Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Smog and Birding

Salt Lake has the worst air in the country right now.  In fact, the air quality is worse than Beijing.  We're in the 11th day of our famous winter inversion that occurs pretty much every January (cold, stagnant air gets trapped in the valleys where pollutants just continue to build up, while clean air and warmer temperatures are found at the higher elevations such as at the ski resorts).  The temperature finally rose above freezing today and I decided I needed to get out of the house.  I headed to Farmington Bay for some afternoon birding.  I saw more people out there than birds.  Everything is frozen solid with very few spots of running water for ducks.  But despite the low numbers and the nasty air, it felt really good to get out of the house.  They are predicting a change in the weather with winds tomorrow to scour out the foul air, and then a big snowstorm charging down on us from the north, with about a foot of snow expected at my house and a return to the sub-freezing high temps.  Well, at least the smog should be gone.

Here are the best photos from today's trip.

Kestrel on a wire.  Looking straight up, the sky looked blue overhead.  I saw quite a few kestrels today.
 Mallards and Pintail ducks talking things over at a tiny spot of unfrozen water.
 Another kestrel, posed nicely against the already snow-laden mountains. 
 A very smoggy day, the view from a small hill looking south at the main dike, you can't see anything of the city or mountains in the background.  Cough, cough.
 A couple of bald eagles in their usual spot.  You can always count on seeing some on this old dead tree.  I saw maybe half a dozen in all today.
 And just some pretty grasses alongside the snow-packed and slick road driving around Farmington Bay.  Some of the other birds I spotted today were several Northern Harriers, some geese flushed by hunters, and a beautiful pheasant pair right by the side of the road (by the time I had my camera ready, they flew and I got one blurry shot of the male in flight).
While out, I got a few groceries and cleaning supplies, expecting to be housebound for the next two days for the snowstorm.  And I bought a bouquet of tulips and a most gorgeous, orchid--a break from being frugal.  The total came to $65, of which $30 was for flowers. 

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