Bear River Grebes

Although I discovered  Bear RiverMigratoryBird Refuge while searching for American Avocets, I fell in love with it because of the grebes that breed there.  My favorite shots from there are shots of grebes carrying chicks on their back.  Of course, I knew we’d be too late to see that this year, but we still managed to see several young grebes with their parents off in the distance

or occasionally closer, but always partially hidden.

Luckily, even without chicks, Western Grebes

and Clark’s Grebes

are beautiful.

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.

The Golden Hour

After Zoe’s Sunday soccer game, we hustled out of the park because we wanted to try to get to Ogden early enough to eat dinner at our favorite Utah restaurant.  We did manage to get there early enough for dinner only to find that our favorite restaurant wasn’t open on Sundays; in fact, most restaurants didn’t seem to be open on Sunday in Ogden or Brigham City. That was disappointing, but I was still glad we had decided to stay in Brigham City because it meant that we could visit Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge early the next morning before heading out on the longest leg of our journey home.

After our discovery of the refuge several years ago, I seldom drive past without stopping, though we had to skip it on our trip to Colorado so that we could see Sydney’s afternoon soccer game.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to the refuge so early in the morning, at the “golden hour” right after sunrise.  I am generally not fond of nature shots that unnaturally pump up colors, but I was impressed enough with this view of a White Pelican that I pulled over and took a shot before we even got to the preserve.

Quite a contrast with this shot taken two hours later as we were heading for home.

The dramatic lighting even made me stop to get a shot of this Barn Swallow at the entrance of the tour, though I usually wouldn’t bother taking another shot of a Barn Swallow when I’m birding Theler Wetlands.

Sometimes the orange light almost served as a spotlight, as in this shot of a Yellowlegs.

The previous pictures were taken with the sun shining over my shoulder, but even the shots taken at an angle to the sun seemed more dramatic than usual, perhaps because the orange highlights called attention to the main subject.

I doubt that I am going to make it a habit to get out birding quite this early, but if you have to be on the road early it’s a nice bonus.  

A Few of Leslie’s Shots from Bear River

Our trip to Bear River has been long enough ago that it seems more like a memory than an immediate experience, so I’ll wrap it up with four of Leslie’s shots that haven’t already been included.

We saw many goslings, but this was a favorite shot.

We also saw a lot of White-Faced Ibis, but this shot does a better job of showing off its varied colors than most of the others.

Hard to pick out a best shot of a Black-Necked Stilt since all the shots seemed show them foraging.

We generally take Northern Shovelers for granted, but this shot serves as a reminder of just how striking they are.

Pretty amazing how many shots we got on a “disappointing” trip.