Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Utah 2007 - a visit to Bear River Bird Refuge

June 18, 2007. Since the Laidler's flight was delayed by 24 hours, I had an extra day to fill before they arrived. So, naturally, I decided to get in some quality birding time. I was staying in Provo, but drove 50 miles north of Salt Lake City to Bear River Bird Refuge up on the north shore of the Great Salt Lake. Wow! The drive was sure worth it - even with migration season being over.

There's a lovely visitors center as you drive off the freeway to the access road that takes you to the refuge. Under the generous eaves of the building are hundreds of cliff swallow nests.

The visitor center sits among several ponds and there were many, many birds to be seen just on the walk into the building.

A new lifer for me was the yellow-headed blackbird. They were all over the refuge in large numbers - similar to the niche the red-winged blackbird has back east.

Forster's terns were also abundant on the refuge.

The white-faced ibis was another new one for me. They were also abundant.

If you squint real hard you might see the American Avocet near the center of this picture. I was very excited to get this one on my list, too, but I wish I had seen one a little closer to get a good look at it.

Here's one of the coolest birds I've seen - a long-billed curlew. Another lifer for me.

There were two in a field on the drive out to the lake.

I stopped all along the length of the 12 mile drive out to the lake to look at birds and shoot photos. Here's a pair of gadwalls in the Bear River.

This pair was a bit shy and they took off as I started taking pics. A fast shutter speed and fast reflexes make for good flight images.

I saw dozens and dozens of gadwalls out on the refuge.

Here's another lifer for me - a Clark's grebe.

A white-faced ibis in flight. It's well named, eh?

I stopped at the entrance to the refuge and saw cliff swallows nesting in every shelter around the walkways. I don't think I'll be having a picnic lunch here anytime soon.

Not very appetizing - the picnic tables are buried in guano.

Snowy egrets were up on top of the shelters, too.

I enjoyed watching the American pelicans fish as a mob. It looked as if they were herding catfish to the side of the stream and then they'd all scoop fish up at the same time.

Not the prettiest birds around, but they are efficient eating machines.

California gulls were abundant on the refuge.

A nice pose from a snowy egret.

Western grebes were all around, too. You can sort out the Clark's from the Western grebes from the amount of white above the eye. Western grebes have the black plumage to below the eye whereas Clark's have white above the eye.

I enjoyed watching the terns. They hover to spot the fish and then dive into the water to catch them.

Another yellow-headed blackbird.

Another life bird for me - a cinnamon teal.

Double-crested cormorant in flight.

A pair of Western grebes beginning their courtship dance. What a treat to see! They do some synchronized swimming and then run across the water.

Blue-winged teal.

Here's a look at the refuge in the late afternoon from the west side of the loop around the refuge.

The Bear River as it nears its entry point into the Great Salt Lake.

An American Coot nest.

A nutria swimming close to shore.

Black-crowned night heron giving me a good look from the shoreside.

Another gadwall.

A pair of cinnamon teals.

Another lifer for me - a very vocal Marsh Wren.

The song of the marsh wren is pretty distinctive. I hope I'll remember it from now on.

A red-breasted merganser. According to the bird list I got from the visitor center, this bird shouldn't have been here. Yippee! A bonus bird!

A spotted sandpiper.

The final lifebird of the day - Franklin Gull.

I'd like to come back to the refuge during migration season. It must be amazing to see then.

Dennis and Gigi arrived around 9 pm and we drove down to Provo. I wish they could have gone to the refue with me. I'm sure they would have enjoyed the diversity of wildlife there.

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