Saturday, September 15, 2012

Antelope Island with my mom

My mom is visiting Park City and we decided to do a birding and photography visit to Antelope Island.  The birds are migrating, which is both good and bad.  Some of the interesting ones have left but others are journeying through.  There were thousands of Eared Grebes floating around eating brine shrimp.  I like them because of their Damien-like eyes.  Cute, but with an evil slant.
The thing I can't really capture is the number of birds out on the Great Salt Lake.  They are everywhere.  Flying, sitting, eating, diving, stalking, all by the thousands.
It is sad to see the birds changing to their fall colors.   While the trees get bright and beautiful, the birds no longer need to be sexy for their mates so they switch to their feature equivalents of sweats and a t-shirt.
Our big success was the Burrowing Owls.  I finally found the owls on this trip back in July.  I knew where to look for them but had no idea how lucky we would be.

Almost immediately we found this one, sitting by his (or her) burrow.  I slowly crept up, taking each photo as if it would be the last before the owl bolted.  It was amazingly tolerant of my presence.
Another shot of the same owl.
Once he flew, we got back into the car to drive further down looking for more.  "Further" ended up being about 150 yards.  We discovered this man-made burrow with three owls camped out front. I never saw this back in July, probably because of the tall grass. Fortunately a dry summer and fall months mean flattened weeds.
Mom took some shots and then I tried to get in close.  One by one, they grew wary and flew off.
Across the road we approached the burrow that I had found before. Two owls flew off from it (now totaling 6) but I never go a great shot of them.

As we drove down the road towards the far end of the island, I told my mom that I wanted to photograph a coyote hunting voles.  It turns out that I need to be more specific.  I need a coyote hunting voles closer than 100 yards out.  This one was about 400 yards away.  Sure enough, he pounced and nailed a vole or mouse.  Look closely and you can see it in his mouth. It's a soft, distant fuzzy photo.
Of course, there were the ever-present bison all over the island.  We also saw some Pronghorn, which are now displaying some impressive racks.  It seems that every trip to Antelope Island results in a lot of interesting things to see and photograph.
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