entire flock of geese skyward, including the White Juvenile

Ross's goose.




I took advantage of the outcome, and began to photograph, rapid fire, the Ross's goose in detail!







These are the best images I've taken of Ross's Geese ever!


But, wait.... there's more!

The entire goose population had gone to the safety of the pond, a short distance away from their foraging area!



The Ross's goose was anxious to get back to the feeding field, but the Canada geese were reluctant!



While the Canadas were reluctant, the Ross's goose was the first to go back on land to feed!...






And the huge group of Canada geese followed this tiny goose back onland!



Shortly after, the field was again filled with Canadas, surrounding a single, tiny juvenile white Ross's goose!!










December 5, 2015

More "Winter" waterfowl have appeared on Willow Pond,

beginning with a Male Redhead Duck, flanked by 2 females.



3 American Wigeons...



A male Gadwall, flanked by 2 male Northern Shovelers,




And a pair of Ruddy Ducks (winter plumage)

(Female in sleep mode: (L); Male: (R)









December 4, 2015

I've been enjoying the variety of birds that show up (changes each time I'm there!) towards evening at Willow Pond, Murray UT.!

A huge cluster of Great-tailed Grackles landed all around me this particular evening.

(Poor lighting, but I'm OK with the result...)







They came to ground all around me!!




The males...




and females...



came to bathe in the frigid Pond water!











Another female bathing...









The birds flew up into the trees close by to dry off...



with the males vocalizing big-time!



To me, the males lack luster at this time of year... compared to...




this spectacular male in Springtime!













December 1, 2015

Now is the time for me to collect waterfowl images!

I begin with 5 Snow Geese I discovered yesterday at Willow Pond!


5 Snow Geese, showing varying degrees of maturation in their plumage...



I had coupled my 15 year old Nikon 80-400mm lens to a Nikon D7100 body, fine-tuned the "Auto-Focus", and I wasn't disappointed!!



This bird apparently is the adult...



I stayed a respectable distance away from these birds, although people with their dogs did not!



A flurry of activity due to a nearby dog!



I was considering selling my 15 year-old, factory-refurbished (1st iteration) Nikon 80-400mm lens, but decided to keep it!!!




Although the lens relies on the camera body motor to auto focus, it does the job adequately, as depicted in this excellent image of a Ring-billed Gull in flight!




Ultra close crop...




Another closeup...




5:00 P.M. Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Post-Script updating the Snow geese from yesterday...

They have vacated the pond.


However, a "White Juvenile Ross's Goose" was there today (he wasn't one of the geese from yesterday!

Here are 3 images of todays Ross's Goose: (enjoy!)





















November 30, 2015

Heads up for the tiny Brown Creeper, a cute little bird that I see during the winter months in the Salt Lake Valley!


When this bird stands still, it blends perfectly with it's enviromnent!




When it's on the move, it is difficult to photograph!








November 28, 2015

Recently I visited "Willow Pond" at the south end of the Murray/Jordan River Parkway.

I was surprised, during my less than 1 hour stay, to see 3 different species of birds with goldfish in their mouths!

A Ring-billed Gull was the first...



In a dive, the bird connected...








Next was an American Coot, being chased by other birds, wanting the goldfish...



And, finally there was a Pied-billed Grebe with a goldfish...










There were lots of Pied-billed Grebes, floating together in a large expanse of water. Here are only a tiny few of them...











November 24, 2015

Believe me, I've been looking for birds to photograph on my walks; but they aren't available!!!

However, this particular day I had a good time with a single Ruby-crowned Kinglet that provided a nice variety of 'poses' for me.



With the 'clicking' noise of my camera's shutter, the bird presented its 'ruby crown' big time!!



It seemed like this bird was intentionally posing for me!



With a tip of its head, the 'ruby crown' was on display!






















Many more excellent images were collected this day, with the bird continuing even as I left the area!









November 19, 2015

Leucism in Birds...

Recently, my friend, (and excellent photographer), Dickson Smith posted a Grebe on "Ubird", as a leucistic Eared Grebe.

"Leucism" in birds is when their normal plumage colors are absent, and replaced with white.

Upon seeing the image, I suggested to Dickson that his bird might be a more rare bird for Utah, a 'leucistic Horned Grebe'.

Dickson agreed with me.

I asked permission to reproduce his image on my website to demonstrate leucism in some of the smaller Grebes.

(used with permission)



From my files, I fetched an image showing a partial leucistic Eared Grebe, winter plumage.



This image shows the 2 normal species, side by side.

(smaller-Eared Grebe- forward; larger-Horned Grebe- back)

both in winter, non-breeding plumage.



Let's first look at the Horned Grebe and its variants...

The Horned Grebe below has normal winter non-breeding plumage.

The image shows the telltale 'blood drip' beginning at the eye, then to its beak, as does the Horned Grebe above.



Horned Grebes are scarce in Utah at any season.

Here is one in Springtime, with its Breeding Plumage!



And here is another image of the same bird.



Another Horned Grebe in breeding plumage, shows its telltale

eye-to-beak 'blood drip' that marks the species.



Back to my image of both species together in Winter...

We now look in some detail at the smaller species (front), the

Eared Grebe in Winter plumage




What does it look like in Breeding Plumage?

Here is an Eared Grebe, Breeding Plumage, up close and personal!



This image is from April.

These birds distinctly show varying plumage transitions in Springtime, with the center bird being in its maximal breeding plumage.




I summarize this series by including an image of Eared Grebes, with one leucistic among them.

















November 16, 2015

I always enjoy chronicling bird behaviors; and I wish to present such an event from a day in July.

On the Causeway at Antelope Island, I first encountered a lone Willet, as it was about to fly to another location to meet up with others.

(Notice, it is completely surrounded by tiny brown flies.)




I enjoy seeing Willets in flight... they are beautifully marked and demonstrate it best while in the air!

This particular day was overcast.












The bird joined 3 other Willets, quietly sleeping on the shoreline.




Some distance to the east, was a small community of Long-billed Curlews, several of which decided to check out the Willets at their location!

Long-Billed Curlews...




Three of them joined the Willets at this time! (one exiting to the right)



Nap-time was over for the Willets standing by, as the Curlews began staging with each other!

(2 Long-billed Curlews at the left chasing each other; and one on the far right taking flight.)



I have video of this, but still images load onto the web much faster.

For those of you not familiar with Willets and Curlews, the larger brownish birds are Long-billed Curlews, sharing the frame with 4 Willets along the shoreline.






Curlew fleeing another on the ground by taking flight...



2 other Curlews were going at it close by.



The staging Long-billed Curlews inadvertently succeeded in scaring the Willets away with their antics!.

The scene ends with bare space and no birds to be seen!



Further south at Farmington Bay, the light became better shortly after I captured this image of a Snowy Egret!



Bright, direct, frontal sunlight!


















end of sequence...



















November 14, 2015

At the time I took the merganser images (seen below today's post), at Mill Race Park pond, 2 airborne Belted Kingfishers zoomed past.

They were far away, but I was able to capture satisfactory images for the web.

Below is a sequence of 7 frames for which I'm pleased!















As an experiment, I created a montage of the series, seen here:












November 13, 2015

The "Common Merganser" duck I discovered on Mill Race Pond in Taylorsville on October 31 is still there...




Seems to be enjoying his new home...



Some close-ups of this bird...












I've been watching e-Bird reports of Common Mergansers...

None seen yet, albeit there have been a sizeable number of Red-breasted Mergansers reported thus far this season (in the Salt Lake Valley).



And I close out this post with a cool little Black-Capped Chickadee seen there also!









November 10, 2015

Notice the "Blackbird Banner" at the top of the page...

I was most fortunate to have so many birds take to the air, bathed in the golden glow of a late afternoon sun, just a stone's throw from the Utah Lake the first week in November in 2010!


There have been a few other times that Red-wing Blackbirds have graced me with their presence, sometimes in very unique ways.


I've resurrected a series showing 2 male Red-wing Blackbirds fighting mid-air a few years back!









My favorite from this series...



The images say it all...




But before I leave my "Blackbirds" topic, here are 2 final, more peaceful images:

Red-wing Blackbird male vocalizing...




Female Red-Wing Blackbird with a spider for an unseen fledgling's dinner!...












November 5, 2015

A Pied-billed Grebe on Sandy Pond surfaced with a nice fish!



A lively fish at that...



Here, the Grebe was swimming with the fish in its mouth, directly away from me... (Fish appears to be a Bluegill)



In an instant, a 2nd Pied-billed Grebe appeared, wanting some of the action!




Seconds later, quite a gang of hungry birds had appeared!



The bird decided to escape with its prize...



A series of images with the bird running across the water was the result!











Game Over, the Pied-billed Grebe earned its prize!!










November 2, 2015

Looking for birds in the Salt Lake Cemetery, we ran across a very healthy Coyote wandering the grounds!! (a tad late for Halloween!)




The animal continued to be out in the open for the better part of an hour! Here he was running briefly through an open area.

Details of photography of the above Coyote on this particular dark, cloudy day:

Camera set at 1/400 sec., with aperture at f7.1 and 'Exposure Compensation' set at +1.

The camera's 'auto-exposure' feature was activated with the resultant ISO being 5,000.