This is an image I was hoping for since a long time. We see the Indigo Bunting mostly in late spring and early summer here. I have never been able to make a picture of it away from a bird feeder until this morning. Indigo Buntings are actually black. The diffraction of light through their feathers makes them looking blue. This explains why the males can have many different color shades from turquoise to black. The Indigo Bunting is a migratory bird and spends the winter in Florida and in the tropics. They use the pattern of stars for guidance and migrate at night (source: iBird Pro app). This evening three of them were feeding in the grass here but the light was not sufficient anymore to make a sharp image.
As deeper I’m diving into wildlife photography as more I’m excited about any new species I see for the first time and even more if I can make a decent image of a new critter. Does it mean I can forget about all those animals that are here every day and that I have photographed many times already? Of course not! I have lots of pictures of American Robins on my hard drive. Not very difficult for the most part because they are present everywhere where grass and trees are growing here in the Midwest. I’m a strong believer that there is always room for improvement for every photographer and it doesn’t really matter what bird is in front of the lens if the light is just right or a story can be told.
I was at Mud Lake this evening at the Mississippi River again and beside looking for the owlet (didn’t see it today) I tried to focus on warblers and other birds that are not so common here. Well, I saw some Yellow Warblers but they were very busy chasing each other (love is in the air ) and I had no chance even to make an unsharp photo. While standing with my tripod in the flooded grass, getting wet feet, this American Robin landed just in front of me. The sun put a spotlight onto the bird. I don’t know where the nest was but the robin was waiting with a worm in its beak and it is most likely that its young ones were waiting to be fed. To me this image tells the story better than I can and that’s why I don’t hesitate to make the click, even if just an “ordinary” bird is in front of the lens.
Joan and I went for a walk on the Heritage Trail down in the valley of the Little Maquoketa River this evening. We had our little dog Cooper with us and what actually was planned to be a “short dog walk” ended up to be a great bird watching event all evening long. We discovered another nest of a Bald Eagle and were very excited to see a young eagle sitting in there. We had two new first sightings, an American Redstart and a Harris Sparrow. Many Baltimore Orioles were feeding and singing high up in the trees and Goldfinches and Red-winged Blackbirds were everywhere. The low sun and some dramatic clouds made all the colors even more spectacular. It is definitely the best time of the year here in Eastern Iowa, at least in my humble opinion…
My personal highlight was this Belted Kingfisher, a bird I have tried to photograph many times before with very little success. Distance was a bit of a problem again. A fenced pasture between the trail and the river did not allow to get closer to the bird and that’s why I cropped the image quite a bit. It is not difficult to find a kingfisher at the Little Maquoketa River, quite often you can hear them before you see them, but they are very skittish and don’t make it easy to get close even under better circumstances. However, it is the best shot I was able to make so far and it will make it into my Iowa wildlife gallery until I can make a better photo.
This image is not here to win a photo contest but I like to show you another bird that I encountered for the first time. I can’t keep up posting all the new stuff I saw recently and this was already nine days ago at the Mississippi River. The Brown Thrasher can be found in the Eastern and Central part of the Unites States during the summer. However, I have never seen one before. I had just looked for the young Great Horned Owl (see my older posts about the owlet) high up in the tree when I saw the thrasher landing on a branch near the ground. I immediately recognized that this was a bird I wasn’t familiar with and so I just handhold the lens quickly and fired a couple shots at least for later identification. It turned out I had a good day and both images were not as unsharp as I thought they would be. Not tack-sharp but still good enough to share with you another first bird sighting. I hope you enjoy!
The Northern Rough-winged Swallow I posted about yesterday wasn’t the only swallow that enjoyed the abundance of insects last weekend in the Green Island Wetlands. This colorful Barn Swallow was resting on a gravel road while several others were flying over the water of the Mississippi backwaters. I assumed they were still on their migration path to Minnesota or even Canada because they mostly use buildings for their nest sites. I used the car as a blind again and the bird gave me almost three minutes to position myself and make a few clicks.
It was a great weekend to be outside. I did some shooting around the house on Saturday but today nothing could stop me to go back to the Green Island Wetlands. There is plenty of water everywhere. The Mississippi water level was even higher than on Friday, most islands are under water, and I heard there is still a lot of snow up north…
Have you ever tried to make a picture of a flying swallow? Well, not an easy task as you can imagine. Actually it was quite a challenge that I faced today and it took me a while to figure out a way of getting an image of a swallow with open wings. There are many of the Northern Rough-winged Swallows in the wetlands at the moment. They feed almost restless on insects over the ponds and lakes. As I said, almost restless. Sometimes they sit for a few seconds on a perch, mostly a branch that sticks out of the water.
I approached carefully one of those perches that the swallows used frequently, (hiding behind a dirt hill) and focussed on the end of the branch. Because the lens has such a shallow depth of field at 500 mm focal length it needed manual focus to make a halfway sharp image. There is no way that the autofocus will really lock on when a bird approaches the landing site with high speed as swallows usually do. It happens so fast that I have of course plenty of pictures showing the bird finally sitting but a few shots worked out well as you can see… More to come
One of the most beautiful birds that we can see here every spring and summer is the Baltimore Oriole. They spent the winter in Florida and southern Atlantic coast. Some are also found in Mexico and southern Texas. They feed primarily on caterpillars, beetles, bugs, and other insects but also like fruits and flower nectar. Not all the food is available shortly after their arrival here, which is always around May 1, and so the Baltimore Orioles are often seen drinking nectar at the hummingbird feeders. We also provide oranges that we cut in half and stick on a nail. It doesn’t take them very long to empty the juicy and sweet content. Later during the summer they will not eat from the feeders anymore and the orioles are mostly found in the upper parts of the trees. RightTheir song is a flutelike series of whistled notes and listening to it puts always a smile in our faces…
Here in Iowa, where the winter can be long and cold, we all like to talk about the signs of spring and summer, even if it is nearly the same procedure every year. Beside the call of the Sandhill Cranes there is no better sign for me than the chatter of a male House Wren in the early morning right beside our window. Immediately after their arrival from the South they start building nests from twigs in cavities and nest boxes and try to attract the females by their flutelike melody. I built a couple new nest boxes this winter because the old ones were falling apart. The wren didn’t hesitate a second before taking possession of the new housing a week ago.
I like to photograph birds on overcast days. The light may not always be sufficient for a fast shutter speed, which can be a problem to freeze the action of the bird, but its quality beats direct sunlight by far. Because of the fast movement of its bill the head of the wren is quite often blurry. It takes a while to get a shot like this…
Photographically this is not a great picture. I had to sacrifice too many pixels by cropping the image in order to show you this little warbler. I wouldn’t do that if it wasn’t a first sighting for me. I was actually focussing on a Yellow-rumped Warbler right in front of me when I saw this one landing on a boat dock nearby. No chance to move in closer, just time enough to point the lens, focus, and fire the shutter.
The Prothonotary Warbler can be found in Eastern Iowa during the summer and maybe I have a second chance to see this wonderful looking bird again…
It was a great weekend for bird photography. I saw six different species of warblers, two here at home and four at the Mississippi River. Not all pictures turned out perfect because warblers move usually very fast and hardly sit still but I had four first sightings and this made me very happy.
I already introduced the Yellow-rumped Warbler in my post Nature clicks #152 here in the blog. As you can see by clicking on the link the photo of my first sighting was less than mediocre. Last weekend I found more of them catching insects along the shore of the big river. They behave almost like a flycatcher and return often to the same perch where they took off. It was windy and the light changed all the time because of fast moving clouds but the quality of the light was just lovely.
What a surprise when I looked out the window yesterday morning and saw a Red-headed Woodpecker. I have seen it only ones before around our house and that was when I still shot a film camera, means at least six years ago. We have five other species of woodpeckers here but this one was missing in my digital library so far. I spent most of the morning to capture photos of this wonderful looking bird. The Red-headed Woodpecker was extremely aggressive to its cousins and especially rude to the Red-bellied Woodpeckers, who are about the same size. The next surprise came this morning when I saw a second one. They both were not very friendly to each other near the suet feeders in the yard. We wonder if they are just on their way through to breeding grounds further north or if they will stay here. This bird is not uncommon in our area, we have just not seen it very often on our rocky ridge here. Time will tell and for now we are just excited to see the Red-headed and enjoy its presence.