January-February 2015






February 25, 2015

Thanks to my friend, Deborah Drain for posting her discovery of another Mandarin Duck at Big Cottonwood Park!

I photographed it late this evening!




Last September Deborah discovered an earlier juvenile male at the park that I also photographed that day (the bird only stayed one day!)

See it below:


Both birds appeared late in the evenings, thus the images suffer somewhat due to marginal light.









February 23, 2015

Although I successfully captured some ideal Red-breasted Nuthatch images earlier (see Feb.5 entry below), those images depicted a bird when he was really agitated, and complaining about me being there.


I took the opportunity to go again to the City Cemetery...

In doing so, I encountered another Red-breasted Nuthatch, this time foraging.

A number of these images showed the back of the bird, which I didn't have:







All the while I photographed, this bird was unaware of me.










February 22, 2015

Red-wing Blackbirds have been vocalizing vigorously in the weed-choked pond at Big Cottonwood Regional Park these days.

I captured several images of one male actively displaying...


Male Red-wing Blackbird vocalizing, along with its traditional display.






A major physical effort is combined with strong vocalization, not easily forgotten by those who view this activity!








February 20, 2015

Only one image posted today, being my first Male Wood-duck from the Jordan River Parkway!

(I've photographed them extensively elsewhere.)

Gorgeous bird, IMHO.









February 18, 2015

The foxes are cruising about in Big Cottonwood Park, providing me with the opportunity to test my new lens!

The 1st of 2 foxes, wandering about, unaware of me...




The 2nd fox, (scruffy tail), with direct eye contact on me!




Another location, (Jordan River Parkway), I photographed the Screech Owl at a time when there was some direct sunlight.









February 16, 2015

A few more birds are being seen in my vicinity these days...


I'd like to bring your attention to the clarity and detail the new Nikon 300mm f4 PF lens is providing me, beginning with this tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet!




I have a tendency to want to magnify these birds by cropping.

However, in doing so, I lose the artistry that good composition provides! Believe me, up close is AWESOME!,

but I'll not bore you with such detail.



This White-crowned Sparrow image has a 3-dimensional look to me!

For me, the bird looks like it could walk off the page and into your room!




I've waited a long time for access to such extraordinary optics!



A male Red-shafted Northern Flicker, getting a drink...



Bright colors are appearing, such as this bright male Lesser Goldfinch.



Another Goldfinch, not so bright...



And a 3rd one pondering whether or not to bathe...




This Dark-eyed Junco has its eye on the adjacent water also!




Poised, ready for a flurry of physical activity yet to come...




There's a bird in there somewhere!!




This went on for quite some time!! Notice the blurred head

(at shutter speed: 1/1250 sec!!)



Just about finished...




Done (and so am I for today).










February 15, 2015

A nice surprise from the Jordan River Parkway...!

A Western Screech Owl!









February 14, 2015

Early Arrival of Hooded Mergansers on Mehraban Wetlands, Draper, UT.

On Wednesday, Tim Avery announced the presence of 5 Hooded Mergansers at Mehraban Wetlands, stating "1 male and 4 female type on the northwest pond...."


Today I went over to document the birds...

beginning with the adult pair...




Another image of them from today...




However, my images serve to clarify the sex of 2 birds mentioned as "female type" because their coloration is similar to females...

The 'flotilla'... among Canada Geese...




Closeup with an explanation...



What you might see at that location...




1st Spring Male Hooded Merganser, stretching, with female to the left.






Female (L), 1st Spring Male (R).




Stunning Adult Male Hooded Merganser adds a 'painterly' effect with its reflection!


NOTE: Earlier in my bird-photography experience, I encountered a
"mystery" Merganser, with its identity clarified by Kristin Purdy, as can be seen (HERE)







February 8, 2015

Spring is in the air!!

A pair of American Kestrels (a considerable distance away) were being amorous, likely driven by the warm, sunny, Springlike day along the Murray/Jordan River Parkway today!

(A series below:)

Female American Kestrel lands on a highest point of Cottonwood Tree



Followed immediately by a male American Kestrel









Male moves to a nearby tree...



Male landing close by.

(BTW, notice his "Alula feathers" used to stall while landing!)




Female shifted to another tree location.









February 7, 2015

I continue to be amazed at the quality provided by my new

AFS Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF (Phase-Fresnel) VR lens.

With cloudy skies to complicate my attempts to test the lens, I had dozens of Cedar Waxwings available as targets.

Below is an image of such a bird...

Camera set at 1/320 sec, f/6.3, 420mm, hand-held.




Here is a 100% cropped section of the above image, showing the remarkable detail provided by this lens!








February 5, 2015

I was reminded, from a dialogue online (UBird) that Nuthatches were being seen with some regularity in the Salt Lake Valley this Winter season.

I followed a link to one location (Liberty Park), and had some success in photographing a TINY White-Breasted Nuthatch!



My new lens performed admirably with this bird as it flitted about, sometimes in sun...




but mostly in shade!





In the shade the bird's white feathers reflect the blue from skylight.







At the moment I captured this image, the bird was in the process of leaping upward, with both feet dangling.




After the shortest time imaginable, the White Breasted Nuthatch disappeared, and I moved on to another location to search for Red-Breasted Nuthatches.

I found one in the City Cemetery!




This bird stayed stationary, providing me with quite a show, vocalizing all the time I shot images!


Again, the camera/lens amazed me with its clarity and detail as the bird ruffled its feathers, along with wing movements.

The light level had become marginal, forcing a slower shutter speed here.






I located another Red-Breasted Nuthatch a distance away.



And I photographed a couple of 'incidental' species such as this Junco.



A bit closer here...




The sun made a brief appearance, with perfect timing, as a Black-billed Magpie decided to land on the trunk of an old Big Cottonwood Tree.

The outcome, spectacular (specular reflection) of feather coloration!









February 4, 2015

Lots of enthusiasm motived me to locate other birds to test the new lens... I ended up at "Sandy Pond", where examples were almost nonexistant.

The images I took will be replaced as better opportunities allow.


On the river I located this male Gadwall, showing excellent detail, even though I was forced to shoot through (out-of-focus) foliage.



Again, the foreground shrubs forced me to manually focus through, to get this image.




On the pond, several Ring-necked Ducks were seen from a great distance.

I collected these images to test the lens' resolution by cropping tightly.

This is a 100% crop

The female was flanked by 2 males here.



The female alone,




Likewise, a male, again, from a great distance.




A male Common Goldeneye appeared on the river, a bit closer, swimming away from me, providing a novel view!




A side-view of the Common Goldeneye male ended my day.











February 2, 2015

My 2nd day with the new Nikon 300mm lens ended up in Big Cottonwood Park where only a few birds were available.

Our Winter Resident Harlan's Redtail Hawk was present!



Spectacular bird from Alaska has visited us for 3 consecutive winters!




More images of the ubiquitous Black-Capped Chickadee...






These birds are difficult to photograph since they're small and always on the move!




The sun began to disappear behind a canopy of thick clouds about the time a male Downy Woodpecker flitted into view!



Gorgeous little bird...!



The sun was quickly disappearing at this point...



Notice with this Cedar Waxwing, the absence of shadows!



The "catchlight" in the eye says it all... deep, heavy clouds diffuse the overhead light!




One last image before surrendering to the failing light...






February 1, 2015

was the 1st day for me to use my new Nikon 300mm lens!

Yesterday was, for part of the day, bright and cold!

The novelty of having my new lens nulled the bite of winter.

Birds were noteably absent at my first stop.

Other areas were slightly more productive; however, I have yet to collect the number and variety I had hoped to post while introducing my newest hardware.

My camera system: Nikon D7100 coupled with a Nikon TC 1.4 ll teleconverter attached to a new model Nikon lens, a "300mm f4/E PF ED VR lens. The outcome is slightly over 600mm (or 6X) magnification.

The system almost immediately proved to be, for me, a marriage made in Heaven!


My posts with this camera system is a work in progress!

I hope to get back outside for a few hours this afternoon to help round out my series of images!

But for now, enjoy this Cedar Waxwing, first of 2 full-frame images:


1st crop from above frame:



Ultra close-up crop to demonstrate fine feather detail!




Here is a 2nd series, different 'pose'




1st crop:



Ultra close-up!



The next cooperative bird for my new system was a Audubon's Yellow-Rumped Warbler in its 'winter plumage'.



The series illustrates the Warbler foraging on Russian Olives.



You can certainly see why the birds are called: "Yellow-Rumped"....




Birders have nicknamed them: "Butter Butts"!







Birds were scarce during my 1st field trip, so a Bird in Flight was a big-time rarity. This airborne American Kestrel became available.



While this one quietly sat, scanning the ground below.





My next bird encounter was with a diminutive Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

that was ever so active!






The Ruby-Crowned Kinglet finally displayed its 'crown'!



A 2nd Ruby Crowned Kinglet appeared, high atop the trees.




The final birds that appeared for photography were Black-Capped Chickadees, all with 'puffed up' feathers to fend against the cold!









The last of the first images from my new lens!




The Chickadees, Warblers, and especially the Ruby-Crowned Kinglets were difficult subjects since they were always on the move!


From now on, my bird images will be captured with the aforementioned camera system... I'm amazed and humbled by this technology!



As of February 1, I'll be using my new Nikon 300mm f4 lens exclusively.








January 27, 2015

Below are more of my current attempts to improve "low light" photography with older lens technology.

January days often have low clouds (Stratus) blanketing an already dim sun (due to winter distance and angle).


Black-billed Magpie full-frame image:




Cropped image:

(example of "Low-Light/Low-Key" photography)




Example of Low-Light/High-Key photography:




Now I shift to waterfowl currently at

Willow Pond: Murray/Jordan River Parkway, UT., beginning with: Northern Shoveler pair.




The female decided to stretch.




Speaking of birds stretching, see the male Red-head Duck (with mate) below as he does some gyrations also.















Low light levels, requiring high ISO light sensitivity settings!






Same day, a flotilla of Ruddy Ducks, with some exhibiting plumage transition to 'Breeding Males', especially the male to the right.



Closeup of male...




Extreme closeup of male on a dark January day!




For some of you who aren't familiar with this male duck, this is how a male Ruddy Duck will look in its "breeding plumage" on a sunny day in April!




Another flotilla, this time with "Pied-Billed Grebes" at Willow Pond




Moving away from Willow Pond, I meandered over to the river (Jordan) as the afternoon light continued to diminish in intensity.

On the way I encountered an American Kestrel with his prey...




Along the river, the low light level forced me to set my camera to ISO 4000, which still provided satisfactory results!




Here I discovered a male Cinnamon Teal keeping company with a male Mallard.




Note, the Cinnamon Teal, while walking, apparently has no shadow due to low light levels!



This airborne Shoveler image was captured at 1/1250 sec./f11,

ISO setting of 4000!






Northern Shoveler pair, cruising the river.



They position themselves to forage as "Dabbling Ducks" do!




By submerging (tipping forward) to reach aquatic plants in the shallow water!




Here are 2 Shovelers, one on the left is a "First Spring Male Shoveler"; and the other is an adult female.



Here we see (foreground) a 1st Spring Male Common Goldeneye with a pair of Northern Shovelers in the background.




I wish to stress that all these images were successfully captured under the most extreme low light conditions prevailing!

Female Common Goldeneye (L) 1st Spring Male Common Goldeneye (R).




2 Adult male Common Goldeneyes for comparison




Gadwall Ducks (Female-L) (Male-R) are well represented on the Jordan River at this time of year.




A classic male Gadwall cruising...




A 2nd male Gadwall vocalizing at the male (L), in the midst of females.



Gadwalls on land.




Here is a favorite of mine, a small duck, the showy

male Green-Wing Teal!













And, finally, as the late afternoon light extinguished, a cluster of Northern Shovelers bid adieu...













January 22, 2015

Birding has been a bit difficult since our days have been admixed with SUNSHINE...and clouds...

(Sunshine and Merlin, Big Cottonwood, 1-18-15)





(American Crows-Big Cottonwood Park)




(On such dark days, the light level is so low that one can only see shadows when an object is moving!)

During such days, I've been honing my skills, using an obsolete Nikon 80-400 telephoto lens (15 years old!, the first Nikon lens with image stabilization called, "VR").

I'm working to develop a more successful method for bird images in such dismal light. An example is seen below

(Cedar Waxwing in the rain).




2 steps here:

1. lighten up the image and...




2. remove distracting twigs...


Another example: My first Bohemian Waxwing, (Big Cottonwood Park, Dec. 2012) on a dark, stormy day. The bird was in flight with an olive in its mouth, and was obscured by twigs!



I'm skilled in using Adobe Photoshop which helped me create a once-in-a-lifetime image from the original!









January 16, 2015

Hurray, the sun was shining yesterday,albeit hazy conditions prevailed.

I decided to check out Big Cottonwood Park to see whether the Harlan's Redtail hawk was still visiting there.

I was not disappointed!



The bird persevered all the weeks of noise and tree destruction.




And yesterday, at the park, I experienced a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to photograph a flyby OSPREY (V-22)...

















Wednesday, January 14, 2015

This morning, as our weekend storm proceeds eastward, it leaves us with clear blue skies (and, at the highest pinnacles of our Rocky Mountains, a fierce wind!)

I'll be leaving shortly to enjoy a walk with my camera hoping to see a few birds (they've been few and far between where I've been!)

Wish me luck!



WOW! I didn't get out the door before the valley experienced a major environmental change, seen in this mountain image below!

The noontime Weatherman said we're in a healthy (thus far) temperature inversion, due to low-lying Stratus clouds (think coastal Marine Layer!) being trapped by warm, sunny conditions above the clouds!

SMOG will be the final outcome as the days progress!

I'll try for another day later.







January 8, 2015


Addendum Concerning Repeat Appearance of Hybrid Male

Mallard X Pintail On South Jordan portion of Jordan River!

(I will continue my ongoing posts regarding Bald Eagles, but these incidents are exciting to me!)


On January 13, 2014 I discovered a rare Male Mallard X Pintail hybrid as seen below, on the Jordan River, near Sandy Pond:

Details and extensive images I collected at that time can be seen (HERE)




Yesterday (Jan. 6, 2015), Bryant Olsen posted images of (presumably) the same bird, located at the approximately same location!

See Bryant's current images (HERE)


To me, it's remarkable that the bird would come back to the same area 1 year later!




January Bald Eagle Series... (now complete 1-11-15)

The time for Bald Eagles to concentrate amidst the "Wetlands", such as Farmington Bay WMA, is upon us.

For 10 years, I've celebrated the earliest indication of Spring, as Eagles (plus Tundra Swans and Snow Geese) make their appearance, usually in signficant numbers peaking in early February!


Utah's "Bald Eagle Day" is tentatively set for Saturday, Feb. 14 this year. Information will be announced later by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.


My first years of photographing eagles were rewarded by having eagles fly overhead, usually against a clear, blue sky!




It was relatively easy to capture various airborne birds' images in this manner...



Occasionally, a stray juvenile would appear...



The birds were seriously looking for food, hence their head would often angle downward...






(Same bird as above, only now directly above me.)







After posting a sizeable number of such images, a friend responded and politely suggested that I look for something other than blue sky for a background!



That was relatively easy to do... just wait for a cloudy day!






Sometimes the bird would cast its own shadow, shading its body.




I realized my friend had a cogent point with his criticism, and I began to look even further for variety.







Next time, I'll post other examples that serve to 'break up' the monotony of such birds in flight.




(Jan. 5)

And here is a series to do just that... For variety, I 'focused' on low-flying birds, with water as my background.

This particular bird was looking for a meal!




Notice the out-of-focus perched eagle in the background here.



This series only took seconds to complete!



Fish on the RADAR!...













Fun stuff to photograph!!!!



Final image...




The birds would sweep in from any angle to snag a fish, such as the 2 below...






More examples illustrating variety are being posted below...


(Jan 6)

Another form of variety exhibited by Bald Eagles at Farmington Bay WMA is seen below, when a 2nd bird in flight sneaked up from behind...






Apparently no harm was done...







(Jan. 7)

Group Behavior...

The Bald Eagles at Farmington Bay occasionally fly in groups




Here there were numerous birds, some of which are out of the frame!



Perching also occasionally is done in groups (17 Eagles here!)



Access to these birds was limited, Backlighting was the only option.



On an overcast day, some detail was present.







Here we see a perch that was present for a number of years.




Finding birds alone was sometimes difficult...



With this one being a favorite for me.



(Jan 11)

Of course, the birds also rest upon the ice/mud adjacent to the bay...




An adult, followed by a juvenile




A closeup of an adult on ice.



A gang of birds arrive...



But one of most picturesque areas when the birds cooperate is here, west of the dike where the airboats launch.



Sometimes the area gets somewhat crowded.




Closeup of a group...



With one leaving...