Compared to the Black-throated Green Warblers, which were everywhere and very visible…often right in your face, the Black-throated Blue Warblers at Magee Marsh during The Biggest Week in American Birding, were scarce and very hard to see. They were especially hard to photograph as they feed deep in the foliage, not at the edges like the BTGW. I did manage a few half way decent shots over the course of the 11 days I spent at Magee. On the other hand, I have lots of shots of where the bird was when I started to press the shutter.
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. -1/3EV Exposure compensation (unneeded for this shot!). 1200mm equivalent field of view. F6.5 @ 1/1000th @ ISO 800. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
Baltimore and Bullock’s Oriole got lumped a few years ago into Northern Oriole…only to be split out again to the two familiar species. This is the eastern variety: Baltimore Oriole, captured visiting the orange halves some helpful soul put out along the edge of the parking lot at Magee Marsh. I would say, at a rough estimate, several hundred other photographers have shots of this same bird on this same orange (or its replacement…it looks about gone in this shot). Still, who can pass up a Baltimore Oriole on an orange?
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. -1/3EV exposure compensation. f6.5 @ 1/320th @ ISO 800. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
As much as Magee Marsh is about warblers, warblers, and more warblers…there are other birds along the boardwalk. The Woodcocks were a big hit this year, and there are always a few owls. For a day, a Common Nighthawk challenged the best eyes on the boardwalk, though for at least one day they had about 6 spotting scopes trained on it.
This Northern Flicker of the Yellow-shafted race was making its usual racket. It was easy to see…much harder to photograph…as it was very mobile and very agile. I never did catch the whole bird in the frame. I like the “mid-call” pose here. It makes the bird look very alive.
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. -1/3EV exposure compensation. 1800mm equivalent field of view. f6.5 @ 1/1000th @ ISO 800. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
There are few warblers that are as striking as the Blackburnian. If they were a rare bird, they would be much sought after, even at warbler-central, Magee Marsh, during spring migration. As it is they are very common at Magee, and are one of the boldest and most closest warblers present. They often feed on the underside of the canopy, and even in the taller undergrowth, and, like Chestnut-sided and Black-throated Green, will sometimes work a branch within a foot or two of birders’ heads on the boardwalk. And, with their flaming orange breast and throat, they are pretty hard to miss, even in denser foliage.
That is not to say they are easy to photograph. They are fast, highly mobile, and rarely (at least at Magee Marsh in the spring) perch. They are not singing at Magee so they do not just pop up on a branch in the sun and sit for their portrait. No, close as they often are, photographing them is an exercise in dexterity, determination, and what some might call luck…but which I call persistence. If you try for enough Blackburnians at Magee, where they are plentiful, then it just stands to reason that you will eventually catch one (or two, or three
Canon SX50HS in Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. -1/3EV exposure compensation. 1800mm and 1200mm equivalent fields of view. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
They are, of course, seeing Kirtland’s Warbler at Magee Marsh this week, after the official Biggest Week in American Birding is all over, and while I am long back in Maine.
Still I was delighted to catch this much more common Blue-grey Natcatcher near the boardwalk at Magee. I don’t see them often and they are certainly hard to catch.
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. – 1/3 ev exposure compensation. 1200mm equivalent field of view. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and brightness.
Sunday morning at Magee Marsh was cold, but we had intermittent sun, and therefore pretty good light for photography. There was one tree, just beyond the west entrance to the boardwalk, right over the parking lot with the sun on it, that had at least 10 species of warblers actively feeding. The long lens crew made a solid semi-circle around it…tripod city.
This Cape May Warbler was among the birds, and it was putting on quite a show. The Cape May was named for spot where it was first observed, but it actually only passes through Cape May, New Jersey during migration to it’s breeding grounds, which, except for Northern Maine and the extreme upper Mid-West, is all in Canada. That did not keep this handsome fellow from singing in Ohio!
I like this composition, with the bird at the powerpoint of the rule of thirds, and the rich bokeh behind. And the morning sun certainly brought out the color of the bird!
Canon SX50HS at 1800mm equivalent field of view. (It was a tall tree.) Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. -1/3EV exposure compensation. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
Yesterday, the final day of the Biggest Week in American Birding, was one of those amazing days that only happen at Magee Marsh. The warblers were passing through in great numbers, and they were feeding low in the undergrowth and lower branches of the sheltering trees, and very close to the boardwalk. Saturday was actually as good for warblers…but Saturday was overcast, and on Sunday we had intermittent sun… adequate light makes a huge difference when photographing birds.
This Yellow Warbler was just within the 4.5 foot focus range of the Canon SX50HS. In fact, I had to back off on full zoom to get this much of the bird in the frame. I was using the 1.5x digital tel-converter so this is still at over 1600mm equivalent field of view. It is almost a tel-macro of the bird. Certainly the feather detail is amazing. If you want to pixel peep, a larger version can be seen here.
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. -1/3EV exposure compensation. 1672mm equivalent field of view. f6.5 @ 1/200th @ ISO 80. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
It is not often that you see a Wood Thrush, let alone see one singing out in plain sight. This one was no more than 20 feet from the boardwalk yesterday at Magee Marsh and delighted a small group of birders at the Biggest Week in American Birding for a good 20 minutes before moving on. It was a one of those moments that will be remembered, and treasured, by all who shared it (with the possible exception of the Wood Thrush).
I even remembered to shoot some video so you can hear the song.
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. -1/3EV exposure compensation. 1800mm equivalent field of view. Video was handheld.
And for the Sunday thought. Despite threatening rain, poor light, and low temperatures, yesterday was as good as I have ever seen Magee Marsh. There were warblers, sparrows, natcatchers, flycatchers, thrushes, tanagers, orioles, grosbeaks, egrets…everywhere. They were down low and close in to the boardwalk. It was very special. Among the huge crowd of birders, there was a hush. Gone were the mobs gathered to see a single good bird that clogged the boardwalk during the past week (as well as the shouted instructions of the professional guides). There were clumps of birders where there were clumps of birds, but never such a crush that you could not pass…and never such a crush that you could not see. Twice I had warblers working and feeding within arm’s reach. You could stand in one place and watch 10 warblers of 3 species glean the fresh leaves for bugs. I came back after a 90 minute loop once around the boardwalk feeling satisfyingly full of birds, full of delight…content…deeply happy. What a gift!
And it was not a feeling you had to be a birder to appreciate. Many, maybe a majority, of the people on the boardwalk yesterday were civilians…folks for whom birding is not a major preoccupation or recreation…just plain folks drawn by the rumor (and the media accounts) of something special happening at Magee Marsh on International Migration Day. And they were in the zone! They were just as delighted and just as amazed as those of us who could actually identify the birds we were seeing. You didn’t even really need binoculars or any skill with them. The birds were that close! A treat, a blessing, anyone with eyes and ears could appreciate.
Hence the hush. The happy low current of laughter. The occasional quiet cry of outright delight. Surrounded by bird song and birds in motion, the humans just naturally fell into an attitude of true worship. Souls opened. Delight flowed in and out with every breath. People smiled at each other…smiled at the birds…smiled at the songs…smiled in themselves. And we knew, every one of us, that we were in the presence of a miracle…in the zone of the holy…caught in a flow of love that can only be called divine.
I, for one, wish church could be like that more than it is. That is all it would take, really, to put faith back at the center of lives. Just a regular dose of deep delight in the presence of wonder!
It is House Wren city at Magee Marsh during the Biggest Week in American Birding celebration this year. They are everywhere. They are singing. They are scuttling in the undergrowth. They are climbing on stumps and trees. The are contesting nest sites with Tree Swallows. They are everywhere and showing every sign of nesting right here in the marsh. Which is okay.
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. 1200mm equivalent field of view. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
House Wrens are nothing if not entertaining!
Birding has been slow the past few days at Magee Marsh and the Biggest Week in American Birding. There are high hopes for this morning as the weather patterns were predicted to be favorable for a pile up of birds at Magee overnight. Time will tell.
In the meantime here is a Bay-breasted Warbler in full song from Sunday.
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. -1/3EV exposure compensation. 1200mm equivalent field of view. f6.5 @ 1/1000th @ ISO 320. Processed in Lightroom for Intensity, clarity, and sharpness.