Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Although I’ve wanted to visit Utah’s Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge for nearly three years now, my recent arrival seemed anything but auspicious. Malheur was always intended to be just a way-stop on my trip to Bear River, but I left much later than I should have (Yeah I know, but I was having way too much fun taking pictures to leave then), and ended up not arriving at Brigham City until 3:00 AM, much too late to check into a campground.

I tried to catch a quick nap at the rest stop, but the sheet-lightning and thunder doused any hope of that. Around 4:30 I finally went to an all night-McDonald’s and got a cheese, sausage and egg biscuit to tide me over. Food and sleep are nearly interchangeable; you can substitute junk food for sleep when absolutely necessary. Not knowing what time the refuge opened, I headed out.

The short drive seemed even less promising as I was met by a mix of snowflakes, heavy rain and lightning. At first light, all I could see was the light reflecting off the snow in the nearby Rockies.


I was told by a local resident that it was unusual to have snow on the mountains this late.

Luckily, the weather to the Southwest seemed more promising, at least in the long run,


and that’s where the lightning storms seemed to be coming from during the night. I was so early that the gate was still closed, even though it was supposed to open at sunrise.

Luckily, there was long stretch of refuge before the gate that I could explore until it did open. Things started to look up when I was greeted by this Long-Billed Curlew when I got out of my car to set up my camera equipment. Even though it was too dark to get great pictures, it seemed like a personal greeter as I got some nice shots despite the lack of light.


I took its greeting as an omen of better things to come.

Sure enough, by the time the main gate opened the skies were clearing to the Northwest,


and, as it turned out, the skies were clear the next two days.

The birder in me loved the number of birds I saw in those early morning hours, but the photographer in me was reminded just how futile it is to try to get good pictures without enough light. What could have been beautiful shots an hour or two later


were so grainy that I had little choice but to delete them and save disk space for better pictures to come.