I set up on American Oyster-catchers a few hours before the late winter sunset on an extremely windy sand blown beach. It took most of that time for them to become comfortable with me. The birds were actively holding territory, and this bonded pair wasn’t having any intruders to their space along the New Jersey spit.
Shooting Silhouetted was new to me, and I couldn’t have been more lucky. Shooting into the sun always seemed like poor technique, until I was turned onto this style. There is so much to learn in wildlife photography and I find it endlessly satisfying. Patience in birding is often rewarded, and this moment proved it. This got me thinking. Did my intrusion into their habitat, negatively effect the birds I was photographing?
Shorebird habitat has been decimated all along the coast lines of the Americas. Migratory birds face more struggles every year, Depletion of nesting grounds, the destruction of critical migratory stop-over locations, and the over-fishing of ever dwindling fish stocks are just a few of the problems they face. Hotels, off-highway vehicles, and dogs off leash constantly stress the birds out, and as a result some birds wont even raise chicks in a season.
It’s hard sometimes to take all the issues into account as we explore the wilds, intimately interacting with nature. It is important to know where the line is, when to back off, and when it is ok to stick around. Sometimes we are wrapped up in the moment of trying to get the shot, and it overpowers our better judgment. Awareness is everything when it comes to interacting with wildlife.
Enjoy some other Silhouetted Shorebirds while you are here.
Before The Setting of The Sun
Early Spring Birding
Early Spring forest glades hold remarkable opportunities to take advantage of neutral light. Overcast days require a bit of technique from the photographer, but the result is something truly special. Light doesn’t get blown out, and detail is refined and a pleasure to edit.
Pine Warbler’s push north and hold territory before many of the other North American Warblers. You can hear their Junco like songs in open and evenly dispersed forests. You might mistake them for an American goldfinch, but look closer and the differences will become clear.
White-Eyed Vireo is a skuly bird with one of the most weirdly wonderful songs you could imagine. A thick bill, and stout body tells a story of why this bird is suited for life in thick forest scrub and brier. If you go out early enough in spring before the foliage has grown in, you might be treated to rare frame filling glimpses of the sneaky species.
Shades Of Blue
North America has some of the most beautiful birds in the world. People travel from great distances and pay large sums of money to get a chance to see our birds.
This gallery will be celebrating some of my favorite birds around. these three birds are in completely different genera, and all have different natural histories. Their morphology and behaviors couldn’t be more different. One of them is a neo-tropical migrant and the other two are fairly localized. Why blue? What is the evolutionary advantage? Was it purely mate choice through feminine selection?
“Unlike many other bird colors, blueis not a pigment but a color produced by the structure of the feathers. Tiny air pockets and melanin pigment crystals in each feather scatter blue light and absorb the other wavelengths “ Birdnote - https://www.birdnote.org/show/why-are-bluebirds-blue
This doesn’t quite answer the question for me. Add your own comments about why you think birds are blue bellow, and i will update this after some further thought on the matter.
I grew up in the Oak-Woodland Savannah habitats of Northwest Ohio, and never knew of the existence of these lovely birds until my 30’s. They are part of the Spizella genus, which is a group of some of our smallest sparrows in the US.
Their bouncing ball songs roll across open fields, perfectly utilizing the soundscape to be amplified upon the wind. Truly lovely day of birding - maybe a little too rushed to get out West. This Field sparrow a fitting send off as I make my way.
I sometimes wonder why sparrows get very little love among photography circles. They are no Keel-billed Toucan, but are still lovely and subtle birds in all ways. This little one was wonderfully accommodating.
Lark sparrow’s flight song hurries out of their mouths in ever complex trills, and rattles over the plains of America year after year. Their population once great, spreading as far east as Massachusetts, as far west as California, and well into the plains of Canada. Great Plain’s grassland denizens are among the most threatened species on earth. While the sparrow is doing OK as a whole, there exist many isolated pockets of habitat where they still are just barely holding on.
A small meta-population still returns to Northwest Ohio every year, to sing and breed along side a single pair of Henslow’s sparrows on less than 100 acres of Oak Savannah habitat. Regionally these birds are critically threatened, and their is little or nothing to be done about it. A few signs here and there, but that is about it.
Macro fauna often get the funding in the struggle for conservation dollars. Let’s face it. Giant Pandas are just more interesting to the general population. While Panda populations actually exceed habitat available , and funding is still rolling in the door.
These small birds are as beautiful as they come, and deserve the utmost respect and care, as with any species (or in this case subspecies) pushed to the brink. Their songs fill the Oak woodlands with something special and irreplaceable, and are a part of its diversity and richness. The soundscape of any particular ecosystem is as valuable as the landscape, and the animals that contribute to the orchestra are and irreplaceable part of it.
High Sierra Savannah Sparrow
Chester Meadows In the town of Chester, Ca on the Shores of Lake Almanor Has been an important place in my development as a naturalist and birder. The fertile marsh land at the point where the North Fork of the Feather river empties into the lake has one of the greatest breeding density of Yellow Warbler and Song sparrow found anywhere in California. Point Blue Bird observatory runs a field station up there surveying burn areas and meadow restoration projects, and i am currently visiting some of my friends who work at the field station.
I woke early in hopes of encountering a Male Harrier I spotted with a friend the night before. He ended up being a late riser so I decided to focus on the incredible concentration of Savanah sparrows holding territory along a Railroad Grade. I decided to settle in with them as my subject of photography for the morning. Savanah sparrows prefer grassy fields, farmland, and tundra singing from sporadic perches and elevation grades. Stalks of Yarrow littered the grade and were preferred perches for the males.
Setting up in the morning you have an opportunity all be it a very short window to shoot backlit in the lovely oranges and pinks of sunrise. These moments are precious and short-lived, bringing out characteristics in the landscape otherwise hidden. This particular photo is highlighted by spider webs on the mullein stalk, and water drops on grass-blades.
I started as a birder and will always be a birder who happens to love photography. One thing Photography has taught/is teaching me, is how to slow down and get out of my high paced birder mentality into actually attending to the bird in front of me know matter what species it is. Slow birding is an idea forming in my world, that isn't as limited as how many birds are currently present in a landscape but, how much i can stretch my creativity and imagination. I want to make art with sparrows and warblers alike.
High Sierra Savannah Sparrow
Along the Shores of the Klamath National Wildlife Refuge birds gather in the millions every year during Fall migration, offering the intrepid explorer an incredible look at one of the most extraordinary spectacles of nature. Western Grebe feed along the flows of the run off from local farmers fields.
I decided to set up at the level of the water for the sunset, in order to find some more dramatic light. After settling in the birds quickly adapted to my presence, and this particular individual decided to come very close offering me good looks and some incredible photos.
I shot this wide open to achieve as much atmosphere and drama as possible, with my Nikon 300mmpf on my D500.
Back Yard Birding
We often think of incredible birding destinations, as being the place to find the great photographic opportunities that will push our skills and our artistic eye to the next level. These far away places with their promise of Pink Warblers, Cock-Of-The-Rocks, and Fairy Wrens, constantly tug at our imaginations. Lately I have been focusing more on what is possible in my back yard. I have to mention, that I live in the middle of an Oak woodland in California on a major flyway. But I have seen Palm and Mourning warblers in parking lots in downtown Chicago, so this philosophy can be applied anywhere. I think the best way to go about it is simply to create suitable habitat, offering a refuge to migratory and local birds resource starved locations.
My current set up in my backyard is a simple rubber liner pond I created from a $23.99 purchase. This part of California is in the middle of a drought spanning several years. This small act of offering water creates a haven for birds. Oftentimes I see birds, (especially jays) playing in the water. This display is something I believe is a sign that they are not experiencing an environmental stress or deficiency. My neck of the woods was previously silent. I have found even after just two weeks of this change, my yard has become a haven for both resident and migratory birds.
As far as photography is concerned, making your site as natural as possible will be of great interest to you. I keep natural perches nearby, and clear out overgrown foliage to create interesting backgrounds. I purposely placed the feature so that I can use my window that I spend the most time next to as a makeshift bird blind.