Winter Birds of Red Butte Garden

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

Last Sunday while at the Red Butte Garden annual holiday open house, I abandoned my booth for a couple of forays out into the wintery garden in hopes of seeing and photographing birds. To my surprise I saw nine different species of birds within about twenty minutes.

I'm guessing that the gardens create a rare concentration of winter food, based on my experience that bird sightings in the Salt Lake City foothills are infrequent this time of year. At least, I haven't seen that kind of variety of birds in one place at one time in any of the other locations I've gone looking this time of year.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing, Salt Lake City, Utah

One morning in early June as I contemplated heading to the mouth of Emigration Canyon for a quick birding expedition, I noticed a commotion in the mulberry tree adjacent to and overhanging my back yard. Apparently the mulberries were at their peak of appeal to the neighborhood birds.

The commotion was twenty or so American robins battling for control of the tree and generally coming to rest in perfectly spaced zones until displaced by another robin entering their zone with a flourish of wing beats. Several other smaller species feasted as well, but with less bravado, including one of my favorites, the Cedar waxwing.

For about a week the mulberries were like candy to the birds, and the clear whistles of waxwings were constant. I photographed them several times during this week and was able to make a few nice portraits. This one is my favorite.

The Birds Are Back In Town

Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus), City Creek Canyon Utah

A short hike in City Creek Canyon reveals a number of migratory bird species back in town from their wintering grounds. I was able to see and photograph Lazuli Bunting, Black-headed Grosbeak, Western Tanager, Chipping Sparrow, and Black-chinned Hummingbird. Made some progress on my Western Tanager trophy shot, but I haven't nailed it just yet.

Western Tanager

Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana), Killian Canyon, Utah

The Western Tanagers are in. I just found out a few days ago, on a short hike in Killian Canyon, where I was lucky enough to capture this image. The subject is sublime, even the situation with spring green leaves and red branches of dogwood creating the backdrop is ideal. The execution leaves room for improvement, and I'm looking forward to trying.

Really the only thing wrong with this image is the blurry foreground branches cutting across and cluttering the frame. However, they're also likely what's making this bird comfortable enough to stay put for a moment at close range. The compositions in my mind may require a lot of time in the field or very cooperative birds, and quite possibly both.

Not too many weeks ago I was staring at the snowy ramparts east of Salt Lake and daydreaming about photography in the high cirques of the Wasatch. Seeing flashes of red in the greening canyon bottoms has fixated my mind on other photographic goals. Right now is the time to be in the green zone photographing brightly colored birds alighted on flowering branches, as if in an Audubon print.