Sunday, March 15, 2009

Another visit to Salt Creek - Tundra Swans

(Scroll down for the pics)

Reading the news online this morning, I saw that yesterday was a Tundra Swan viewing day at Bear River Bird Refuge. I immediately decided I would drive up to Salt Creek and see what was there. It is just a few miles from Bear River, and yet relatively unknown. I always have the place to myself. What a glorious success this outing turned out to be. Not only were there thousands of swans, I also saw bald eagles, great blue herons, pintail ducks, mallard ducks, a yellow-billed duck I have yet to identify for sure (Barrow's Goldeneye?), two pair of sandhill cranes (doing a courtship dance!), the usual canada geese, kestrels, redtail hawks, other hawks, one very special specimen of a ring-necked pheasant, meadowlarks singing their hearts out, redwing blackbirds, and one cormorant that should be a typical double-crested, but I swear it was a red-faced cormorant. I saw it up very close but did not get a picture. I must be mistaken as these are only found in the Aleutian Islands and Siberia. Still, it most definitely had a brilliant red face.

Everyone always goes to Bear River, and it seems Salt Creek is my own little secret. It is a wonderful place, feeling so wild and remote, yet you can see farm buildings in the distance. I walked along the dikes a long ways today, but avoided one dike where it looked like canada geese were nesting. I am accustomed now to the deer carcasses placed along the dikes to attract predators and protect nests of the shore birds. I noticed many skeletal remains of a particular small animal, I'd say a muskrat judging from the tail and webbed-clawed feet, the skeletons picked clean.

Here are some pics. The close-ups are just cropped from larger photos. I don't have a good telephoto lens, but took high resolution so the cropping is not too bad. Enjoy (click pictures to view larger).

Hazy day, looking toward the Wasatch Mountains.
Sandhill Cranes, the male doing his ballet-like dance.
Tundra Swans and ducks taking off. They wouldn't let me get closer than a hundred yards or so.
Tundra Swan overhead.
Canada Geese nervous, but not leaving - probably protecting nests.
Promontory Mountains to the west, reflected in the water. Click to enlarge and you will see the birds on the water.
A lone bald eagle almost invisible with a backdrop of snowy mountains.


Jacqui Binford-Bell said...

Wonderful photos. Reminds me of a day on the head waters of the Missouri in South Dakota with thousands and thousands of birds on migration. Do Tundra swans stay there year round or just on migration?

We are now getting Bald Eagles around Eagle Nest lake a few miles from here.

Thanks for posting pictures of your day.

bekkieann said...

The Tundra Swans are just stopping over here and won't stay long. The Bald Eagles migrate too, although we have a dozen or so nesting pairs now around the Great Salt Lake that stay year-round. All the other waterfowl and hawks are mostly here to stay for the warmer months.

This is migration time, however, and we'll see more interesting groups passing through including snow geese and sandhill cranes.

I do get unduly excited about these things. I'm driving up there for a second look today.