July-August 2014


August 30, 2014

From photography of migrant Warblers at Big Cottonwood Park came a "Mystery Bird" that I couldn't find under "Warbler", nor "Warbler-like"


I asked the birders at large for any ideas as to what I had...




One and only one (blurred) image provided an answer to this quirky bird!

As I discovered this image in the gadzillion I have, it was clear that the neck 'collar' is an aberration, only seen on the left side of the bird!

The bird is an unusually marked (likely temporarily) MacGillivray's Warbler! (Thanks, Mark!)




Here is how a 'normal' MacGillivray's Warbler should look!!







August 28, 2014

Big Cottonwood dwellers,

I have a sizeable backlog of birds from there, beginning with a lovely migrant, a

Warbling Vireo (series of images below)






There were several for me to photograph...

I suspect this is a juvenile.









This Warbling Vireo was foraging for insects.



It did some masterful maneuvering here...



and successfully captured a sizeable insect!




It was last seen hanging in a very precarious position!

More to come...








August 27, 2014

I went back to the site of the Ash-throated Flycatcher shortly after I posted what is below.

I now have included more images of the bird toward the end, having new 'poses' and locations.

Several women arrived, excited about seeing the accomodating bird!

One woman was happy to now have a sighting in Salt Lake County!

Again, see the new images below the first set.


August 26, 2014

Having just now come home from my routine walk in Big Cottonwood Park, I'm hastening to post a special bird from today.

Also, I want to inform my 'readers' from Big Cottonwood Park that I have a large backlog of images that I'll now be posting as they are made ready to post.

So, keep posted for my posts (LOL).


But first and foremost, my special 'find' from Today, a rare bird for Big Cottonwood for sure! an

Ash-throated Flycatcher!


This is the first Ash-throated Flycatcher I've ever seen... it's amazing to find one there!










Game over... the bird went high into the tree... I had about 2 minutes with it! Hopefully it will stay a few days for others to see/photograph!




More images from my 2nd visit:









I have many more images, but I'll stop here.

I wish to emphasize to non-birders that this is a rare treat for Big Cottonwood park. This bird is "out of range"!




August 21, 2014

Yesterday at Bountiful Pond, at the same time Deedee and I encountered the "Fresh Juvenile Forster's Terns", we had another unique opportunity, photographing in The Orchard!

Its inhabitants (a substantial number of Eastern Kingbirds), generated a bit of 'magic' for our cameras!


Variations on a Theme - (kingbirds in the orchard)...




Same bird, different camera perspective...



Perspective change again...



Another bird...



With varying camera angles...



Last example (hard to quit with so many from which to choose!)



Finally, a 'typical' shot, out in the open!






August 20 (afternoon), 2014

Working on skills concerning Birds in Flight at Bountiful Pond, Deedee and I encountered a small group of Terns that neither of us had ever seen before!

Sibley described them as: "Fresh Juvenile Forsters Terns".



These birds were vocalizing big-time!



Cool "Bonus Birds" for both of us!








August 20 (morning), 2014

It's ironic that, on a gray day at Big Cottonwood Park, I'd run into a Gray Flycatcher!

'Kenny' came to my rescue regarding the I.D. of this bird.

His Quote: "Looks like a Gray Flycatcher with the long bicolored bill, white eye ring, overall pale non-contrasting plumage and obvious white edges on the tail."



again... Thanks to Kenny for the I.D.




Other birds located at Big Cottonwood between episodes of rain were:

migrating Western Tanagers...






A lovely Western Scrub Jay in a 'picture perfect' high key setting...








August 19, 2014

I've been fascinated by the color variations seen in 1st Fall/Winter/Spring Males, the result of sexual dimorphism!

The Black-headed Grosbeak comes to mind, since, last year at this time I encountered my first example of such a bird.


First Winter Male Black-Headed Grosbeak, Sept. 2013



Another view,





Adult Male Black-Headed Grosbeak



Adult Female Black-Headed Grosbeak



Sexual Dimorphism: The time of life when young male birds, looking like females, begin to 'morph' into Adult males.

During this 'morphing' period, the males possess both male and female physical characteristics.


Below is one of my best examples from this year... a likely early male 'morphing'...



even at a time when it still exhibits the telltale juvenile Gape Flange located at the base of the beak!

The sex of this bird is unknown. However, it was a truly gorgeous bird!




Examples of Sexual Dimorphism in DUCKS can be seen (HERE).





August 15, 2014

I was fortunate to locate a number of Green-Tailed Towhees, ranging in age from fledglings to adulthood, in Big Cottonwood Canyon

I've sequenced several of these birds, showing their transition to adulthood.

Green-Tailed Towhees are another favorite bird for me!


This fledgling is the youngest of the set!



A second bird, a bit further toward maturation. Both were located foraging in deep shade.


Here's a more mature bird, curious about what I'm doing...


The rust coloration on its head is just emerging.



Now we see a young adult...



with its coloration more typical of adults.



Coloration on this bird is well along its way also.



Same bird as above.



This Green-Tailed Towhee appears to be posing for the camera!




Finalizing my short series, this bird is my favorite image.




August 13, 2014

On a recent jaunt to Antelope Island, I captured some (to me) interesting images of Gulls feasting on Brine Flies, a main staple for most species of birds that gather along the shoreline.


Franklin's Gulls line up along the Causeway shoreline to casually eat brine flies as they fly about...



But this California gull had another, more productive way to satisfy its appetite!



Brine flies, floating on the water!



The gull approached the task with mouth open as seen here!



The gull made a "V" shaped void behind itself in the process.



An ultra-closeup of the action!








August 11, 2014

I discovered a novel bird, out of its environment at Big Cottonwood Park!... A Loggerhead Shrike!



the Shrike didn't stay on its perch for very long...



New Warblers are showing up in the park!

Below, a diminuitive Wilson's Warbler



Yellow Warblers are back also!



Someone posting their Big Cottonwood sightings on E-Bird recently listed a "Steller's Jay".

With all due respect, I believe their call was a mistake, since the only Jay showing up in the park is a Western Scrub Jay, seen here:

Steller's Jays are typically high on the mountain.



Black-capped Chickadees are, as always, a year round bird at Big Cottonwood.



As are Lesser Goldfinches...



Lesser Goldfinch...



And another, bright one.



Lots of Hummingbirds at present... here is a male Black-chinned.





Most often people photograph these birds at a feeder.

I prefer to capture them feeding in the wild, as done here...



As reported earlier, Western Tanagers are now migrating through Big Cottonwood Park, as seen here.

Male Western Tanager






And the male showing its back coloring.



A likely Juvenile male Western Tanager.




A juvenile Bullock's Oriole at Big Cottonwood Park...













August 6, 2014

Over the summer, I concentrated on photographing Terns in flight, beginning with this Forster's Tern, posted earlier.

Recently, I photographed a Caspian's Tern at Bountiful Pond, and captured a 2nd example of both species' eye protection when crashing into the water after fish!

Forster's Tern, Millrace Pond



The Forster's Tern, emerging from its dive, demonstrating the translucent nictitating membrane over the eye!



Caspian Tern, Bountiful Pond


Diving for fish...



Emerging, showing the same translucent nictitating membrane over its eye!



Completing the series by flying away with a tiny fish.






August 5, 2014

Big Cottonwood Park... The Southward Migration has Manifested itself in the form of a Male Western Tanager!


Of all the times to decide to re-visit 15 year old digital photo technology

(Nikon D100 6mp camera body; Nikon 1st generation 80-400 tele lens, just for the heckova it!)

The park was loaded with birds, including this male Western Tanager, taken with ancient technology!


Coming back into the park with a "modern" camera, the sky had been transformed into a dark gray light diffuser.

Deep in the underbrush, a colony of House finches were concentrated for some reason!



I was impressed with their 'painterly' look in my viewfinder as I collected these images!



For me, House Finches are mostly overlooked; but not this day!




August 2, 2014

What a way to begin the month of August?!

I'm posting, not one, but 2 Leucistic Eared Grebes I photographed at the 2nd bridge on the Antelope Island Causeway!

1st: (This is the bird demonstrating the most white color.)



It preferred to swim alone, which made it stand out big time!



The second leucistic Eared Grebe was not so white...




For a very brief moment both Leucistic Grebes were in the same frame, when the whitest of the 2 dived at the critical moment!


Before I close, I've attached another "Spirit Bird" I photographed this year... a Leucistic American Robin on March 19, at Big Cottonwood Park!







July 31, 2014

This will be my final post for the rare, but drab Little Blue heron, seen here with a Lesser Yellowlegs.







July 27, 2014


This time the lighting was a bit tricky.

The bird was standing on the island briefly, and disappeared onto the other side of the island.


close up (crop)


The bird re-appeared after awhile, but the light got a bit tricky!

I show this image to illustrate why my images are mostly shades of white and gray!




Oh, well... I'm more than happy to have these!



My images are all very similar, so I chose to post action shots as below:









A fun bird, images that I'm extremely happy to have (thanks to Norm Jenson's sighting earlier!)




July 24, 2014

As our summer in Salt Lake continues to heat up, there is an ideal respite for lovers of wildlife...

That is, in the mountains to the East of the Salt Lake valley!


Silver Lake, Brighton UT.



Bull Moose in the lake...



Foraging Moose, closeup.




Birds that we see during Spring migration go into the mountains for the summer to nest.

Male Western Tanager



Female Western Tanager




A somewhat amusing back-view of a female Western Tanager, high above me...



Yellow-rumped Warbler



Another Yellow-rumped...



A 3rd Yellow Rump with prey...



Although we see Yellow Warblers in the valley during summer, they are well represented in our mountains at this time of year.




A dead pine tree hosted a sizeable number of fledgling Tree Swallows on the edge of Silver Lake.

They would sit chirping away, then as adults flew by with food, they would flap their wings and open their mouths for food.



These birds were, unfortunately, sidelit, degrading the image quality, with me having no alternative than to stand on the boardwalk provided, not being allowed to wander to a better lighting position!




They were also a considerable distance away, stretching the quality my modest lens provides!



But the result was worth the trade-off in image quality...

As the parents flew back and forth feeding the birds in mid-flight.









Another successful food 'drop-off' for this fledgling moments later!



The parent (left) landed this time, thrusting its food-laden beak deep into the fledgling's mouth!






A species of Sparrow, (FOX SPARROW) that we see in the valley during migration, breeds and spends the summer at this elevation.

(Brighton, UT., 8,500 feet above sea level)




A handsome Fox Sparrow settled onto a limb in front of me near Silver Lake at Brighton...



He obviously could see me, but was comfortable with me being there.



"Oops! Gotta itch!"... (lifting its left leg)



I was amazed at the odd extension of the bird's left wing while scratching!




The bird tarried for awhile...What a remarkable background and lighting setting!



Another species of Sparrow that's common to this elevation, the Lincoln's Sparrow!



Another view...



More Lincoln's Sparrows below...







A final image of a Lincoln's Sparrow, leaping into flight, on the edge of Silver Lake.




The last Sparrow I'll be presenting from Brighton is the ubiquitous

White-Crowned Sparrow.



These are adult, breeding plumage birds



Contrasted to the juvenile (fledgling) White-Crowned...







White-Crowned Sparrow Juvenile




To me, this is a remarkable White-Crowned Sparrow, to end my series of high altitude Sparrows from Big Cottonwood Canyon!



A favorite bird for me is the Stellar Steller's Jay!

At times they are seen travelling in small groups around Silver Lake.



This, to me, looks like a juvenile.


Again, a possible juvenile Steller's Jay



The gape flange (located at the base of the beak) shows clearly, the pink coloration of a juvenile Steller's jay



You can see it more clearly with this enlarged image.




This particular day, I had several Steller's browsing along the lake's edge.



They seemed to be attracted to this wasps nest!




This particular bird captured a wasp for a meal!


A youngster...



Lovely birds at any angle!


To me, this bird looks 3 dimensional with its surroundings adding depth.



I had my own Circus, watching these birds this particular day!



A jump put this bird into motion for flight.



Doing a survey of birds around Silver Lake/Brighton should have a few examples of Mountain Chickadees!











This should about do it for Mountain Chickadees!
















July 15, 2014

I've been finding myself in the midst of fledging Black-headed Grosbeaks these days!

Here I'm posting a few, beginning with the youngest fledgling that I saw:



This little critter tolerated my presence exceeding well, providing 'poses' from every direction!



It was found foraging in open shade, on a sunny day.



As young as this fledgling appears to be, it was capable of flight!




When the bird was motionless, it blended exceeding well with its surroundings.



Contrast the markings on this fledgling with the bird below this one.



This Grosbeak was obviously further along in its fledging process.



It's coloration has moved further towards adulthood.



At another location, I encountered this Black-headed youngster.



Another pose... (I'm thinking it's a female).



At the same moment, another bird appeared in the same tree.




It provided images from different angles...



From the back, it appears to be a male.




For Non-birder viewers of my website, below are images of adult Black-headed Grosbeaks beginning with an adult male.



The adult female...




And, finally, last September I discovered this oddly marked male,

It is a "First Winter male", featuring characteristick of both sexes!









July 11, 2014

Regarding trends in photography these days, we're advised to:

"Do something different to create photos that are more than 'good enough'".

The entire world is taking pictures (lots of visual redundancy every where in photo-land).

This post is my experiment in an attempt to 'refresh' bird images.


Having re-discovered my little Forster's Tern this past week, at Mill Race Park, I began with him as my subject, since earlier, he showed lots of flexibility.

Here he is, back again after a lengthy hiatus,

pondering at the pond...



Should I keep the image simple... a stark image hanging against a blank sky?


The day was a mix of sun and clouds... Is isolation of white-on-white a refreshing approach?


White-on-white again, adding the bird's unusually awkward position...

dangling feet!

Hit or miss?



I've mastered clean isolation of birds in flight against a blurred background.. is this a good approach, assuring novelty?


Simply by "panning" the camera at the same speed as the bird (using a slower shutter speed), I attained a feeling of motion, with the bird in sharp focus, and water blurred/streaked horizontally.

Did this do the trick... A winner?


Let's modify the result by increasing shutter speed and attaining just a pinch of background sharpness!

Any better?


Let's spice up the blurred background aerial approach with bird's antics while in flight! Here are 3 images from which to choose...






Whoops!!! Fun image... but 'no cigar'!



Here are 3 images showing the Forster's Tern vigorously shedding water, via rapid in-flight shaking.



The bird's head is showing motion, even though the shutter speed is 1/1600 second!



More aerial body contortion, the result from the Tern's attempt to dry off!

Any winners YET??!

(Remember, I'm striving for innovative, distinctive BIF photos here!)



For my own satisfaction, I've settled on


I was inspired by the series of images below!



I like it...






Peaceful image...






A favorite...



To finalize my series, I submit this... fish-in-mouth approach!

(Just having fun... hope you enjoyed it as I did while photographing)










July 8, 2014


Have you ever taken the time to determine whether your camera is focusing accurately?

It's all too common a problem that camera/lens is not calibrated correctly in manufacture, and will focus in front or behind your subject, creating a blurry image that you assume is your mistake!


Accurate camera focus has its DOF (depth of focus) precisely on the subject, with sharp focus being 1/3 in front of the point of focus; and 2/3 the distance behind the point of focus.

It is most noticeable with telephoto lenses, set at wide aperture (i.e., f5.6).

When a camera system is properly calibrated, the result should look like my example below.

I focused critically on the 2nd dove.

Looking at the focus on the angled fence, the forward sharp focus diminishes 1/3 the distance in front of the bird, with sharp focus going back of the dove, 'feathering out' 2/3 the distance behind.

Something to consider...



Another example of depth of focus with a California quail. (Slight shift to forward focus is seen with this lens, set at f8.)







July 3, 2014

I decided to post Common Merganser images from July of 2010, at Mill Race Park pond in Taylorsville,UT.

I emphasize, to discover a Common Merganser in the middle of the Salt Lake Valley in late July is, indeed, uncommon!

Something was amiss!


Common Merganser at Mill Race Park pond in late July 2010, hanging around for over a week.

Unusual sighting, considering the time of year!



Looks a bit bedraggled...




For comparison, here is a healthy male Common Merganser from February at Willow Pond, less than a mile away.



For the benefit of Non-Birders who visit my website, here is a pair of Common Mergansers, at Willow pond, commonly seen in February!


(The series of images below are being published for the first time.)

My first encounter with this bird at Mill Race pond in July of 2010 provided fun images, like this reflection.





Looking at the bird's right side, damage to its left wing is not apparent.

The wing damage from an earlier time rendered the bird incapable of flight.

I'm guessing it walked over the dike from the Jordan river, into Millrace pond, just a few yards away from the river.



These moments of photographing this bird were magical, with great lighting. Here he played with a stick.


The stick being held in the bird's bill shows up best in the reflection.



The bird decided to take a late afternoon swim amongst wonderful reflections.



Who could ask for anything more?

However, the telltale positioning of the bird's left wing was the 1st sign of an issue.



The bird acted normally out in the direct sun.



This is a typical position for Mergansers scouting for fish.






The bird rose up to stretch, revealing big-time issues with its left wing!



The bird otherwise behaved quite normally, successfully catching fish!




After some extensive bathing, the bird changed tactics.


He began to make his way to the shoreline.





Compare the current Merganser to these 2 healthy males from February at Willow pond.

I have photographed Common Mergansers at Mill Race Pond in February, not late July!



Lots of water spray during this session, as the bird...



exits for his next 'show'!



His next series are completed using this rock!



Near the top...







At the pinnacle...



Backview shows the extensive left wing damage.



Still flailing the air, with a phantom left wing.


Show's over...




Enter 3 Neotropic Cormorants, and a...



Double-crested Cormorant (with an attitude!).






for a short video showing the Double-Crested Cormorant stealing fish from the Merganser, later overpowering the bird, with 3 Neotropic Cormorants coming to the rescue!