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Winter Wonderland

posted by Unknown at
on Friday, March 15, 2013 

This past winter was by many standards a cold miserable one here in Utah. The air was bad, people were sick, and it was bitter out there. Though this is all true, there were a few individuals crazy enough to brave it on a regular basis. These crazy people did it with the end game of enjoying one of the finest winter birding experiences nature will ever provide in Utah. I have come to this consensus by hearing this same conclusion from the mouth of other nutty birders like myself. If those reading do not mind indulging me, I would like to share the highlight of what was for me, a great winter.

It all started with the realization that the often visited south and west sides of Farmington Bay would be amazing places to bird if people were allowed to drive out there. A large expansive wetland area exists that the common birder has no access to. The idea of walking out there was planted in my head and grew until I finally decided to act on this inclination. I was rewarded well beyond my expectations. I parked my car at the four way stop and ventured out on what would be a three and a half mile walk into nature.
Here is a map showing the area birded.

I was engulfed by God’s creations. It was a spiritual experience to say the least. To be out there with not a single discernible human sound. Replaced by a chorus of Tundra Swans and waterfowl. Winter bird life flying all around you. Nature being aware of your presence and allowing you, as an intruder, to enjoy its majesty.


Tundra Swans in flight illustrate the beauty savored that day and capturing a runing swan, fighting to achieves lift is a treat.

There were at least 1500 swans on the ice, on the water, and in the air. They were aware of this lone human intruder.  I thanked them for doing nothing more than cautiously walking away from me as I approached.

I almost tripped over this Black-crowned Night-Heron as it yelped at me and flew off. My attempt at being one with nature in this instance was a major failure.


I saw my first of the year American White Pelicans in big numbers (44) out in the middle of all the swans.


It was a treat to see my first Sandhill Cranes of the year flying right over my head as they made there distinct calls. If they hadn’t been announcing their presence I easily could have missed them. The challenge here was deciding what to focus on when you are overwhelmed with bird life.

After walking for about three miles and being a little worn out from tracking through the mud and snow for hours, I found a great spot next to the road where the ice was more open. The highlight of the bounteous duck life and this singular day of birding was this rare Eurasian Wigeon, which put a smile on my face for days.

Though not in their beautiful breading plumage, these Ruddy Ducks are still a handsome bird and it was fun to see about 300 of them. This male Buffelhead and this female Lesser Scaup did not seem to mind that I was there.

I expected to see Bald Eagles but Fifty two! Wow!

I may not be a professional photographer but I love to capture and freeze in time a moment enjoyed looking at a bird or group of birds. A singular moment can be shared and reflected upon.

Below is a list and counts for species seen on my winter birding adventure.

Canada Goose 50
Trumpeter Swan 1
Tundra Swan 1500
Eurasian Wigeon 1
Gadwall 2
American Wigeon 40
Mallard 300
Cinnamon Teal 35
Northern Shoveler 200
Northern Pintail 500
Green-winged Teal 20
Canvasback 45
Redhead 240
Ring-necked Duck 50
Lesser Scaup 200
Bufflehead 25
Common Goldeneye 30
Common Merganser 100
Ruddy Duck 300
Ring-necked Pheasant 1
American White Pelican 44
Great Blue Heron 2
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1
Northern Harrier 2
Bald Eagle 52
Rough-legged Hawk 2
American Coot 25
Sandhill Crane 3
Ring-billed Gull 1
California Gull 800
Herring Gull 50
Loggerhead Shrike 1
Common Raven 5
Song Sparrow 1
Red-winged Blackbird 20
Western Meadowlark 1

36 species and 4,500+ individuals.

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Blogger Jo Ann Natrop said...

Your photos are great and I really enjoyed the narrative. What a special place.

March 15, 2013 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger Oliver Hansen said...

Great post Matt, and awesome pics. Thanks for the recap.

March 15, 2013 at 3:23 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Great pictures! The E. Wigeon was a nice find too.

March 15, 2013 at 3:48 PM  
Blogger Jeff Cooper said...

Great post, Matt. Love the narrative and the images.

March 15, 2013 at 8:17 PM  
Blogger Kenny Frisch said...

Awesome post. I'll know next year to hike out to that spot!

March 15, 2013 at 8:28 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for all your comments.

March 15, 2013 at 11:02 PM  
Anonymous Christine Bastian said...

Incredible! I adore the photo of the Sandhill Cranes! I've only seen them flying once, and only caught a fleeting glimpse of their beautiful red cap.

March 28, 2013 at 11:03 PM  

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