WIlson's Warbler Singing
No better way to start off my blog series, then with a posting on Wilson's Warblers. Wilson's are an elusive bird, like many warblers often heard but not seen. Wilson's with their fancy black caps and bright yellow body and wings are a striking species that normally only gives you fleeting glimpses. Typically found in darker, older forests they are notoriously difficult to photograph. On this day i was heading out to a favourite spot that a few days earlier had been full of singing birds, tanagers, flycatchers, warblers, wrens, you name it and they were singing. Funny the difference a day makes, many of the species from a few days earlier must have passed through or settled on territories. The heat and sun definitely quieted things down as well, all except for this one Wilson's warbler.
Being a night owl myself, unlike most other Bird photographers I am an evening shooter not a morning shooter, and as such this location was picked for the setting sun to be at my back giving a soft glow on the birds and background. The elevated trail overlooking a replanted clearcut, makes for a great vantage point, allowing me to shoot down on to the treetops and singing birds instead of looking up against a blue sky. This approach can be great for many species but typically not for Wilson's warbler given their habits of staying low in the cover. The original plan was for the Western Tanagers and Willow Flycatchers that were here a few days earlier but the Tanagers could be heard singing in the Older adjacent forest and the Willow Flycatchers were around but only made fleeting passes. You can imagine my surprise to have this Wilson's hop to the top of a small spruce and start belting it out.
Another rival male a short distance away, could be heard singing as well keeping this bird on its toes. The moving sun made for some interesting lighting and backgrounds as this warbler flitted around the small clearing I was shooting.
Luck and timing can often play a big role in getting shots of birds and yes I do have a good camera :) But to be consistent takes a lot more then just luck and good gear. Good bird photographers are also good birders. Spending as much time in the field as I do, knowing what you hear greatly improves your odds of finding and then photographing the birds you seek. The new birding apps, my favourite being the Sibley's eGuide to the Birds of North America are amazing tools to help you get acquainted with your local bird calls and songs. Connecting the calls with the different habitats can really aid in your search and dramatically improve your birding success. Wilson's songs are very similar to many sparrows and other Warblers but they often occupy different habitats or zones within the habitats. If you are looking for Wilson's or MacGillivrays warblers you are generally looking low in the brush and trees while the Townsend's Warblers are typically in the forest canopy.
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