Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My first trip to Farmington Bay

There are so many places around Utah to shoot pictures, and lots of them are close by.  The Utah Division of Wildlife has a Waterfowl Management Area called Farmington Bay.  These wetlands are home to almost 200 species of birds during the year and one of the best known is the wintering Bald Eagle.

So Jasper and I piled into the truck with all my camera gear, tripods, binoculars, and telescopes.  It's about a one hour drive from home, about 15 minutes this side of Antelope Island.  We were going to wait for the temperature to climb over zero before we left, but it was getting late.

Before we even got to the wildlife area, we ran across a farm with horses and this thing.  Smaller than a normal horse and a lot shaggier.  It looked like some form of prehistoric pony.  Jasper got out of the truck and went to visit with him her  it.
I'll get right to the main point.  It was a bit of a disappointment.  I was hoping for boatloads of eagles.  I got exactly one, and he was a long ways off.  That is one more than I normally see in a day (or month) so I guess I should be happy.
I tried slowly sneaking up on him, but then a pickup truck went whipping by and he flew off.
To make up for the lack of eagles, there were hawks everywhere. This is a Harrier.  Ninety-nine percent of them were hovering over the marsh, hunting, but I caught this one lounging around.
Gulls are simple and common, but this photo came out really well.  Double-click on it to see it bigger.  I love all the curves of the wings and the tail.
I ran across this Yellow Headed Blackbird on the edge of the road.  He was just hopping around enjoying the sunshine.
To get this shot, I was literally hanging out the truck window, as was Jasper.  I could have just given the camera a little swing and smacked him.  I'm pretty sure he is slow enough that one of the hawks will eat him before the week is over.
The sparrows were very active trying to dig around the frozen ground for food.
He was just posing so much I wanted another shot of him.

On to the waterfowl.  I haven't figured what this one was, but he clearly decided that the water was warmer than the air.  He would be up for about 10 seconds...
... and then back down he went for about a minute at a time.
These were my favorites though. The two with the black heads are American Coots.  The little brown one is a duck.  OK, I haven't looked him up yet.
This Coot learned that landing on the ice was considerably trickier than landing in the water.  He slidfor about 5 feet, flailing as he went.
Once he settled in, he was a master of balance, even in a strong, cold wind. 
This lucky guy found a spare fish floating on the edge of the water, so he drug it up the boat landing. Yummm!  You just can't beat a decaying fish-cicle.
The little ducks were as cute as they could be.  They were all just little puffballs floating along.
And for some artsy puffballs, they drifted into the reflections of the marsh grass.
I saw other birds that I couldn't manage to photograph. My favorite was the Ring Necked Pheasant sitting in a distant tree. They normally hunker down in the grass.

This will definitely require a return trip during different seasons of the year. Like Antelope Island, this is a huge area for the migrating birds, so spring and fall should be very interesting.
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