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Birdchick Blog: Fun At Bear River NWR

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Fun At Bear River NWR

I am totally over stimulated, the birding at Bear River is just spectacular. Yellow-headed blackbirds (not a bad digiscope with my binoculars) and marsh wrens are just throwing themselves at you begging to be noticed. I never get tired of yellow-heads! The marsh wrens are throwing me for a loop. I have the Eastern version of the birdPod and the wrens here have a western accent. What's weird is that as I was playing both calls with my windows down and calls playing, the marsh wrens responded to the sound of the eastern sedge wren. Visual observation confirmed that they were in fact marsh wrens and not sedge wrens.

I about peed my pants at all the avocets and stilts running around. I couldn't believe that they just would scurry right in front of my car. The water level is a bit high and I did have to drive through some minor flooding to continue the auto tour.

On Friday I am for sure going to be at the Refuge Headquarters but on Saturday the festivities are moving into the refuge itself. I'm torn: do I tear down the booth, repack and reload at the festivities on the refuge or stay at the headquarters on Saturday? I'm concerned about he flooding. I took the above photo in the morning. When we went over the same patch in the evening the water was a little higher. I don't think my compact rental car can take higher levels of water. I'll just have to decide Friday afternoon.


White-faced ibis are thick in the refuge and would flush just as your car goes by. Betsy Beneke (a legend among bird festival organizers) took all the volunteers at the refuge out for a tram ride on the refuge this evening and it looked as though more ibis had moved in throughout the day. Kenn Kaufman and his wife Kim are here. Kenn is a guest speaker and it was good to see him again. But I feel compelled to warn people that he and Kim are still in that "newlywed phase" and are quite mushy. A piece of advice: if you find them on a trip stealing a quick smooch, saying things like, "You guys aren't going to get gross and mushy are you?" makes them get more mushy with each other. The best defense is to turn away and pish the nearest bird. Those crazy kids!

Speaking of gross and mushy, midges are EVERYWHERE!

I hesitate to bring this up because I don't want it to prevent people from coming, but I feel it must be noted that the midges are quite thick at the refuge. I know some people would be just icked out, but with a few precautions you can enjoy the birds here, relatively midge free or at least midge lite. When I was driving around this morning they weren't bad at all. By around 10:30am, I noticed what looked like dark clouds low to the ground in the distance, it almost looked like smoke. On the first look with my binoculars, I worried they were clouds of mosquitoes but it's been a little to cold for those dudes. The upside is that the midges don't bite and are a fantastic source of food for the birds. The down side is that they are everywhere. Taking an auto tour with your windows up solves the problem and makes for a pleasant day of birding. Besides, the birds don't mind your car and you can get closer to them staying inside, than by walking to them.

I was very excited to see both western grebes and Clark's grebes. I couldn't believe it when a pair from each species swam close enough for me to digiscope a photo with my binoculars! Can you tell the difference? Which one is the Clark's grebe and which one is the western? The western is the grebe on the left that looks like he's sporting a Moe (of the 3 Stooges) haircut.

As if I didn't love pelicans enough already, today I got to appreciate them on a whole new level: thermalizing in front of a mountain range! Absolutely gorgeous. I was going out of my mind when I took the above photo, I couldn't figure out what cool thing to focus on. I had pelicans flying overhead, mule deer frolicking to my right and a Virginia rail clapping to the left--not to mention all the great waterfowl like cinnamon teal, shovelers, ruddy ducks and nightherons. This place is so awesome.

To round out the day, I even got to see a couple of long-billed curlews. This pair started out on the road in front of me, then flushed and I got a photo with my binoculars. Kenn says that you can't tell male and female based on plumage, but based on bill size. Females have longer bills. Okay, Non Birding Bill, I know these are brown birds, but aren't they cool with that massive bill? Even you would be excited to see one of those.

Holy cow, I can't believe how many photos I've posted and I still have a few more that I didn't include. I'll save those for tomorrow. I have to get to bed, tomorrow is a big day. Hope birding is as much fun where you are as it is here. It is spring after all, so it is hard to find a bad bird spot this time of year.

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