Species Spotlight: Henslow’s Sparrow

A bird with a song more reminiscent of a hiccup, the Henslow’s Sparrow is a secretive little guy, except while singing.  Due to habitat loss, this species has dropped in numbers in recent decades and is currently listed as “near-threatened”.

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Species Spotlight: Golden-winged Warbler

Known for their tendency to hang upside down while foraging for prey, the Golden-winged Warblers are partial to early successional habitats.  Pressures from habitat changes and from the closely related Blue-winged Warbler have forced a downward shift in overall numbers of this species.

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Blue-Grey Gnatcatchers: St. Francois State Park Wrap Up

Here are just a few more photos from the aborted Gnatcatcher nest that we found this spring.  Steve and I jointly found an active and very successful nest of the same species at SNR recently.  I will hopefully get to those photos before first snowfall.  😉

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Fast Action Photography

No, I do not mean catching a bird on the wing or some split second sports action in camera.  Sometimes the landscape photograph has equal timing requirements and this one will serve to remind me of what could have been and to be ready and prepared whenever in setting.  I hiked to the top of Hughes one early spring evening with the full kit.  Arriving at the top, I was a bit disappointed in the lack of clouds for a potential sunset shot, but I can never be in the dumps at this location no matter what nature is presenting.  So I just decided to sit and enjoy the silence and see what may come my way.  Not paying much attention I suddenly noticed a fairly small, beautifully pastel-colored cloud popped out of nowhere and was positioned in the perfect place, just in a perfect frame along with blooming Service Berry in the foreground.  Of course the gear was where it was nice and safe – all wrapped up in the camera bag.  I could tell this cloud was ephemeral and sprang into action.

Pulled the tripod off and extend the legs, unzip, pick lens, attach lens to camera, attach polarizing filter, attach shutter release cord, attach camera to tripod, shoot, I forgot the graduated neutral density filter, which one do I need, OK, how to compose?  Compose? Just hurry up!  By the time I had everything ready and was hitting the shutter the cloud has diminished by more than three fold and lost all of that wonderful color.  I then identified that irritating high pitch noise I was hearing.  I was screaming.

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The Missouri House Wren

My grandparents have had nesting House Wrens for a number of years now.  Next to Cardinals baseball watching these guys go about their daily business is their next biggest form of summer entertainment.  This past Mother’s Day I brought the big lens and made some images.

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It is amazing to hear what large and complicated songs come from such a little package.  This guy’s melodies were bouncing off of all the neighbor’s houses.

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Here one of the parents is visiting the nest box.  I believe they had eggs in the nest at this particular time.

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Here is a little bit of photo talk (like I am qualified to give advice).  These ultra-telephoto lenses have a long minimum focusing distance, or the minimal distance the lens must be to achieve focus.  On my 500mm, this is close to 17 feet!  In the case of shooting this male Wren as he scans his territory, I was able to put a chair next to the screened porch and was probably 10-12 feet from him.  I was prepared and had a strategy to overcome this issue, I just didn’t think I’d ever get close enough to a feathered target to need it!  Out popped an extender that moves the lens a few millimeters further from the camera’s sensor.  Through the physics of optics that I will not try to explain (like I could if I wanted to), the minimal focusing difference drops low enough to get sharp focus of the close bird!

As with everything in photography there are compromises to be had with every advantage.  The good thing is there is no loss of image quality here, because you are adding no extra lens elements.  The extenders are simply extra space holders.  The losses here are the inability to obtain far distance focus (at infinity or thereabouts) as well as losing just a bit of light.

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These guys never stop building and redecorating the nest.

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I have heard the chicks recently fledged and the parents are already on the wing.  Maybe next year I’ll try to get some shots of the chicks on their first days outside the nest.