Last weekend I finally traveled outside of the Tri-Cities. And not just to the next county. I ventured all the way to Salt Lake City, Utah. My daughter and I went to visit my son who is a freshman at the U.
We decided to check out a couple of wildlife refuges along the way. Friday's stop was at Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge in Caldwell, Idaho. It was a good rest stop, only a handful of visitors, and there was cellular service so my daughter could attend her online classes.
I walked along the sagebrush trails while she attended her classes. The bees were busy collecting more pollen before cooler fall temperatures kicked in and prepped them for hibernation. Notice the orange pocket, or pollen pants, on this little guy.
We left SLC Monday morning and our wildlife refuge stop was at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, only one hour north in Brigham City, Utah. This refuge is viewed primarily by driving the 12-mile one-way loop. There are observation platforms but on our first stop, I got out of the car and discovered that there were millions of mosquitoes, so it was decided that we'd view with the windows up.
After squishing several mosquitoes that invaded our inner car sanctuary, we headed for the loop drive in search of the white-faced ibis. It was noted on the refuge's web page that the ibis should still be there through the end of September, so I crossed my fingers that we would still find some.
We saw several birds along the drive including white pelicans, sparrows, and western grebes. Our visit must have been between seasons as there were some individuals rather than large flocks. On the last turn of the loop route, I caught a glimpse of a small group of birds along the edge of the pond. With the sun not very high in the sky and the tall grasses blocking light, I could just make out their silhouette. I almost missed them because they blended into the vegetation pretty well. I believe we found the end-of-season stragglers of the largest population of white-faced ibis in Utah.
Because of the mosquitoes, I had to shoot with the lens against the window. And because of the lighting, we can't see the white marking on their face or their red legs and red eyes. While we can see their distinctive curved bill, we can't tell that it is also red. This long curved bill makes it easy to probe the mud in the shallow water for aquatic invertebrates.
I was still quite excited to see this small crew of white-faced ibis. Their habitat range is west through Nevada, Utah, and Colorado, and through the mid-western states from North Dakota to the Gulf of Mexico. They'll spend the winter in Mexico and along the coast of eastern Texas and western Louisiana and then return to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge next April when they'll mate, nest, and raise their young. And when I head down to SLC in the early summer to help my son move from the dorm to an apartment, I'll add some travel time to see the white-faced ibis again. And I'll wear mosquito netting.