Tres Amigos

I pointed out in my last blog entry that I almost always find White-faced Ibis where I find American Avocets. I should also have noted that wherever I find Ibis and Avocets I also find Black-Necked Stilts. The three seem almost inseparable.

We saw this Black-necked Stilt nesting in the same area where we first saw avocets as we entered the refuge.

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This year there seemed to be more Black-necked Stilts than Avocets at Bear River, and I found it just as hard to resist taking pictures of them as I did of taking pictures of Avocets. And as you probably already know, I have a hard time resisting reflections in the water.

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Though they lack the Avocets soft orange plumage and curved bill, I love their spindly legs that must have given them their name.

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Although generally seen foraging in shallow water, large numbers of them were in drier areas, too

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Though they lack the striking colors of Avocets and White-faced Ibis, I can’t resist the charm of this spindly wader.

White-faced Ibis at Bear River

Anywhere where I’ve found Avocets I’ve also found White-faced Ibis, and Bear River was certainly no exception on this trip. In fact, I think we saw more White-faced Ibis than we did Avocets. There were flocks of ibis flying overhead

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throughout the refuge.

I still haven’t decided whether the distinctive silhouette with the curved beak

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or the gaudy plumage when in breeding colors

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is more distinctive.

I do know it’s hard to not take a shot of every ibis you see

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because you’re never sure what the plumage will look like in a particular shot because the iridescent colors look entirely different in different light.

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Sometimes you get lucky and the sun is at just the right angle and you get these kind of brilliant colors.

American Avocets at Bear River

I originally went to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge because I read that it was the best place to see Avocet chicks. Three years later, I’ve still never seen a chick there. But I have gotten the best pictures I’ve ever gotten of Avocets, and this trip was no different.

We saw this Avocet resting just outside the Tour area on our first visit.

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As it turned out, it was the only area where we saw Avocets on our first visit.

That was alright with me as the rich, sunrise light highlighted the gold on their heads and necks.

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Further out, Avocets were skimming the water with their strange turned-up beaks which is a behavior that makes them distinctive.

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I’ve always assumed they used that bill to somehow strain food from the water. That assumption was challenged, though, when I noted that other avocets were foraging for something in the tall grass.

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I know they frequent the Great Salt Lake because brine shrimp is one of their main foods, but it turns out that they also eat seeds, aquatic insects, and crustaceans. They apparently use their curved beaks to stir up insects, not to strain out insects.

I find it impossible to observe birds over any length of time and not want to find out more about them and their lifestyles.

Leslie’s Shots from Bear River

I’ve been encouraging Leslie to take her own pictures at wildlife refuges for several years now, hoping that she might enjoy the experience as much as I do. Besides, you can never tell which side of the car will provide the best shots. This trip we had very similar equipment, minus a 1.4 extender, which, as it turns out, can make more difference than I would have imagined.

To me, her shots are a reminder that the most important factor in birding is being at the right place at the right time. The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is one the best places I know to be in Spring. It’s hard not to get good shots if you’re there early in the morning and you’re paying attention.

Leslie got this shot of a small flock of Pelicans sleeping and preening at the beginning of the auto tour.

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She got this shot of Canada Goose goslings before I’d sighted anything worth shooting on my side.

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I actually sighted this Western Grebe with chicks and Leslie had to shoot it through the open window, but it’s still one of those magical sights that’s hard not to love, especially since it’s not nearly as common as seeing goslings.

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Leslie didn’t seem as fond as I was of this shot of White-Faced Ibis flying,

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probably because some of the birds are slightly blurry. I suspect I like it more than she does because I realize better than she does just how hard it is to get birds in flight while driving around a refuge.

Leslie made me back up to get this shot. At first, she thought these were two different kinds of birds, but they’re both White-Faced Ibis.

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I love the shot because it’s the perfect illustration of how important the angle of the light can be while photographing wildlife.

This is probably my favorite of Leslie’s shots.

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Leslie probably didn’t enjoy the refuge as much as I did, but she seemed to enjoy taking pictures while she was there and that’s definitely the most important aspect of the experience.

Birding with Logan

After buying a new camera, I decided to give my old camera to Tyson and family to replace one I had given them several years ago. Logan seemed particularly excited to use the camera, and he and I went out birding several times. His dad even helped him to download a photo editor, and we probably spent more time learning how to use that program than we did birding.

It’s been a long time since I taught photography classes in high school, but I thought that Logan picked up the basics of photographing birds than many of the students I taught. Considering the limitations of using a 300mm lens for birding, he did a great job of capturing shots of a large variety of birds, helping me to spot several I’m sure I would have missed if hadn’t sighted them first. I’m not sure this is really his best shot, but this shot of a Eurasian Collared-Dove is his favorite,

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possibly because he photographed it when I wasn’t even there. It’s always fun to be around the grandkids, but it’s special when one shares a common interest.

Another advantage is that I don’t have to feel guilty why birding if I have a grandson with me, and I love birding areas other than home because I manage to get shots of birds I seldom, or never see. I’ve actually seen this Blue-Winged Teal

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a few times in Washington and a few times in California, but I’ve never managed to get this close to one anywhere else.

Somehow I knew that this was a Common Grackle

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when I finally got close enough to it, but I couldn’t identify it when it kept flying over me earlier. I knew it wasn’t a crow or Red-Winged Blackbird because of the length of its tail, but I couldn’t tell what it was until I got a lot closer.

On our last day birding I told Logan that I would really like to see a Blue Jay because I hadn’t seen one on this trip. We were on our way back to his game when we spotted a small flock of them, giving me the best chance I’ve had of getting a shot of one.

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This one looks a little bedraggled because of the constant drizzle, but I still like the shot.

My other target bird was the Kestrel, a bird I can always spot in the open space right outside Logan’s house. Unfortunately, it was overcast or raining almost all the time we were there. I finally went out despite the clouds and Logan spotted this bird. It was so dark that I didn’t recognize the kestrel at first, and it took all the magic of Lightroom, Photoshop, and ON1 Photo 10 to make it look like a kestrel.

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Logan has promised me he will get a better shot of the Kestrel when the weather improves so I’m looking forward to seeing a shot soon.

A Quick Stop at Bear River

Usually I try to free up two to three weeks when I visit Tyson and his family in Colorado since its so far to drive. That’s how I've managed to finally visit places in New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming that I’ve always wanted to visit. We couldn’t spend that much time this visit, but that doesn’t mean that I was going to just drive past the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge without stopping, certainly not this time of year. In fact, we managed to visit it for two to three hours on our way there and two more times on our way home.

We managed to sight four different birds we never see in the Pacific Northwest before we even got to the official drive-through tour. It would have been hard to miss this Western Kingbird which repeatedly flew up and back to its barb-wire perch hunting insects.

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It would have been even harder to ignore this Meadowlark blasting out its distinctive song.

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It would have been easy to miss this Curlew, but since it’s one of the few places where I’ve ever seen them regularly I kept a close look out and spotted several of them,

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while Leslie spotted this Pheasant, a bird she loves to see.

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And these weren’t even the birds we had come here to see; those were to come a little later. It proved to be a great break in the middle of a long journey.

Soccer in Colorado

If it seems like I’ve been a little quiet around here lately, it would be because I’ve just gotten back from an eight-day trip to Broomfield, Colorado to visit Tyson and his family. Although I’m not nearly as fond of soccer as all our kids and grandkids, I did time this trip so that I could see all three kids play soccer games while I was there.

After Logan and I went birding on Saturday morning, I tried to get some shots of him playing soccer. This one, after a little touch-up,

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was my favorite of the day (except for the shot of the Blue Jay we saw before the game.)

We couldn’t manage to get to Zoe’s game Saturday, but we did manage to see her game Sunday. She’s wickedly fast, and it was fun watching her sprint past opponents, even though the game ended in a tie.

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Sydney’s game followed immediately after Zoe’s game. It was cold and wet, and the girls warmed up right before kickoff by dancing a little jig.

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The game ended early when storm warnings went off the last five minutes of the game, but it ended up being the only win of the weekend for our teams.

In a sign of Colorado’s fickle weather, Sydney’s second game, a few hours later, went off on time. It was nice seeing Sydney show some aggression on the field,

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something I hadn’t seen in earlier years.

Although we were only there for four days, we managed to pack a lot in those days. I'm already looking forward to a longer Fall visit.