This was one of those miracles where you pull up to the reservoir and as you are getting out of the car you say “There it is!” We stayed about 20 minutes trying to get a decent photo. Hard to do through the fog and snow.
Our target bird was a Great Black-backed Gull. It is the largest gull in the world. 30 inches in length with a 54 inch wingspan it is only slightly smaller than a small eagle. Amazing. They also like to eat ducks. They are usually found along the Atlantic Ocean. Don't know how it got here.
With nothing for scale, it is hard to realize just how big these birds are. Those white specks against the black back is the fog condensing and falling like light snow. Everything was covered with hoar frost. Even cattle in the field were covered.
Here you can see how it dwarfs a Herring Gull, which is the biggest gull we have in Utah.
Since we were there and found it so quickly, we spent several more hours birding around the area. We drove up Sheep Creek Canyon, which was gorgeous. And true to its name, we saw sheep. A small herd of Bighorn sheep. Fun!! You can see the hoar frost in this photo.
One of the sheep was wearing a collar with a transmitter. Poor thing. The tag is pulling his ear down. The DWR is trying to keep tabs on where many of our endangered species are.
We had a herd of Bighorns on Antelope Island, but in the last month almost all of them have died from some unknown respiratory infection. The few that are still alive will be killed to keep it from spreading. This herd was doing so well that it was used to repopulate other areas in Utah. I think the plan is to import some fresh non-infected Bighorns from California to renew the herd, but it will take years to get a population going again.
We also found a pair of Pygmy Owls. At 5.5” high, they are smaller than my hand and are the second smallest owl. Biggest gull, almost smallest owl. Yes, it was a really fun day,