Friday, May 17, 2013

Taking My Time

Whenever I travel I want to allow myself the gift of time. What might take three hours takes me six. What might take two days takes me five. There is so much to see along the way, so much scenery and history to absorb in this beautiful country of ours, that it would be a shame to pass it all by with the unrelenting goal of merely getting from point A to point B. 

Bear Lake Valley

For the past two summers I have taken that gift of time as I travel from southern Utah to northwest Wyoming for my summer job at Yellowstone. I have taken a different route each time, and this summer is no different. 

Splashing around in an indoor pool when the outside temperatures were predicted to be in the mid–90s seemed like an excellent way to pass some time. So I booked a room in downtown Salt Lake City for two nights and spent my first afternoon at the geologic park and the second day with my nephew and my five–year–old great–nephew. The three of us strolled around downtown, swam until we were as wrinkled as raisins, and then went for a rousing carouse at a nearby park. At the end of the day we were totally exhausted. I never thought a five dollar pizza could taste so good.
On the birding trail of Idaho

On the third day of my journey to Yellowstone I found my way to the Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge which harbors of one of the largest nesting colonies of white–faced ibis in the country. If I’m not watching for rocks I’m watching for birds, and mid–May is a perfect time to visit the refuge.

My internal clock never did get me up and out by the crack of dawn – it was just too easy to linger on the deck of my Garden City, Utah condo with that second cup of coffee. This episode of lollygagging was serendipity, though, because by the time I got to the refuge the morning rain had dissipated and the skies were clearing. 

I never did see another human soul the rest of the morning except for the fellow operating the road grader and the two folks driving around in circles in a golf cart. The birds and I pretty much had all 18,000 acres of the refuge to ourselves. 

I didn't have a canoe, nor was it July 1 yet, so I walked the trails

For over three hours I strolled along trails into the refuge. I sat in blinds and paused on benches with my camera and binoculars ever ready, my ears tuned to the various melodies of the marsh inhabitants. 

Cloud reflections on the water

Blinds were scattered along the refuge trails
This bridge was a perfect spot for watching blackbirds

I snapped fuzzy photos of birds too skittish to sit for very long or too far away for my usually adequate 20x point–and– shoot to handle.

Nesting colonies were far away from my camera lens

Sandhill cranes were about as far away as the nesting colonies

Northern shoveler - a new addition to my life list!

But I spotted hundreds of birds up close and heard the sweet songs and calls of hundreds more. Plus, the white–faced ibis and the northern shoveler have now been added to my life list. 

Marsh wren

My Sibley's guide to Birds tells me this is a Brewer's blackbird
There were marsh wrens chirping and flitting in the bulrush, blackbirds trilling chattily among the burst cattails or while perching on posts, Forster’s tern and tree swallows caught up in airborne acrobatics, northern harrier coursing mere feet above the grasses, sandhill cranes slowly stalking across the distant open edges of the marsh, Canada geese guarding their chicks. I watched white–faced ibis feed in a flooded meadow, and held my breath as yellow–headed blackbirds posed for photos on a barbed–wire fence. 

How many Canada geese chicks can you count?

Yellow-headed blackbird

White-faced ibis feed in a flooded pasture

Now it’s day five, and getting on time to finish this sojourn to Yellowstone. I’m only about 200 miles from Grant Village, however, so I do believe there’s time for another cup of coffee before I head out up the highway. 

White-faced ibis is also a new addition to my life list!


  1. I like your pace of travel. And Wow, having the refuge to yourself. How awesome. Don't rush too much on these last 200 miles.

    1. Several times during the morning I gazed around and said to myself "I can't believe I am the only person out here!"

  2. Again splendid. Thanks for the journey, Nina.

    1. You are very welcome, Judy. Come along any time!

    2. Howdy Nina. Wish I'd been walking there beside you today. Glad you're back in Yosemite this summer. I still always keep my eyes pealed to the skies whenever I am outside to watch for feathered buddies. Lately we've had lots of big migrating hawks landing on telephone poles to hunt or fly over.Enjoyed your bird walk, it's fun to see western birds. We also have a slightly tame bunny my neighbor released who sneaks in our shed during the day to sleep and wakes up at dusk to eat clover blooms in our yard. i counted 12 little babies with your geese. this is an amazing world we inhabit, isn't it? patty