Back to Bear River

I started going to Utah’s Bear River’s Migratory Bird Refuge several years ago after first seeing American Avocets at Malheur, apparently on their way north to breed.  Another birder told me that Bear River was the best place to observe them, particularly in late Spring and early Summer when they have chicks.  So, I was well aware that late August wasn’t an ideal time to visit, especially since experts have recently posted dire warnings about the effects the drought was having on Salt Lake.  

As it turned out, the first half of the tour revealed nothing but parched ground, and it was obvious from the cracks that it wasn’t a recent phenomenon.  The second half of the preserve, which had been drained on our previous visit two years ago was full of water, maybe even more water than when I had previously seen it. 

We did find some avocets, but I didn’t recognize them at first because they were transitioning into their winter plumage, losing their bright orange feathers.

In fact, most of the ones we saw were black and white, 

which makes it easy to confuse them with Black-Necked Stilts, a close relative.  

I think this shot that Leslie took was a juvenile Black-Necked Stilt because its body looks quite small in relation to its legs. 

Here’s a shot of an adult stilt for comparison.

I’ll have to admit I’m always amazed how fast these birds grow in the first few months, but necessary considering that their feeding grounds will freeze over soon and they will have to leave for the south.

What do you think?

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