Friday, February 28, 2014

A Winter Tour of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Refuge: n.  a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger or trouble.

          It may seem incompatible with the above definition, but during certain seasons hunting is permitted at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.  Thankfully the refuge is managed for hunters and non-hunters alike with almost 80,000 acres of habitat, and a 12 mile auto tour route.

         Bear River is accessible year-round but spring and summer can be buggy—we’re talking swarms of bugs—and fall is sometimes shared with the aforementioned hunters.  What’s a birder to do?  How about winter, when the crowds are gone and Tundra Swans congregate by the thousands at the refuge.  

         Enjoy the bird life and scenery of Bear River during winter, as captured in the following photos: 

White pelicans in flight.

A Western Grebe family.  Notice one fuzzy head peeking from the back of
the daddy grebe (top).  The other chick is trailing behind its parents.

A flock of Common Goldeneyes graces the water.

As we watched the flock, two Goldeneyes took flight.
Note the reflection of the near bird in the icy blue water.

Pie-billed Grebes navigate among the ice floes.

The honks and hoots of tens of thousands of Tundra Swans
fill the air on a winter's day.

          Ultimately, the major threat to the refuge will come not from hunters, but from a burgeoning human population in need of water.  Visit this magical place before the Bear River is diverted for residential and agricultural use.

Sunset.  The refuge and its residents are at rest and safe—for now.

March 8th is Swan Day at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge near Brigham City, Utah.  Learn more about it by visiting their website:

If you enjoy bird-watching as much as I do, you don't want to miss this:
Bald Eagles have taken up residence on the campus of Berry College in Georgia and, last Saturday—February 22nd, 2014—a brand new eaglet was hatched!  The eagle cam provides a live, 24/7 look into the fascinating life of this eagle family.   


  1. Your excellent photographs and clear descriptions of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge spoke to me heart. I attended Utah State University in Logan, married a young man from there, then taught school in Cache Valley for several years. At least once a year Bill and I would make the drive through Sardine Canyon to visit the bird refuge. I had forgotten that happy part of my young adulthood. thanks for bringing it back to me.

    1. How wonderful to hear from someone who's been to the Bear River Refuge! It's a restorative place, isn't it?
      I'm glad to have been able to bring back fond memories from the years you spent in the Cache Valley.
      Thanks for your kind remarks, Janet.

  2. Hi Rita,

    Very nice photos throughout your blog posting, but the photo taken at sunset is simply stunning!

    It's sad to read that the Bear River will be diverted for residential and agricultural use. The low water can be hazardous to birds since it makes them more vulnerable to predators, and by having the population confined to a smaller area, it's my understanding that spread of disease is made more likely.


    1. Hi John,

      I'm happy to report that it is not a "done deal" as far as the Bear River being diverted goes. The proposal has come up in the state legislature over and over again during the last decade and somehow, the river keeps being granted a stay of execution. But most people think it will happen eventually. And you're right— all the terrible things that you write (above) about the population of birds being more vulnerable to the effects of little or no water will come to pass.

      Thankfully we can still enjoy places like Bear River and, through blogging, can share them with others.

      I appreciate your comments!