A Christmas Morning Tradition

I guess Mia and I are just oddballs. Our respective families live far away in other states, we no longer believe in Santa Claus (at least I don’t think Mia does but I’ve never really pressed her on the subject), virtually everyone else around here stays home on Christmas morning to open their presents and/or sleep in or be with family, we both detest crowds and we’re seriously addicted to bird photography.

So, given those parameters what would you do on Christmas Morning?

Yup, we go out looking for birds.This time of year it’s always a long shot for decent light because of cloudy weather, fog or storms and more often than not we don’t get any photos to be particularly proud of. But we usually have our favorite places to ourselves (even most of the duck hunters stay home in case there’s a new shotgun under the tree) and occasionally we get lucky with birds. But even if we don’t the experience of being “out there” in the quiet and solitude is always memorable because we’re blessedly alone with nature and whatever she might present to us, good photos or not.

And there’s something about the sound of tires squeaking on fresh virgin snow in wild and quiet places in the early morning that stirs our souls.


1/1600, 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

We found this Barn Own sleeping in the phrags at Farmington on Christmas 2015. The refuge was slightly socked in with fog that morning so even with fresh snow on the ground to reflect any light available it was pretty gloomy for photography.



1/1250, f/5.6, ISO 1600, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

We also found this male American Kestrel cleaning his toes after an apparent meal. There were a few other birds that Yuletide morning but the dismal lighting conditions made quality bird photography close to impossible. But we were out there and enjoying ourselves in the relative solitude so that’s what really mattered.



Other Christmas mornings are nothing short of glorious. This was Bear River MBR early Christmas morning 2012. It was cold, crisp and clear and the snow-covered Promontory Mountains in the background set off the refuge spectacularly. Except where water was running briskly the canals and most of the ponds were frozen solid so birds were relatively scarce but the experience was still delightful.



1/2500, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

We did find this near-adult Bald Eagle on the ice and it was close enough for decent photos. Here it had raised its wings in anticipation of takeoff but the bird changed its mind and settled back down on the ice again. We soon left it in peace.


As I type this in the dark at 3:38 AM Christmas morning there’s fresh snow on the ground that fell during the night but it’s still cloudy. The usually deeply buried optimist in me just checked the weather radar and it looks like we could have clearing soon after dawn so I imagine in a few hours we’ll head out and see what we might find regarding light and birds. We may be bird-skunked but we’re likely to enjoy ourselves anyway and that’s what really matters. Besides there’s a tradition to maintain…

But I’ll admit something. I always find it ironic that I spend my Christmas mornings in pursuit of nature and the birds I love and then come home and chow down on a Christmas bird for my holiday dinner. Go figure…

Whatever you do for your Christmas tradition I hope it brings you great joy and you’re among loving family and friends if that’s your preference. I know that a few of my readers are struggling right now with some of the trials of life but I sincerely hope Christmas brings you at least a brief respite from your challenges.

Merry Christmas everyone!


Note: Occasionally I include a landscape image in my posts that’s significantly larger than my other photos (1200 pixels on the long side instead of 900) as I’ve done here with the Bear River landscape. I do that for the extra detail it provides on larger screens but doing so may cause issues for readers on smaller viewing devices. If that’s the case I won’t do it in the future. Please let me know if it causes you problems.



49 comments to A Christmas Morning Tradition

  • Charlotte Norton

    Marvelous shots and I’m a touch envious. Souns like a glimpse of heaven.


  • Alice Beckcom

    Ron, I just love your stories as well as your fantastic photos to go with them. You really made me feel Christmasy’, if there is such a word. My husband and I are alone today….speaking to family by phone and opening the presents they sent.

    Hope you and Mia have a wonderful holiday and wish your readers the same. Quite a good bunch, if you ask me!!

    Merry Christmas

  • Pat Henson

    Merry Christmas to you and all the participants.

    I’m spending Christmas in the loving company of my rescued companion dogs and cockatiels. Ah, fur and feathers!

  • Shirley

    Well Ron, you get a second Merry Christmas wish from me. but today I will send one to Mia as well. My sister & I are two old maids, me being 69(yikes) in 4 days and Sis is 76 and still works. We are not into crowds & enjoy just relaxing on Christmas and who knows, we may go out & see if we can find some birds to take pictures of although lately we have been skunked. I have built some Osprey nests with white PVC pipe so the other day all I got for pictures was my first nest with a blanket of snow on it. I loved your pictures today including the scenic one, & thank you for posting these on Christmas Day for us. For anyone that may have missed it, I wish you all a Merry Christmas & Christmas hugs to all.

  • This single comment will have to be my response to all the comments made after I left this morning because I’m super rushed for time after getting back late from our morning shoot and all the chores I have to do for holiday dinner prep. Thanks so much for all the kind words and holiday wishes everyone!

    This morning was a mixed bag. The clouds at Bear River never did clear out so the light wasn’t very good and most of the time birds were slow. HOWEBER, in the only productive session of the morning I fired off over 500 shots in an estimated 2-3 minutes as I photographed some fascinating behaviors involving at least three species of birds. They’re still downloading and in that light I don’t know if any of them are even close to sharp but I’m very anxious to see them.

    If they’re any good (at best they’ll only be documentary quality) you may be seeing some of them soon.

    Thanks again to all who commented. Enjoy the rest of Christmas!!!

  • Merry Christmas Ron! I look forward to your posts every day!

  • Merry Christmas to you and your family Ron. We have never had the pleasure to meet but wanted you to know I enjoy your daily posts from afar. They
    are appreciated!

  • When you find people who not only tolerate your quirks but celebrate them with cries of ME TOO, cherish them. These weirdos are your tribe.
    A paraphrase but it sums it up well for me.
    And this weirdo would LOVE to be able to head out at dawn with you. Christmas morning. Or any morning. Love those images. Each and every one of them. And wish you and Mia and indeed all of your tribe of weirdos the very best of Christmases.

  • Larry Muench

    Wishing you the merriest of Christmases and a New Year filled with lots of beautiful “sticky” birds! Thanks for all of your wonderful and enlightening prose and the amazing photography. Makes my day, every day!

  • Susan aka Blue

    Thank you Ron and Mia for your photos and stories. With appreciation and a Merry Christmas!

  • April Olson

    Lovely photos of favorite places. How was it this morning. I thought about going out to FBWMA but I have not put my snow tires on yet and the roads at my home have about 4 inches of fresh snow and are unplowed.

    Your Christmas traditions are not odd. For 10 Years my daughter Haley and I would go to Ogden to the rehab for every holiday morning to help feed, and clean. We were part of the holiday and Sunday crew. On Thanksgiving and Christmas I’d throw a turkey in the oven and head off to Ogden, spend 6-8 hours with our rehab family, everyone was in festive moods while we worked, and celebrated with second family, human and feathered. We would come home tired to a hot meal, guests and presents. I still miss the camaraderie we had, especially the years we all crammed into a small shed with no running water and a leaking roof at our original rehab building. Adversity can make for closeness. If you are ever interested in seeing some old photos of what we worked in I can send you a few.

  • John Sherrill

    Although I live in California ,I have had the opportunity to visit your favorite sites during the last year. Now,when you post your beautiful pictures ,they have a familiarity for me that makes them even more appreciated. Thank you, John

  • Barbara

    Merry Christmas and thank you for sharing. Love the eagle picture especially. I follow a pair of nesting eagles here in Florida

  • Merry Christmas to you and Mia.

  • Love the birds, especially the sleepy Barn owl, but it’s the empty road, stretched out ahead, that got to me…the allure of that view has always lead me astray….they don’t call me “Detour” for no reason”! Yes, you and Mia are definitely odd balls, but of the best kind!!!

  • Diane Bricmont

    Here’s to hoping the tradition continues for many, many years! Your blog post is generally one of the sweetest spots in my day- thank you, thank you thank you!

  • Trudy Brooks

    Merry Christmas Ron. Love the pictures and I have no trouble with the size of pictures on my laptop, so you are fine. I too am alone, like many other people and will go out and have dinner at the Senior Center. No bird today, just roast beef. I miss the turkey and left overs. You and Mia have a Wonderful day and happy shooting!

  • Susan Stone

    Christmas has always been a difficult time for me, so I appreciate your choice to go out and be in nature. That is the way to find peace. And being in nature would be my first choice on just about any day, but especially Christmas. I think your writing this post must have been what made it difficult for me to sleep between 3:30 and 4:30 AM… I hope your excursion is bountiful with birds and beauty.

  • Diana

    Ron. Maybe you are just a bird eater like the peregrine.
    Nothing personal.
    The raptors I feed today will have day old chicks and some mice and rats.
    Thanks again for your work

  • Joanne OBrien

    Happy Christmas Bird Photography and Watching to All! Ron, we are having a mini white-out at the moment here in Mass. But when it stops (which it is predicted to do) we will be out and about, heading toward the shore. – looking for birds and wild weather to photograph and enjoy . You are not alone in your pleasure, but perhaps a tad more skilled at it 🙂 Thanks again for a year of beautiful pictures.

  • Laura Culley

    What a joy it is to wake up this morning to a glorious sunrise, then reading your blog with all its incredible beauties, reading others’ comments (and WOW, you have the coolest followers, too! Go figure! Birds of a feather and all.). So many of your responders this morning have hit the proverbial nail on its head! No thumb bangers here! What a blessing y’all are. Thank you!
    And thank you Ron. I so appreciate your integrity, your honesty, and your outrageous talent for operating a camera. As for the oddball thing, count me in too! I love the major holidays for pretty much the same reasons as you. I can go out by myself, often with Jack or Mariah, and just enjoy the magics of The Great Out There without all the noise of humans–and we are a noisy lot, aren’t we? I love being out there, never knowing what blessings the day might bring and bathing in its sheer glory. The serenity of a crisp new snowfall is one of my top 10 favorites of hanging out on this spinning rock.
    All your nits aside, these images are wonderful! All it’s missing is a soaring redtail, the sun filtering through its outrageously beautiful red tail feathers, wings open and WOW! That’s my hands-down, all-time favorite color! Crayola never made that color and it’s beyond their capability. It’s sheer MAGIC! I was blessed with that sight yesterday from the female of the wild redtail pair as I waited for it to be safe to let Jack out of the car! She and her mate hate it when I arrive at that field and they both skedaddle out of my sight rapidly. Granted, that’s not far, but… I’m sure in a month or so, they won’t be so quick to get out of town when they find a place to set up housekeeping.
    HAHAHA! I wonder if I’ve just added something to your to-do list? 😉 Have you ever photographed looking up?
    Wishing you, Mia and everyone here a splendid day filled with blessings, joys, peace, serenity and just happy times! I look forward to seeing your Christmas 2017 goodies!

  • Marina schultz

    Merry Christmas !! I’m going out too!! I celebrate Christmas Eve and since most my family is back east I invite people like me who have no one to celebrate with ! Everyone brings s dish and we have mulled wine and sing Christmas carols! .. good luck today

  • Robert (RJ) Davis

    You made me smile describing yourself and Mia as (Christmas) oddballs. If mixing bird passion, talent, generosity and humor makes up an oddball, then roll on! Have a wonderful morning no matter what nature presents you. All the best in the new year!

  • Len Boeder

    Merry Christmas Ron,
    You and Mia bring Joy to my day every day of the year!! Thank you

  • Mary

    Love to see your ‘Christmases past.’ I’m a loner, so your bird morning sounds heavenly. iPhone had no trouble with the photo, but I do have wifi. (I have never noticed a problem with viewing your photos, as long as I don’t activate ‘view full website,’ and forget to go back to ‘view mobile site!’)

  • Just returned from visiting a nearby wetlands where I had a Christmas morning serenade from 12 Sandhill Cranes. Sora rails were calling back and forth among the reeds. Little Marsh Wrens chattered with their tough guy attitudes. Yes. Count me in. Another oddball.

    “… there’s something about the sound of tires squeaking on fresh virgin snow …” Okay, I’m not likely to hear that sound. But we did have a cold front last night with refreshing rain showers and this morning it was 52 degrees! Probably won’t make it past 69 all day.

    That Barn Owl! Perfect shrouded by the soft snow. The landscape and eagle – sublime. One of my favorite birds, the Kestrel! Yours obviously can read the sign that very clearly says “Breakfast Served Fresh Daily Right Here”!

    Happy Holidays y’all!

  • Wishing you all and and all of yours a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

  • Judy Gusick

    Merry Christmas to you and Mia and cheers to your glorious Christmas morning tradition! 🙂 🙂 Wonderful set of photos from Christmas morning past – hope it’s another good one this morning. We’re at zero so I’m not interested in getting out there! Your photo’s and missives bring smiles and education always.

  • Dick Harlow

    If you and Mia are odd balls, than so am I. Yup, my family would agree with that!
    Nature is my life, wild, remote used to be my passion. In some ways I feel I’ve been roped and trained.
    But, that is all in the past, but I still long for it.
    I have to be honest here, your photographs and comments make my day whether I respond or not! Your excellence and honesty is truly admired!
    We all are looking forward to a new and eventful 2018.

  • elizabeth sawin

    Merry Christmas, Ron … with appreciation for all of your wonderful photographs. After several days of bleak neon gray skies in Saint Joseph, the sun came out after a night time snowfall. We have a white Christmas now with temperatures at 20 degrees above zero. Do you go birding even in very cold weather?

  • Marty K

    I do miss those quiet mornings after a snowfall when the entire landscape is still and pure. Thanks for letting me live it vicariously through your photographs and words. All the best to you, Mia, and this fantastic blog community. And for the record, I see nothing wrong with “bookending” your day with birdies. 🙂

    • “I do miss those quiet mornings after a snowfall when the entire landscape is still and pure”

      A lot of folks never have that experience so they don’t know what they’re missing, do they, Marty!

  • Alan Schroeder

    Merry Christmas 🎄

  • Sybil Latham

    Merry Christmas to you and Mia! Thank you for another year of wonderful photographs. Your efforts are appreciated and loved! Cheers for the New Year!….Sybby

  • Debbie

    You are not an oddball, you have a passion that calls to you no matter the day. These photos are awesome and thanks fo including Barnie, my favorite owl. Merry Christmas Ron!

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>