Photographing life birds is always exciting. Upon returning home and editing my photos after one of these outings, I enjoy doing a little research, referencing field guidebooks and studying the key field ID marks, which helps to ingrain the key characteristics of a species in my mind for future reference.
Ruddy Turnstone is accounted among the world’s northernmost breeding species; in North America it breeds on the north and west coasts of Alaska, the artic islands north of the Canadian mainland, and the north coast of Greenland. It is found on every continent except Antartica.
If only all target species on my outings were this easy to photograph, bird photography would be a breeze. Upon arriving at the known breeding location of this Dickcissel, I barely had time to stop my SUV when my friends and I spotted a male Dickcissel flying past the passenger window about eye level. It perched on a nearby Mullein stalk and promptly started singing its heart out for several minutes. The direction of the early morning light was absolutely perfect and I had ample time to capture several good images.
Photographing Black-billed Cuckoos and Yellow-billed Cuckoos can prove frustrating, in my limited experience with these species. Given the secretive nature of Black-billed Cuckoos, you’ll be lucky to see anything more than a partial glimpse of the back of the bird or perhaps the bird’s face peaking at you through the foliage. I first photographed a Black-billed Cuckoo last year and I captured a decent image of it, albeit the image required significant cropping.
The name "Prothonotary" originally referred to a group of official scribes in the Catholic Church who wore bright yellow hoods, as this bird appears to do (source: Audubon.org). After seeing this bird for the first time at Rondeau Provincial Park along Lake Erie in Ontario on the first day of my trip destined for Magee Marsh, Ohio, USA, I subsequently saw it pretty much every day during my trip, including at Point Pelee National Park, also along Lake Erie in Ontario, and during many of my days at Magee Marsh.
Northern Parula is a small warbler less than five inches in length that typically forages in dense foliage of treetops, but during migration it often comes down to lower levels. During The Biggest Week in American Birding at Magee Marsh in Ohio I found several excellent occasions to photograph this colorful species at eye level or below and at close range.
As I sort through my photo collection from my recent Biggest Week in American Birding trip, I can see why Mourning Warbler is considered elusive and difficult to see well. In fact, my first sighting of this species, which occurred at Magee Marsh, was fleeting at best. I caught a glimpse of it for just a fraction of a second as it foraged in low brush, not staying still for even the briefest of moments and it certainly did not provide a setting conducive to making good photos.
My most recent 10-day birding trip focused on warbler migration. My first destination was Point Pelee NP where I spent a couple of days followed by eight days at Magee Marsh in Ohio during The Biggest Week in American Birding festival. I had heard many good reports about Magee Marsh. In particular, I’d heard that you frequently get very close looks at the warblers and that photo opportunities were abundant so I decided to check it out for myself this year. I was not disappointed.
Louisiana Waterthrush lives along freshwater rivers and streams in deciduous woodlands during the summer. On nesting territory it can sometimes be seen and heard singing from perches and the ground. The bird pictured in the photos below is probably on breeding territory. A freshwater stream was nearby.
The Vesper Sparrow is uncommon and local across most of the East. I’ve only seen this species a couple of times, most recently in Quebec. As I reviewed my photos upon returning from my recent Quebec trip for possible inclusion in one of my photo galleries or a blog post, I realized that I had not edited some Vesper Sparrow photos from Carden Alvar Provincial Park, Ontario from last summer.