Touring the wildlife refuges of the west during the autumn migration season is a rewarding experience that will provide plenty of opportunities to capture images that will provide fond memories for a lifetime. The window of opportunity lasts the entire fall season, while the most productive times of day are dawn or dusk. Mid day can be spent exploring other scenic areas in the region and if the refuge destination is located in Utah, there certainly will be plenty of panoramic landscapes worth checking out.
The Ouray National Wildlife Refuge definitely is a great choice for a migration season venture, simply because the birding is very active at dawn and dusk, while this picturesque region of Utah offers a wide range of adventures during the mid day hours. The Ouray NWR is located on the banks of the Green River near Jenson and Vernal, which is the heart of dinosaur country. The Dinosaur National Monument is right next door and there are unique places to explore in the surrounding BLM Public Lands, which even offer a few free camping opportunities. For serious bird watchers and photographers, opting for free primitive camping is nearly a necessity, because the equipment is so costly.
The Ouray NWR features an automobile tour loop that meanders through valley meadows on the way to wetland areas along the Green River. A visitor does not even need to step out of the car to get great views along this touring route, so there is less chance of disturbing the wildlife when passing through. There are a few hot spot riverside viewing areas that offer parking and one such place features an observation tower. For the most part, the reeds are not overgrown between the road and the wetlands, which means that there will be plenty of unobstructed views.
As can be seen in the photos, a sunset tour at the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge during the autumn migration season will certainly be a rewarding experience. In fact, I arrived a bit late and ended up photographing birds well into the blue hour, which presented a chance to capture some once in a lifetime photos of big flocks of white pelicans settling in for the evening. I was using a Nikon D7500 with a 200-500mm ƒ/5.6 lens, which is a tricky combination for capturing low light blue hour images, but fortunately the fading sunlight beams toward the river this time of year. The blue light pelican photos ended up being the highlight of the entire birding venture and there were several more keepers of other species that were worth framing. For this reason, it goes without saying that the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge should be chalked high on your migration season birding venture list!
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