Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Another trip to Antelope Island

I get around to this every two years or so. Antelope Island is a really cool Utah state park located out in the middle of the Great Salt Lake. It rises out of the lake like an eleven mile long mountain. There's a lot of interesting places to hike and things to see, but I came for the migratory birds, and mostly waterfowl.

The causeway that leads out to the island is several miles long and provides a wonderful place to watch birds and take their pictures.  The park really empties out this time of year and I got there as it opened at 7:00.  That meant I could drive down the causeway like a drunken sailor, using both sides of the road and both shoulders.

As you can tell from the sign, finding the birds wasn't that much of a challenge.

Photographing them was.  This was one of my worst photography outings in a long time.  Because birds are small and the distances tend to be long, I used my old, cheap Sigma 80-400 lens, and tried to use the 1.4 teleconverter.  It's been a while since I have used this lens, and now I know why.  While I thought I had some awesome shots, almost all of them came out soft, as if slightly out of focus. I got rid of the teleconverter and that helped, but I am bummed with my results.

On to the birds.  I made my best guesses at what they are.  Corrections are welcomed.

There were a gajillion black-necked stilts.  They were easy to see standing still, but I liked how they looked flying, especially with the reflection.

Here is one standing with three fairly ugly birds.  My guess is white faced Ibis. 

The Ibis also looked prettier flying.

And even better coming in for a landing.

Avocets were everywhere. It took me a while to recognize them in their white-headed form.

All the long-legged birds look so beautiful and awkward at the same time.

Chukar's are an easy find on Antelope Island. I couldn't get a good picture, but this one was in a flock (covey?) of more than 10.  This may be the only species of bird that I have seen that my mom hasn't.

Much easier to photograph: the peaceful Barn Swallow.  There were huge flocks of swallows all over the island.

There were several different gulls.  Franklins was easy to identify, but is this a Ring-billed or a California?  How do you tell?  I have tons of pictures of them.

I thought these were blackbirds, but now I'm not sure.  Yellow chest, but not a yellow head.

They were excellent stunt performers.  Thousands would take off at once and they would cruise around as though joined by a single brain.  They were moving so fast, so close, there should have been hundreds of dead birds from in-flight collisions.

OK, not a bird, but you can't go to Antelope Island without seeing a few Bison.  I saw a number of rogue males, but never did see the big herd.  Maybe I'll try to catch the round-up next month.

And some Pronghorn came meandering along. Very considerate of them.

Tomorrow I will post some other birds that I need help identifying.

Next trip to Antelope Island will be in September.  For that trip I will try my high-end Nikon 70-200 zoom with a 2x teleconverter.  Hopefully that will produce better pictures.  By the way, the nice long lenses start at about $5900 for a 300mm f2.8, up to about $12,000 for a 600mm f4.  That won't be happening without a lottery win.  That's even harder since Utah doesn't have a lottery.

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