Some Recent Birds

Six images, six species.

None of these photos is an award-winner but for disparate reasons each one grabs me just a little and I’ll mention why in this post. All of them were taken in the last several weeks.


1/4000, f/6.3, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I usually hear Tundra Swans before I see them and that’s what happened 12 days ago at Farmington when waves of these birds suddenly and unexpectedly flew in from the south. They were my first reasonably close swans of the season and it was wonderful to both see and hear them. The light angle wasn’t a good one so they’re mostly back-lit but seeing my photos of them makes me hear their calls in my head and that awakens my senses and gets my juices flowing (a welcome phenomenon right now at 4:40 AM…).

It was a series of very loud explosions to the south that scared these swans (and several hundred others) up. They were much louder and more concussive than gunfire so I wondered if researchers far out in the marshes were using cannon nets in an attempt to capture some of them for banding and research purposes. The source of the explosions remains a mystery.



1/2000, f/5.6, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

This isn’t my favorite kind of perch but it’s always special to get close to an American Kestrel and this good looking guy allowed me a fairly close approach two days ago in Box Elder County. I like the light on the falcon and the tone variations in the out-of-focus snowy background.



1/1250, f/7.1, ISO 1600, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 328 mm, not baited, set up or called in

This Canada Goose was sleeping through a snowstorm several days ago at a local pond. Normally I’m not fond of closed nictitating membranes or eyelids but in this case I think the closed eyelid was perfect for the situation because in this dismal light (ISO 1600 – sheesh!) it highlights the otherwise dark eye that would be very difficult to see if the eye were open.

And the closed eyelid shows what this bird was doing – trying to endure the storm by sleeping through it. The goose is dead still in the water as snow falls in the background and accumulates on its back.



1/4000, f/7.1, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

For some unknown reason I seldom have opportunities to photograph Horned Larks anymore. I still see some of them around but there just doesn’t seem to be as many of them as there used to be. So nowadays I usually jump at any chance to photograph them when I often used to pass them up. I like this photo of a male because of the singing pose and the erect “horns”.



1/500, f/7.1, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

This is a Pied-billed Grebe eating a small feather it found floating on the water at Farmington a few days ago. I always enjoy photographing behaviors and grebes are known for eating feathers as an aid to digestion. I won’t go into more detail here about why they do it but if you’re interested here’s a link to an older post where I covered that subject in some detail.



1/3200, f/7.1, ISO 320, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I’ll end with a portrait of an immature Bald Eagle taken 13 days ago at Farmington. It’s unusual for me to get anywhere near this close to an eagle of either species so I always enjoy intimate portraits like this one when I can get them. This bird was perched atop a bat box so a close-up like this excludes its ugliness.


My run of bad luck continues. The forecast for today was a dreary one of clouds and snow so after I got my 500mm lens back from Canon (I’d sent it in for repair and a tune-up) I arranged to have all my gear recalibrated to the 500 by my good friends at Pixel’s Foto and Frame. But this morning the weather radar unexpectedly suggests that we may have some good light today for one of the few times in recent weeks and my cameras and lens are “in the shop” and I won’t be able to pick them up until later today.

I hope I’m using up my quota of bad luck so there’s mostly good luck in my future. I could use the turnaround.




21 comments to Some Recent Birds

  • Laura Culley

    Again, thank you!
    Hearing the trumpeting of the swans is lovely. Whenever I hear redtails, Kestrels, chickadees, meadowlarks, and so many others brings a profound joy to my heart. Their songs wipe away my troubles and the concerns of the human condition just for a little while, but enough to get me through the day.
    But uh-oh! The Kestrel is a tiercel–or more precisely, a tiercel Kestrel! The female is the falcon (in that ancient and arcane falconry language). Yes, I know the language has morphed, but the ancient language is far more precise 🙂
    As for the Canada goose, I agree completely. Sometimes it’s best to just let the storm pass by you–one thing is certain. This, too, shall pass. Trying to remember that one now in the human world…it’s trying.
    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a horned lark, so THANK YOU!
    As for the grebe eating a feather, did you know that EVERYTHING that goes into or comes out of a hawk/falcon is a tasty treat for dogs? Sigh…
    As the immy eagle! Babies are just so cool!
    And yeah, I GET the idea of a turnaround! PLEASE!!

  • Jane Chesebrough

    Nice shots., Ron. I wonder if the goose is dreaming about sunny days in the south.I like the sound of a flock of swans , it has been a while since I heard them flying overhead.

  • I am so grateful to be back to see the feathered enchantment you share. Megathanks.
    And fingers and toes crossed your gear stays out of the shop for a looong time.

  • Marty K

    Pessimists of America, uni…oh do whatever the hell you want. 😉

    These are all such great shots! I’ve never personally witnessed swans in flight, so that first picture is a real treat. I don’t know much about feathers, but I’ll take a chance — does the sixth bird back have a gap in its primaries on both wings?

    That Canada goose looks absolutely miserable as the snow accumulates on its back. Poor baby! I’m listening right now to a few of its warmer cousins honking away outside.

    Thank you for including another shot of that gorgeous juvenile eagle too. I could look at him for days!

    • “does the sixth bird back have a gap in its primaries on both wings”

      I believe it does, Marty. They usually lose them bilaterally like that when they molt.

  • Stephen Clayson


    I was curious if you went down to the snow goose festival in Delta this last week. It was an amazing experience for a novice like me to see and HEAR all those birds at once!


    • No, I didn’t, Stephen. I heard through UBIRD that all of them had left by this past Sunday.

      • Stephen Clayson

        We went down from Friday until Sunday and they were still there Sunday morning. Although, some said not as many as in years past. The Ranger said there were about 15,000 this year. I am wading through a couple of thousand shots right now.

        Best, Stephen

  • Susan Stone

    Great series, especially since it includes two of my all-time favorite birds (Kestrel & Canada Goose). I hope your luck does turn around, and that you can have both camera equipment and good light/weather.

  • Frank sheets

    Great series of Shots Ron, all lovely. Your comment about the canon going off and speculating whether some banding was going on reminder me of when I did that years ago with Sandhill cranes on the Malheur refuge in E Oregon. Interesting experience and trying to manage pissed off cranes under a net was a challenge. Those talons are deadly.

    Noticed you sent your gear in for calibration after the repair. Am I to assume you are having the focus checked to be sure it it did not shift during the repair? Just curious, wondering what to expect when (hopefully never) I need to have work done.

    • Frank, I don’t imagine swans would be easy to handle either.

      I wanted my gear recalibrated for two reasons. Apparently calibration can “drift” over time even when everything else is working well and who knows what Canon might have done that could potentially effect my previous calibrations. It’s not like they’re particularly forthcoming with information about everything they’ve done. So I’m just trying to cover all the bases.

  • Dick Harlow

    Love all the shots, but the first one of the Tundra Swans brought back memories! We had to go out West to see my life Tundra Swan back in the 70’s.
    Thanks for sharing, and the power of positive thinking will definitely be good to you!!

    • “the power of positive thinking will definitely be good to you”

      You’re probably right about that, Dick. I’m a pessimist by nature so I have to work hard to think positively.

  • Charlotte Norton

    Wonderful series Ron!

  • Judy Gusick

    Nice collection, Ron – love the sleeping goose. 🙂 Hope you get your equipment back nicely calibrated! 🙂