A Meadowlark Puffball In The Snow

This Western Meadowlark made me do a double-take.


1/4000, f/7.1, ISO 500, 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 don’t recall having ever seen a bird more puffed up than this. Even though it wasn’t really all that cold that morning the meadowlark was obviously trying to keep warm in the snow so it erected its feathers about as far as they would go – to the point that the bird’s body, minus head, is actually significantly wider than it is tall. At first glance the dimensions of the bird appear to be so distorted that to me it almost looks like the image has been compressed vertically.

I wish we had this much snow now but sadly we don’t – this photo was taken on Antelope Island just over two years ago. We had our first big snow-dump of the winter a week ago but nearly all of it in the valleys is now gone. Our temperatures are more like early April than January and that trend is forecast to continue for the foreseeable future.

Birds have been unusually scarce all winter and I attribute that, at least in part, to climate change.



There’s more snow in the mountains of course but the snowpack there is much less than normal. Yesterday morning I traveled west to the Stansbury Mountains in a quest for birds and light but I was mostly skunked in both arenas. In 3+ hours of (attempted) shooting this partial light on the Stansburys was the only decent light I encountered until the last half hour and the only photos I got of birds were three shots of a Rough-legged Hawk in poor light taking off away from me. They were deleted.



The only ray of hope seems to be the female Peregrine Falcon I’ve seen a few times near the Jordan River. Late in the day yesterday we found her again on top of this ugly power pole. Sometime soon I’m hoping to find her on a natural perch or feeding on prey on the ground for better photo-ops.

If we’re not going to have any real winter this year I’m already looking forward to spring and that’s sad.




22 comments to A Meadowlark Puffball In The Snow

  • Laura Culley

    I know it’s no consolation, but we’re not having winter here, either! On the upside, t-shirt hawking is good…mostly. But on the downside, there’s going to be hell to pay (quite literally) as the weather patterns continue to deliver warmer-than-it-should-be heat. Like Dick said, I’m waiting for November with hopes high. Failing that, I’ll take comfort in the fact that I’m old now so I won’t have to see the culmination of our folly/hubris. Or at least I hope I won’t.

  • Dick Harlow

    Since birds have a higher metabolism rate than we do, I can just imagine the heat in the air gaps under those puffed up feathers, in both the Meadowlark and the Peregrine. Love the shots, and here’s wishing more snow for Utah! I’ve ranted enough about our involvement in global warming. Nothing will be positive with this current administration, which leaves November to see if people want a change. Otherwise, if we live long enough, we wait to see our coastal towns flooding and fires inland, a sad commentary!

    • Dick, what you said about their high metabolism also partially explains their high demand for food in order to fuel that “fire”. I always snicker when someone says “he/she eats like a bird” when what they’re really saying is that they “eat like a pig”. 🙂

      • Dick Harlow

        Most people just don’t know that birds have a higher than human metabolism, produce a lot of heat. Just a lack of knowledge or the information isn’t pushed enough by nature media.

  • Alice Beckcom

    Very nice images, Ron. Where is winter?

  • Marina schultz

    Well last year we had record snowfall and a huge die off to our ungalates so I’m glad they are having an easier winter .. I don’t deny climate change but record temperature highs for my area is still over 100 years ago in 1888 it was 114 here ..in 1904 it was 70 here in feb when I came to Colorado in 198O I wore a tea shirt in January .. so I’m not seeing the change inland but I know oceans are increasingly rising .. and our polar caps are melting and coral reefs are dying … I’m in total agreement that we are screwing up the environment .. but who caused ice age???? Not us?? we do need rain this spring don’t need a drought after a dry winter .

    • Marina, personally I have no doubt that current global warming (climate change) is largely anthropogenic. I support the science and the overwhelming majority of scientists in the field of climatology who agree on that conclusion, despite the contrary and disingenuous claims of partisan politicians and “news” sources with obvious agendas.

  • Frank Sheets

    Love het Meadow Lark.

  • Marty K

    It was 90 yesterday and supposed to be almost as warm today with red flag warnings going on. Your landscape picture is beautiful — for April. I keep hoping that winter will come eventually.

    That meadowlark does NOT look happy, poor thing. Glad you found your falcon yesterday. Hopefully, she’ll stick around for a while.

  • That is one puffed up W. Meadowlark Ron! Nice image.

    Your post is good, it is a wake up call, I hope, to many. Things are way out of whack… I think most people just think “great, it is beautiful weather and we do not have to deal with cold and snow…”. The wildlife, or lack thereof, though is serious and scary. I think the winter in the west this year so out of kilter that the wildlife do not know what to do. At first I thought, “less harsh conditions, easier on the wildlife”. I am seeing much less though of raptors in places where they wintered every year, less coyotes, bobcats, rabbits, and owls. The owls in particular have really seemed to vanish in areas where they were seen every winter, and almost every day.

    The forests at high altitude are dry as a bone. First thought, no snow — easy hunting for owls. No owls though…

    I feel like I am in shock and just not really acknowledging the real impacts… we are past the point of this being a threat to wildlife, the climate impacts have already happened. It will take things to reach a full on disaster until we humans (in the USA) actually start doing something to mitigate things. Sad for the wildlife and nature.

  • Charlotte Norton

    Wonderful shots Ron!


  • Patty Chadwick

    Interesting images. That Meadowlark is all puffed up against the cold or it’s about to blow up….

  • Judy Gusick

    Both the Meadowlark and falcon look miserable. That is a sorry amount of snow for this time of year…. 🙁 West of the divide they’re doing pretty good but we aren’t much better than you east of the divide…………

  • Elmer Deloso

    Having moved to FL to escape the snow for good, this photo of the Meadowlark would be worth it getting out in frigid temperatures. Thank you for sharing.

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