Saturday, November 10, 2012

Antelope Island Highlights October 27

Rich Young is a retired biomedical photographer who started adding birds to his portfolio several years ago. He was extremely generous with his time and talents when I jumped into digital photography in the spring of 2010. I was struggling to align my photography skills with my passion for observing the birds of Utah. I noticed several people who were posting sightings to the Utah birding listservs and groups who were including some really nice photos with their posts. I emailed a couple of them behind the scenes to see if they would be willing to hook up in the field and teach me a little about digital photography. I was hoping that someone could orient me to my brand new Nikon D5000 digital camera. Rich was quick to respond AND he was also a fellow Nikon user. His willingness to get together and share his experience and expertise led to a great friendship. Much of what I do today, including this blog, was enabled and encouraged by Rich.

Female Harlequin Duck Along Antelope Island State Park
Causeway in Davis County, UT (October 2012)
I hooked up with Rich October 27th and spent most of the day at Antelope Island State Park in Davis County, Utah--about 25 minutes north of Salt Lake City. We arrived at the park entrance just as the sun was coming up and it was still quite chilly. We looked for and quickly spotted the continuing HARLEQUIN DUCK on the north side of the causeway that leads to the island.

We had several of these ducks, including one male, show up on the Antelope Island SP causeway last year and they drew hundreds of admiring birders who were eager to see a very rare duck for Utah.
Young Male Harlequin Duck Along Antelope Island State Park
Causeway in Davis County, UT (November 2011)

We spent quite a bit of time photographing BONAPARTE'S GULLS near that same bridge while we patiently waited for the Harlequin to get used to our presence and allow for the close up shots shared above.  The Bonaparte's were fun to watch and photograph because they are beautiful gulls and they were not afraid to fly in and land in the water right in front of us. I captured one image of a gull with a low wall of water forming around it just after it made its landing.
Bonaparte's Gull Landing in Great Salt Lake Along the Antelope Island State Park Causeway in Davis County, UT

As my luck would have it, I received a call on my cell phone from one of my sons as the Harlequin Duck took flight and passed right in front of us. I managed to put down the phone and lift the lens just in time to get one half-decent flight shot. I was a split second too late to get completely honed on the bird, but decided to go ahead and include it in this post since it was a unique view.
Female Harlequin Fly-by Along Antelope Island State Park
Causeway in Davis County, UT

We were watching a HARRIER hunt along the causeway at one point and it flew up toward a KESTREL perched on a pole. The Kestrel took flight with a vole it was trying to enjoy. The Kestrel dropped the vole in the water and then the Harrier hovered over the spot as if it was thinking, "Should I try to retrieve that thing from the water?" A second later it slowly descended to the water, snatched up the vole with a talon, and went away to eat its hijacked meal.

We saw a distant GOLDEN EAGLE, some other typical suspects, and three first-of-season ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS on the island. All three "Roughies" were flying rather high along the road or along the ridge as we drove to Garr Ranch, but I did manage to get one image to include in the web album just because I love hawks and it was a seasonal milestone.
First-of-Season Rough Legged Hawk Above
Antelope Island State Park in Davis County, UT

We saw four or five coyotes throughout the day. One was so close that it wouldn't fit in my frame. I tried to back up and it just walked toward me. That's a first--most wild photo subjects want to go away from me. We encountered a small group of Antelope along our journey from the causeway to Garr Ranch. I've added some photos of coyotes and Antelope at the end of this post.

A large group of boy scouts was at Garr Ranch so we didn't spend much time there. However, seeing a COOPER'S HAWK take flight from a tree near the restrooms was a treat for this raptor lover.

We did a quick check of Jensen Nature Center, also in Davis County, on our way back to our homes. We were able to get a few images of a female Belted Kingfisher and a female Great-tailed Grackle. Below are some images of those two birds and additional images of birds and coyotes from our time on Antelope Island.

Female Belted Kingfisher at Jensen Nature Center in Davis County, UT
Female Great-tailed Grackle at Jensen Nature Center in Davis County, UT
Coyote on Antelope Island in Davis County, UT
This coyote practically walked right up to me while I was taking photos.
Coyote Watching Jeff and Rich Take Photos on Antelope Island
in Davis County, UT
An Antelope, of course, on Antelope Island in Davis County, UT
Antelope on Antelope Island in Davis County, UT


  1. I really enjoyed reading about your trip to the island and your image are very nice. Thank you.