September-October 2014







October 9,2014

More images from today, of the Harlan's Hawk at

Big Cottonwood Park!


The bird provided some exceptional images today, by flying from one location to its traditional tree.

Other seasons when photographing this bird the Experts always asked if I had any images showing the undertail area.

Well, today I certainly do, along with the bird's use of its Alula feathers

to stall while landing (thanks Kris P.).


The bird was partially hidden in foliage here...




It decided to fly the short distance to its favored tree...













The Hawk begins to deploy its "Alula" feathers" in a landing stall...



The "Alula" on each wing edge is very distinctive in this image. They are the sunlit projections on both edges of the wings




I'm hoping this and the following images will provide more undertail plumage detail for I.D. purposes.




















October 8, 2014

What are the odds?!

Deborah Drain is to be given credit for "flagging" a very special

Harlan's Red-Tail Hawk's presence in Big Cottonwood Park these past days!

She also deserves credit for discovering and announcing the presence of the (apparently) same bird each year for 3 years now!.

I've been photographing the same bird in fall/winter for 2 years including this year.

Enjoy a series of images from this morning, photographed in the Traditional Old Dead Tree on the east side of the park, adjacent to the melon field!

In future posts, I'll bring up last season's images of the bird for comparison.

From this morning






After preening...



Magpies and a Cooper's Hawk harassed the bird unrelentingly!









The hawk went to ground after being harassed by an unbelievable number of Magpies and a hawk!









With any luck, the apparent Harlan's Red-tail Hawk will continue to thrill many other people (as it did today) by its presence in Big Cottonwood Park!







October 5, 2014

I begin with a gorgeous back-lit Red-Tailed Hawk!



This is NOT the Harlan's Red-Tailed Hawk from the post above!




As the hawk rotated above me, the sky-light changed in color.



This bird made my day!




But, Wait... There's more.. like the gang of Cedar Waxwings, also in flight and back-lit...




The location of Yellow-Rumped Warblers overlapped with this

Western Wood Pewee,




The Flycatcher would sit atop the dead branches and fly out to catch flying insects midair,



to again return to the tree for another round.



Yellow-Rumped Warblers were doing the exact same thing...

Sitting for a time, then...



Flying out to capture mid air insects in flight!



I was enjoying the challenge of capturing the birds mid-flight!



Gorgeous little (5.5 inch) Bird!!






On occasion, the Yellow-Rumped Warblers would perch momentarily and provide good images, such as with this

"Audubon's Yellow-Rumped Warbler".




Another bird...



At this time of year, there are only slight variations among the "Audubon's Yellow-Rumped Warblers"



All of these birds are illustrations of "Fall-Winter" coloration.






October 1, 2014

Last week, just as the bird migration was at its peak at Big Cottonwood Park, a huge mower appeared, and mowed down all the low lying foliage it could reach, leaving the birds without proper foliage for foraging!

"Deborah D", also saw what was happening and agrees, that act was the end of a phenomenal migration of birds throughout the park!!!

I stayed away until today, hoping birds would again favor the area; but to no avail.

Only a very few Yellow-rumped Warblers, along with a few raptors were to be seen.

I photographed (thanks Deb) a Black-billed Magpie harrassing a Sharpshinned Hawk mid-flight.



Another image of them...



The Sharpshinned Hawk alone...




An American Kestrel showed up...



Landing in the Russian Olive trees...



Handsome bird, at a time of cloudy skies.



He became airborne...



A lone Yellow-Rumped Warbler appeared for just a few moments...




This bird is known as an Audubon's Yellow-Rumped Warbler,

with its yellow throat patch. (The "Myrtle" Yellow-Rumped has a white throat patch.)







Foxes are active, and provide a few images for me,








I saw, from a considerable distance, 3 foxes hanging out together, basking in the warm sun...



For any who are interested, I've included a link to my "Foxes At Play"

series from this past Spring.

See it by clicking (HERE).











September 30, 2014

A 2nd trip out to Antelope Island yesterday provided some nice results...

An unexpected swarm of Red-Necked Phalaropes buzzed over the Causeway road... I got one shot off, seen here.



Long-Billed Curlews were still foraging along the shoreline...




This image shows one stealthy bird cruising the colorful foliage on the Causeway (again, demonstrating "Selective Focus", where the bird is in sharp focus).



Juvenile Sabine's Gulls are still represented (R), with a curious Eared Grebe (L) swimming past.



Looking for a Bewick's Wren that had been reported earlier, I settled for an accomodating Rock Wren.







The following images were taken at the Garr Ranch, in the deep shadows of trees near the "Spring".

Hermit Thrush




Another Hermit Thrush...




The highlight of the journey was this rare "Oven Bird"... (unfortunately,with NO TAIL).





As I said before, this bird, for some reason, has no tail!




Finally, there was a very gregarious male Downy Woodpecker that I photographed extensively, but only included this image for today.

This image is unique in that the bird is backlit, with its body blocking the sun from my camera's lens, causing what is called,











September 28, 2014

One day this past week, I ventured out to the Antelope Island Causeway, to collect some images of the Sabine's Gulls there.

These small gulls, rare in Utah, are reported to be more like Terns than Gulls, and have been placed in their own genus. After breeding in the Arctic, they are known to migrate southward over the continent rather than over the sea.


I wasn't disappointed... there were 6+ juveniles bobbing around.

But this wasn't my first successful venture with Sabine's Gulls.

In 2010, I located and photographed 4 of them, one being an adult with breeding plumage (see below)

Sabine's Gull, breeding plumage, Antelope Island Causeway,

Sept. 2010




Below, see the adult, along with 3 other Sabine's, joined by 2 (larger, right) California Gulls.




This year's birds... beginning with "The Sentinel".




Sabine's, or Narcissus, staring at its own reflection?!



A few Sabine's in flight...











Another bird in flight, from 2010



Joining up...


birds from 2010




Other birds on the Causeway this past week...

Long-Billed Curlews




American Pipit...








And a striking juvenile White-Crowned Sparrow, the centerpiece of a perfect arrangement, with multiple 'poses'!




(Couldn't have arranged it better!)



Finally, more Birds in Flight, non-breeding plumage,

Red-necked Phalaropes!








September 25, 2014

LOTS of Migrating Warblers from Big Cottonwood Park!

MacGillivray's, Nashville, Orange-Crowned, Yellow, Wilson's, Yellow-Rumped...

Beginning with...


Townsend's Warbler, buried in deep foliage!



The Townsend's is another example of successfully isolating birds from their environment, by employing "Selective Focus", manually over-riding the focus provided by the "Auto-Focus" feature in modern cameras!

Look closely and you'll see a properly focused bird amidst foliage clutter!




Why do this?

In many instances it's the only way to capture any kind of image of the bird, as they quickly bounce around amidst the thicket!



Townsend's Warblers are not considered rare; but this bird has provided an excellent example of the outcome, using this technique!

Photographers are aware of the problem they encounter under such circumstances; thus, they likely have an appreciation of seeing such an outcome performed properly.



Not a Warbler, but the Ruby-Crowned Kinglet sharing the foraging patch with all the Warblers, presents a difficult target also!



Only the beak is obscured on this miniscule bird, by an out-of-focus tuft of foliage between the bird and my camera.




I'm assuming that everyone on-board is impressed... Now let's get on with the Warbler migration at Big Cottonwood (still using the method)!

Here's a nice example of a MacGillivray's Warbler...




Photographing a Nashville Warbler became addictive, so be prepared for more of these than you might have wanted! (It's only a fraction of what I brought home!)







This bird was fun to watch/photograph!



Up Close and Personal...



(a favorite image for me...)








Orange-Crowned Warblers presented the same problem... too many birds available, making it difficult for me to quit photographing!


(looks a tiny bit like a Tennessee,)



Here's one up in a tree, with "bounce light" from the ground illuminating from below.



What's for Dinner?!







Another Orange-Crowned...



This one is in shade, with the background in bright sun!



These birds are constantly on the move!









Shade on overcast days creates this effect...





I begin my series of Yellow-Rumped Warblers with one in flight.



This series of 3 images depicts a juvenile Myrtle Yellow-Rumped Warbler.



To me, this is a really cool-looking bird (glad I had access to it!).





Another Myrtle Yellow-Rumped, from behind.






This, I understand, represents 'Autumn-Winter' coloration for the

Audubon Yellow-Rumped Warbler



Different birds, but the plumage appears the same...



I had so many 'flavors' of Yellow-Rumped Warblers from which to photograph!



This I'm told is a "Fall Adult Male"...



Another in direct sun...



Same bird, front...



Again, a "Fall Adult Male".


A series











A more 'typical' coloration for Audubon... (series)

















An Audubon Yellow-Rumped Warbler high above...









2 at one time...



A couple I like...






Finally, other Warblers are out there.. I'm going after them as time allows.

This year's Wilson's Warblers





And some Yellow Warblers to end (for now!)











September 22, 2014

A possible "Collared Turtle-Dove?" at Big Cottonwood Park yesterday.


A direct comparison between the possible "CollaredTurtle-Dove" (L) with a Eurasian Collared Dove (R),another alien bird species, September 21, 2014




The new dove alone...




Again, preening...







September 21, 2014



Tomorrow marks the 1 year anniversary of my finding a

TENNESSEE WARBLER at Big Cottonwood Park.


The experience was an experiment originally designed by me to generate photo-examples to teach birders how to capture decent images when birds are buried deep in foliage!


Typically, when bird photographers attempt to photograph birds that are hiding in foliage, their cameras will focus on the first object that it "sees", rendering the bird out of focus.

Below are 2 examples where my Tennessee Warbler was the subject

last year...


Again, the camera/lens chose to focus on the closest foliage!



By using the DSLR camera's lens "manual focus" override feature, I was able to get the bird into focus, showing clearly the hallmark feature, "White Undertail Coverts"!



The image, magnified...




The above image, along with the image below, (and all other images) possess 'out of focus' blotches, caused by foreground foliage, albeit the bird is in good focus. Here is the full frame, with a crop image below.



See the detail provided here!



My best image (below) also has some out-of-focus foreground foliage diffusion that is unavoidable,

and would have thrown the bird out of focus without my technique-intervention.


Many more of my images of the Tennesse Warbler in Big Cottonwood Park, using this technique were published last year: Utah Records Committee Rare Birds Report: (See it HERE)

They were also published as examples of Tennessee Warbler for Utah in

"Birds Profiles", (as Seen HERE)


In summary, the technique works surprisingly well when executed properly!

Give it a try, you Bird Photographers, especially with DSLR camera/lenses!

Good Birding!






September 20, 2014

Some Birds of Prey, Big Cottonwood...

This season, hawks and falcons have been sparse, with only a few examples to post...

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk from yesterday...




again... This bird was in deep shadow.




American Kestrel (they have been sparse in the park this season!)







Another day...








September 19, 2014

Big Cottonwood Park again...

The population of Hummingbirds, seen especially in the early mornings, is holding up well...

Below are a few for your enjoyment:

Male Black-chinned Hummingbird






Here is a 'Hummer', relaxed...



The same bird just moments later, a bit 'ruffled'.



Teasels have been the attraction this early Autumn...













Another "Hummer" series...



















Other examples of 'Hummers' on-location at Big Cottonwood at present
















September 16, 2014



Flycatchers are my nemesis... I don't mind admitting it.

In recent days I have photographed a number of them, with one outstanding discovery (an Ash-Throated Flycatcher!)

My ability to I.D. flycatcher is dismal... therefore I'm posting them, most without identification.

(Have fun you expert birders!)


My favorite discovery for this year at Big Cottonwood... meet

my Ash-Throated Flycatcher... a handsome bird if I say so myself!



Another 'pose'...



Here's a confirmed "Gray Flycatcher", Big Cottonwood Park...



I'm fairly confident that this is an "Olive-sided Flycatcher"



Here it is, launching into flight to capture flying insects mid-air!



Here's an Olive-Sided from another day.



My guess regarding the following birds is: Western Wood-Pewee.









I got carried away while photographing this one, since it was so obliging (a series..., with this bird being in deeeeeep shadow!)













I suppose Western Wood-Pewee...






Haven't a clue... (Willow?!)




I don't know this bird, but following 2 images fascinate me... Cool bird!



There! That's all for Big Cottonwood Flycatchers









September 15, 2014

This post is a continuation of images from Big Cottonwood Park until I exhaust a sizeable backlog!


But before I begin, here's a challenge to those who dabble in photography, with this example:

A "puffball" often encountered in my walks in the Salt Lake Valley, photographed in a typical way:



Photographers... consider approaching such an object, seeing from a "bug's eye" perspective... close to the ground, looking up toward the sun!

Easy to accomplish with cameras that have an "articulating viewfinder" (one that twists to allow viewing with the camera held close to the ground).



Now, on to birds in the park, beginning with a cooperative pair of Downy woodpeckers!

First the male...



Another perspective...



And a 3rd perspective... (these birds are really quite small, being our smallest woodpecker at less than 7 inches long!)



The accomodating female was but a short distance from the male.



Female Downy Woodpecker...



One of a huge population of Cedar Waxwings appearing at the southwest end of the park, gorging on Hawthorne berries.

Coming in for a landing!...



This tree was the recipient of several species of birds for just over a week (after which, the tree had been completely stripped of its fruit).

Adult Cedar Waxwing eyeing the succulent fruit...



At this time of year we are given the opportunity to see Juvenile Cedar Waxwings as seen here (on the left, with an adult on the right).



The following are Juvenile Cedar Waxwings in various stages of maturation...








Contrasted by an adult Cedar Waxwing...




Other species, such as this Warbling Vireo, were taking advantage of the fruit also...





Warbling Vireo...



A Black-Headed Grosbeak peeks out at us...



Western Tanagers were plentiful...



This female type Western Tanager was 'in Heaven', surrounded with so much food!






Looking at the Western Tanager above, perhaps it makes sense that I'd confuse the bird below to be one also!



I was informed that this bird, found in Big Cottonwood Park along with the Tanagers, is a Bullock's Oriole!



The "female type" Bullock above sure doesn't look like this Female Bullock's Oriole from earlier!



This Western Tanager is beginning to show male coloration (along with demonstrating its choice in food... Russian olive!).



American Goldfinches, this time of year, are changing dramatically!



Closeup of the above birds shows detailed molting on the left bird; and the right bird is undergoing "Winter Plumage" transition!



Concurrently, at this time of Year there are still some male American Goldfinches in their glorious summer breeding plumage as seen below:





And, as depicted here, other American Goldfinches at Big Cottonwood park have already undergone complete molting into "Winter Plumage"!



A final image of American Goldfinches with 3 disheveled males, and a 4th (left-top) in Winter Plumage.



Let's come away from yellow birds, to see a gorgeous blue "Western Scrub Jay" that pleaded with me to take his picture! He practically filled the 24mp image size!



2 Spotted Towhees lit simultaneously in the same bare tree, with their Autumn colored plumage!



Yet, later, in the Park, I located this stunning Spotted Towhee that sported much better coloration than the 2 found earlier!




Blue-black from a gang of Black-billed Magpies...



Some being juveniles...



Sparrows... a Juvenile White-Crowned Sparrow could likely spend the winter in Big Cottonwood park...



While a group of Lark Sparrows are temporary visitors.



A single Lark Sparrow...



American Crows are in the spotlight these days, now that they are "legal targets" for hunters for the first time! Big Cottonwood would be a great hangout since no hunting is allowed.



This bird was vocalizing loudly...



As was this group one evening recently...



On September 8, the Waxwing feeding frenzy was over, with the tiny fruit-bearing tree devoid of both fruit and birds.

However, as I watched, the air and trees around me livened up considerably, and birds (all bright yellow) headed into the tiny tree!

Photographing the birds was all but impossible, with them not standing still for even a moment!

I shot lots of images, assuming I would be able to I.D. the birds at home.

The I.D. of many birds eluded me, perhaps because they were this year's Yellow Warblers and Wilson's, I don't know.

So I post the results below, with only a few images marked as to I.D.


Early morning backlight rendered a Cassin's Vireo above me.






Notice the male Wilson's Warbler mid-air stance, about to swallow a flying insect!



First year Male Wilson's Warbler



Adult Male Wilson's Warbler














Yellow Warbler

























First Fall Female Wilson's Warbler






A "stray" Female type Western Tanager





Bird in flight, with the shadow of a flying insect appearing on its body!



Finally, 2 "Painterly" images (due to backlit out-of-focus foreground foliage), of a 'female type' Western Tanager!



Many Western Tanagers in Big Cottonwood Park were noticeably bright yellow this year!









September 7, 2014

Lots of bird images to post!!

But, first, enjoy a scene I discovered while looking into the shadows... a lone Morning Glory, with its out-of-focus leaf illuminated in the background. Sometimes objects like this call to me to be photographed!



Now on to migrant birds, beginning with a remarkable bird, a NASHVILLE WARBLER that provided numerous images!



Warblers in general are extremely difficult to photograph, being tiny and always on the move!



Moving helter-skelter about, foraging along the way...



Try to maintain focus under such circumstances!



These birds are tiny, under 5 inches long!



Seen in Big Cottonwood Park in September each year in varying numbers.



Grabbing a morsel whenever possible...



Storing up energy to make the long journey South...



This particular Nashville Warbler was most cooperative!


Bright yellow, with a 'complete' eye-ring...



providing one last brief look...



Only to fly away... (Nashville Warbler- September 2014)








September 6, 2014

The following post is especially for those who visit Big Cottonwood park regularly, answering questions regarding the foxes...

The foxes are alive and well, often seen running around the grounds there.



This one didn't like being photographed.



And "hightailed it" out of sight.



We have a new, perhaps somewhat permanent (until freeze-up) wild duck on the pond, discovered by Deborah Drain.


(enjoying a bath!)















Hopefully the above bird will stay around until it completes its adult plumage as seen on the adult male below!







September 3, 2014

Big Cottonwood's current supply of MIGRATING Vireos:

Plumbeous Vireo



Same bird...



another pose...



Recognition of "First Fall Plumbeous Vireo", from my post for I.D. help, answered by Tim Avery:



Cassin's Vireo (following images):













Warbling Vireo:





Another Warbling Vireo, morning light (following series):