Recent Posts for January-February 2016





February 26, 2016

Mill Race Pond, adjacent to the Jordan River in Taylorsville, hosts a male Belted Kingfisher that provided me some awesome (I think) hovering flight images!

He was surveying the pond for fish!






























February 20, 2016

I'm pleased with this image of the Big Cottonwood Park Harlan's Redtail Hawk, leisurely feeding on a rat that he had captured in the open field!










February 17, 2016

2 days ago, while at Big Cottonwood Park photographing the Harlan's hawk, I saw 2 smallish foxes sleeping. Here's one of them.




There was an interruption when a huge fox meandered through the scene!



Size comparisons show the reclining fox to be a small animal!




The reclining fox looked at me,



then promptly closed its eyes to sleep again!




To one side, the other small fox watched, then went back to sleep.




The adult caught a glimpse of me... stopped and stared.

This was a big, fine, healthy looking fox, IMO.












February 15, 2016

Anxious to get outside as the air pollution lessens, I took a brief trip to Big Cottonwood Park East, and I encountered the Harlan's hawk there for the first time in a long time!

The lighting was terrible!

Below is a series of images as it became airborne, looking for food!















final image of the illustrious Harlan's Redtail Hawk again visiting Big Cottonwood Park East these days!











February 11, 2016

Last week, Ron Walker and I went to Farmington Bay WMA, to see what birds were there for us to photograph...

We went home with a nice variety of images ( I'll be posting mine in installments, beginning here:)


Bald Eagles were present, but widely scattered.







Here is a lone Bald Eagle as it circled above me...




























Northern Harriers seemed to be having a Convention!

We saw lots of them!


Northern Harriers...

Here we see an adult female on the left (see eye color), and an intermediate to the right.



The 2 birds were congenial as the larger bird feasted on a frozen fish.



A 3rd Northern Harrier joined the group!



Three's a Crowd!






Social pressure was relieved, with the newcomer exiting!





I was fortunate to capture images of: 1)1st year juvenile; 2)adult female; and 3) adult male Northern Harrier this particular day!


1) 1st year juvenile Northern Harrier (according to Sibley)


2) Adult Female Northern Harrier (according to Cornell: "Allabout Birds", with my image almost identical to the one posted there)!



And, finally, 2 examples of

3)"Gray Ghost"... adult Male Northern Harriers!



Another adult male Northern Harrier...

I was rewarded at Farmington Bay, with this series in my portfolio.




Final posts of birds from Farmington Bay WMA...


A Red-tailed Hawk...




An unusual find for this time of year...

White-faced Ibis!



Standing on one leg, with a Gull behind him.



The Ibis faced into the sun, threw open his wings, and stood in this position for a loooooong time. (I believe it was collecting the heat of the sun for body warmth!)



It finally positioned itself normally and went foraging for food again!




An adult male Canvasback in flight...




There were lots of Common Mergansers!




Here are a few, backlit. (However, there were no adult males to be seen!)




Female Common Merganser in flight...



Here is a portion of Common Mergansers taking flight by 'running on water"...



The bird in the background had to run on snow...!







I added this series to illustrate the changing visual effect of the awesome mountain background.
















The skies were host to another species... Tundra Swans!


This ends my post from Farmington Bay WMA.













February 10, 2016

A few inhabitants along the Jordan River coming out of Winter...



I'm pleased with the hypnotic reflections surrounding this Pied-billed Grebe!



A stray male Cinnamon Teal was also cruising there...



There were lots of White-crowned Sparrows scratching for food...



My FOY Killdeer was seen along the water's edge..!



However, my main focus (pun) is to illustrate Springlike behavior among Common Goldeneyes!



Male in Breeding Plumage...




Female... also in breeding plumage.



2 males began to court a lone female...



Male (left, rear) bobbing his head in a ritualistic manner..



The foreground male also was staging...



Both males were bobbing around and quite vocal at the same time!



They continued as I was leaving.











February 4, 2016

A walk along the Sandy/South Jordan, JORDAN RIVER PARKWAY saw a Juvenile Northern Harrier hunting for its dinner!



Paralleling the river, the bird was often just a few feet from the ground















The bird successfully connected with a female Mallard ( I did not capture the initial event...)

The result is seen in the series of images below...




I'm not sure if the method the Harrier used for dispatching the female Mallard is typical when water is available; but this predator DROWNED THE MALLARD by holding the head under water!




The Mallard attempted to escape... to no avail!



Wings and Water droplets flying everywhere...












Finally there was no more evidence of life in the hapless Mallard!

The female duck succumbed, and the Harrier dragged it out of sight!


I've only seen one other bird attempt to drown a victim... a Cormorant doing so with a wounded Common Merganser... but not for food in that instance!

For me, this was a sobering experience... to see an adult Mallard be terminated in such a manner!















February 3, 2016

On a cloudy, sometimes foggy day at Antelope Island, I had access to an American Kestrel that ultimately 'hovered' in flight, looking for food.









The Falcon detected a 'Vole' on the ground below him, and began to hover, watching for an opportunity to swoop down and catch dinner!



The bird was stationary above the ground for a substantial amount of time!









It dived to the ground and fetched the tiny mouse-like critter, then landed on a man-made object to feast.



On another day, (weather-wise) I photographed this male with prey, with a natural surrounding (no "hand of man" to be seen).



And on a sunny day I was fortunate to capture this image with both male (top) and female in the same frame!











January 30, 2016

On days that were sunny, but had significant air pollution, I walked the Jordan River Parkway near 10000 south (Shield's Lane), looking for the hybrid Pintail X Mallard male, to no avail.

However, there were other birds to enjoy, including the ever-present Mallards...







Northern Pintail...




Along with its mate...







For the first time, I saw Common Mergansers on the Jordan River...




There were 3 males, 2 fishing together and a 3rd one further away.













Through dense foliage, I photographed a pair of Green-wing Teal, as the female lifted off!




The trees and bushes along the pathway were often inundated with White-crowned Sparrows, such as this 'puffed-up' juvenile, staying warm!












January 24, 2013

11th Continuation of: "Dabbling Ducks",

this time, American Wigeon and more extensively, Northern Pintail ducks!


A small pond exists adjacent to the "Kennecott Nature Center" located at about 50th South on the Murray/Jordan river Parkway.

It has been a pleasureful birding location year around, most years.

Murray School District has a classroom strategically located there, which provides students with unique opportunities to study the local fauna and flora.

(Cinnamon Teal pair on the pond, during the first of March.)






In flight...



This particular March, I enjoyed photographing a Male Northern Pintail,

routinely from March through December, along with a companion (lasting only a week or two) Male American Wigeon.



The Pintail was a male in 'breeding plumage', as was the Wigeon.



The short time they were 'chums' paralleled my times for walking there.



Day after day I noted these two birds, not common at this tiny pond!



Both birds provided me many photo-ops during this time!



including this Wigeon male, who disappeared shortly afterward, being replaced by...



A "1st Spring" pair of Wigeons who stayed into June.



Female Wigeon (L); 1st Spring Male (R)



These two were great fun to photograph!



1st Spring male...




another 'pose'










These 2 birds stayed at the pond for several weeks!



But they exited in June...




Leaving the male Pintail for my studies clear into December!



Notice the iridescent green on its nape...



The green coloration on the nape of the neck can be seen here also.



This male Pintail provided some lovely photo-ops as it glided through the water, wearing its full breeding plumage into late June!




Different locations on the pond provided variety for my images.






In July, I began to notice a degredation of its breeding plumage coloration!



I felt fortunate to have access to such a bird, from early March into July, yet I realized that if it would continue to stay on the pond, I could perhaps capture its "Eclipse Plumage" variation that renders males looking like a female!

It was beginning to show the process here, as seen in the side and back of his neck, and on the breast.




By the end of August, the bird had completely 'converted' to Eclipse Plumage!



This dramatic change occurs in duck species beginning late summer ending as late as December!

Male "Eclipse Plumage" Northern Pintail!




September, and the same "Eclipse Plumage" bird, with no noticable changes!






October showed little change!






Pintail molting began to show in late October, wheras Mallard males had completely undergone the molt to "Breeding Plumage".



If you happened onto this bird in late October, what would you have guessed it to be?



Molting back to "Breeding Plumage" was well underway in early November...



I was still observing its plumage in process of change!






By late November, the male Pintail was close to 'normal' (breeding plumage!)



The progress culminated in early December, as shown in this image.




The pond had yet to freeze up this particular day in December, and the male Pintail exhibited his fresh "breeding" molt...



When I would visit the duck, it would swim in closer and study me!



One day in December, (shortly before a hard freeze forced the bird to vacate the pond), I got this unusual (last) image!

I photographed this bird routinely from mid-March through mid December! What an experience!

Many more images from these experiences are included in my portfolio!





Often, while photographing the above bird, I wished he would have paired up with one of the many female Mallards to produce a hybrid male!

I watched for such a result, but it didn't happen!




On January 13, 2014, I got what I was hoping for, further down the Jordan River (10000 South).

It was late afternoon, with piercing sharp, direct sunlight at a low angle that caused me to look in disbelief!


See the series below of a stunning, iridescent Male Pintail X Mallard, from that fateful day!









Note the dramatic change of color with the angle of the bird's head, contrasted to the image above!




A final image showing comparisons to a cluster of Mallards!




This male Hybrid Pintail X Mallard apparently returns to the Jordan River near 10000th South each January since my discovery in 2014!

Posts on UBird have the bird coming back for a total of 3 times, always in January, including this January, 2016!


Tim Avery responded on UBird on January 20, 2016:

"In all likelihood this is the same bird each year.  It isn't uncommon for individual birds to return to the same locations year in and out. It just so happens this stunning creature really sticks out!  And for the 3rd year in a row, I went and looked and wasn't able to refind this awesome hybrid."















January 18, 2016

10th Continuation of: "Dabbling Ducks", (since I've now exhausted my portfolio of Diving Ducks!)

with today's post beginning with the 3 following Dabbling Duck Species:

1. Cinnamon Teal, 2. Blue-winged Teal

(shown in same post, due to shortage of Blue-wing images!)


3. Green-winged Teal


A classic example of a male and female Cinnamon Teal:






2 male Cinnamon Teal here...



3 males foraging...



Another pair...




Cinnamon Teal in flight, with a female (top), and 2 males below.



A group of Cinammon Teal, with a surprise bird, (left-front)

A Rare Hybrid Male Cinnamon/Blue-wing Teal!!




The hybrid alone...






and a 3rd image of the male Hybrid!




This male Blue-wing Teal could father a hybrid like the above bird!




My portfolio is in need of better images of Blue-wing Teal; but this male will have to do for now!



3. Green-winged Teal males



Handsome birds, along the Murray/Jordan river Parkway



Up close!









This male was very accomodating while I photographed!

(Usually they're skittish.)




A female, along with a male...



















January 14, 2016

9th Continuation of: "Diving and Dabbling Ducks",

with today's post featuring the 3 following Diving Duck Species:

1) Common Mergansers

2) Hooded Mergansers

3) Red-Breasted Mergansers





Late evening, Sandy Pond with 1 female and 2 male

Common Mergansers



Male Common Merganser in flight...




Female Common Merganser...




3 Common Mergansers: (L) Female; (R) 2 First-Spring Males




2 birds, beginning to lift off (typical 'Diving Duck' behavior...running on water to get up to flight speed!) Female (L); 1st Spring male (R).






I love to photograph birds in Flight!


First Spring Male, showing 'salt and pepper' coloration of the white

chin-patch, and a black line separating the chestnut neck from the white breast.



Here we have an adult Female Common Merganser coming for a landing.



















To summarize my visual study of Common Mergansers, here is an image showing:

Adult Male (L); Adult Female (Center); First Spring Male (R).














HOODED MERGANSERS! (Posted 1-13-16)



My fascination with Hooded Mergansers began in April, 2010 when I discovered the bird below, not knowing what it was!

Kristin Purdy came to my rescue, telling me it was a:

"1st Year Male Hooded Merganser".

She pointed out that my bird 'has the eye color of his father, along with the solid black color of his bill'! There were more distinctive male traits showing, but the eye and bill color became my guide from there on!

Below are several images of this classic 1st Spring Male Merganser!









The bird came out of the water!




Fast forward to later discoveries of Hooded Mergansers, such as the small group seen below




Using the criteria mentioned above, you can see in the expanded image below, the distinctions described above.




With that behind me, here are some images of adult pairs...







A classic image with a hint of fog!...



2- 1st Spring Males (L), with 2 females (R)



Here is a series of a 1st Spring Male stretching... with a female seen on the left.






Settling down...



Female (L); 1st Spring Male (R)

(I'm hoping what I've provided here will make you all experts regarding juvenile Hooded Mergansers)



One final somewhat unique image...












Red-breasted MERGANSERS! (Posted 1-14-16)

Male, breeding plumage







Another male...



Getting ready to dive...






Here's a colorful male!



A female for comparison...



And, it's always fun to see a Red-breasted Merganser stretch!



(Double-crested Cormorant in background...)












This concludes my series of Merganser-"Diving Duck" Species:

1) Common Mergansers

2) Hooded Mergansers

3) Red-Breasted Mergansers











January 7, 2016

8th Continuation of: "Diving and Dabbling Ducks",

with today's post featuring the Diving Duck Species,

Lesser and Greater Scaup Ducks!


Lesser Scaup ducks: male (L); female (R)

Jordan River at 2300 South.




These ducks are common in Wintertime in Northern Utah!




Male Lesser Scaups in Flight...







Greater Scaups are rare in Utah!

On the left, you see a Male Greater Scaup, compared to a male

Lesser Scaup on the right!

This image provides an excellent comparison, used in I.D.!



A male Greater Scaup alone...



The male has been joined by a female Greater Scaup.



This, to me, is also an exceptional image, illustrating:

Male Greater Scaup (L);

Female Greater Scaup (Back Right)

Male Lesser Scaup (Front Right)




An overcast day at Sandy Pond, Male Greater Scaup (L); Lesser-(R)



Male Greater Scaup, preparing to dive...







This bird was foraging on aquatic plants.











January 6, 2016

7th Continuation of: "Diving and Dabbling Ducks",

with today's post featuring the Diving Duck Species,

Ruddy Ducks!


A group of Ruddy Ducks from Sandy Pond on New Year's day, showing them in "Winter, Non-Breeding plumage"



A pair, with female (L), male (R)



A day in January with gray skies, showing a male in transition to "Breeding Plumage" (R), depicted by the blue/cyan bill!



The male alone...



For comparison, here is a pair of Ruddy Ducks in breeding plumage,

as seen in the month of May, diving for food!




A final image of the male in breeding plumage in May, stretching.




Contrast the appearance of a transitional male, stretching!












January 2, 2016

A Common Loon was reported on Sandy Pond yesterday, so I took time to photograph it for myself...




I have lots of images like these, of Common Loons in non-breeding (Winter) plumage!

Interesting, but 'no cigar'!




And it caused me to wonder if some birders might have never seen the alternative (breeding plumage) with Common Loons!



So, even though I'm quite pleased with my results from yesterday with the Loon at Sandy Pond...



I decided to post some of my breeding plumage Common Loons seen directly below this last image from yesterday for any who are interested!




This Breeding Common Loon provided me with images at Willow Pond, one day in May!!

beginning with this stretch! (along with a whole series of stretching for another time!)



Direct front sunlight helps in illustrating the feather patterns and colors associated with breeding.



Direct sunlight in the bird's eye emphasizes the red pigment there!



This Loon was interested in a flight of birds overhead...






It spent most of its time partially submerged.



I'm hoping people will enjoy seeing the comparison between breeding and non-breeding (Winter) plumage!




Final image, showing how the colored band on its neck changes color depending on the angle of sunlight!


Go back to the beginning of this post to see again how the current Common Loon at Sandy Pond compares!