Wildlife photography in Utah is fantastic! Birds of prey are plentiful, especially in the fall/winter months. The diversity of mammals is a primary attraction too. Here are my favorite Utah spots:
NORTH OF SALT LAKE CITY on I-15 (listed from furthest North to closest to Salt Lake City)
- Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City. 12 mile, one-way auto loop. Check open dates/times. Waterfowl, wading/shore/marsh birds, birds of prey. **Note: duck hunting area.
- Beus Pond, Ogden. Wood ducks on pond, Western Screech Owl box, bird seed feeders on trail. **Note: suburban park with lots of people, early is best.
- Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area, Farmington. Check open dates/times. Waterfowl, wading/shore/marsh birds, grebes, birds of prey. **Note: duck hunting area.
- Antelope Island State Park, Syracuse. A MUST-DO in Utah. Bison, deer, coyote, owls, pronghorn, best at dawn and dusk. Birds of prey everywhere; nesting songbirds on rocky outcrops near visitor center; shore birds, gulls, waterfowl along entry causeway; burrowing owls near roads all over island; coyote hot spot in roadside shrubs near Garr Ranch; Great-horned and Barn Owls at Garr Ranch. **Note: entry fee payable by credit card.
- Bountiful Pond, Bountiful. Great-horned & Barn Owls perched in trees by trail at dawn and dusk.
SOUTH OF SALT LAKE CITY on I-15
- Powell Lake, Lehi. Suburban pond with nesting songbirds and migrating shorebirds/wading birds. Herons.
- Utah Lake State Park, Provo. Approaching roads great for nesting migrants, marmot, bird of prey. Lake beach area has yellow-headed blackbirds. **Closed until April 2018.
A few behind-the-scenes photos from past photography adventures:
Arizona is my favorite state for wildlife photography, due to it's proximity to home and abundance of desert species found nowhere else on the west coast. A few of my favorite Arizona spots are:
PHOENIX METRO AREA (listed from north to south)
- Glendale Recharge Ponds, Glendale. Good variety of songbirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, depending on season and level of water in ponds. Check neighborhood backyards from the road for Loggerhead Shrike, Vermilion Flycatchers.
- Portal township. Small town hub for birding this area, including lodging and general store. Get birding hot spot map from general store. Many locals have bird feeders on property and have signs saying "Birders Welcome." Many appreciate a donation of cash, bird seed, or suet. Walk around town streets for Acorn Woodpecker colonies, thrashers, inca doves, quail, javelinas (wild pigs) at night, pyrrhuloxia, varierties of sparrows, arizona woodpecker, mexican jays, ladder-backed woodpecker, cactus wren, juniper titmouse, bridled titmouse,
- George Walker House, Paradise. Historical house with live-in owners who maintain a yard full of bird feeders. Donations towards bird food appreciated, and owners will usually refill bird feeders or put out peanut butter to attract Mexican Jays / Acorn Woodpeckers if you donate upon arrival. Huge variety of song bird species and worth the trip. **Caution: rough roads, possibly impassable by car. SUV or truck recommended.
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California is a big state, so I usually just shoot close to home (Placerville) in the Sierra foothills, or in the valley around Sacramento. There are quite a few National Wildlife Refuges on the I-5 corridor around Sacramento to explore. Some of my favorite California spots are:
- Point Reyes National Seashore, Point Reyes Station, (Peregrine Falcons, raptors, Bobcats, Coyotes, Tule Elk) MARIN COUNTY
- Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, Colusa. Viewing platform and auto loop. (fall: waterfowl/Snow & Ross's Geese) COLUSA COUNTY
- Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, Sacramento (waterfowl / wading birds) YOLO COUNTY
- Mather Regional Park, Rancho Cordova (White-tailed Kites, birds of prey) SACRAMENTO COUNTY
- Woodbridge Ecological Reserve, Lodi (fall: Sandhill Crane migration) SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY
- Marshall Gold Discovery State Park, Coloma (Acorn Woodpeckers) EL DORADO COUNTY
- Taylor Creek Visitor Center, South Lake Tahoe(White-headed Woodpecker, high-elevation birds) EL DORADO COUNTY
- South Tufa Area, Mono Lake (nesting Violet-green Swallows, Loggerhead Shrike) MONO COUNTY
SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY / CENTRAL VALLEY
- Kern NWR, near Bakersfield, very isolated area, nice auto loop (spring: White-faced Ibis, American Avocet, other wading birds, waterfowl, nesting swallows) **mosquito repellent essential at dusk/dawn KERN COUNTY
- Los Angeles County Arboretum, Arcadia (Allen's hummingbirds in the flower beds), Western Bluebirds, other songbirds, warblers LA COUNTY
- Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Huntington Beach (egrets, herons, terns, waterfowl, pelicans) ORANGE COUNTY
- Huntington Central Park, Huntington Beach (good variety of species, waterfowl, Great-horned Owls, Allen's Hummingbirds in secret garden, Western Bluebirds) ORANGE COUNTY
- San Joaquin Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary, Irvine (good variety: waterfowl, wading birds, spring migrants, warblers, hummingbirds) ORANGE COUNTY
- Agua Caliente Indian Canyons, Palm Springs (rattlesnakes, Costa's Hummingbirds, Cactus Wren, Hooded Oriole, warblers, songbirds, White-throated Swifts) RIVERSIDE COUNTY
To get eye-level with wildlife, you often have to lay down in the grass/mud/duck poop! I carry a portable ground mat called a "Monkey Mat" for this reason. White I purchased the original non-waterproof model, I recommend getting this waterproof version:
I learned birding and photography while living in the Portland suburb of Hillsboro, Oregon. The Pacific Northwest has great birding year-round. Some of my favorite spots are:
PORTLAND METRO AREA
- Fernhill Wetlands, Forest Grove (wading birds / waterfowl / Great Egrets / birds of prey / swallows) WASHINGTON COUNTY
- Cooper Mountain Nature Park, Aloha (birds of prey / warblers) WASHINGTON COUNTY
- Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, Tualatin (Bald Eagles, waterfowl, wading birds, warblers, Lazuli Buntings) WASHINGTON COUNTY
- Commonwealth Lake Park, Beaverton (songbirds, Green Herons, waterfowl, Hooded Mergansers) WASHINGTON COUNTY
- Powell Butte Nature Park, Portland (Lazuli Buntings, birds of prey, Coyotes) MULTNOMAH COUNTY
- Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, Portland (Wood Ducks, waterfowl) MULTNOMAH COUNTY
- Pittock Mansion gardens, Portland (summer: Rufous Hummingbirds & warblers) MULTNOMAH COUNTY
- Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach (summer: breeding Tufted Puffins / Common Murres / Harlequin Ducks / Black Oystercatchers) CLATSOP COUNTY
- Fort Stevens State Park, parking lot C & D (shore birds / Brown Pelicans) CLATSOP COUNTY
- Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Camas (birds of prey / warblers / waterfowl / American Bittern) CLARK COUNTY
- Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Ridgefield (auto tour with good variety of everything / Great Horned Owls on Kiwa Trail) CLARK COUNTY
While I don't teach photography myself, here are some talented wildlife photographers I admire that offer tips and tricks on their websites! Check them out!
Scott Keys http://skeysimages.zenfolio.com/blog
Ray Hennessey http://crushedboxphoto.com/online-workshops/
Tin Man Lee https://tinmanlee.com/blogpost/