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Posts Tagged ‘Nashville Warbler’

The last few days I have been struck again by some fundamental differences between birders and photographers. In simple (and overgeneralized) terms, birders tend to be more scientific in their approach and photographers tend to be more artistic.

Most birders keep detailed records of what they see when they go out for a walk and have life lists of species they have observed. They know about the ranges of each species for each season and can often recognize a bird from its call. Any sighting of a bird “counts,” even if the bird is far away and a photo of it is tiny and blurry, though a photo is not an absolute requirement.

Many photographers like me don’t keep track of all that they see—if I am not able to get a shot of a bird that I spot, preferably a good shot, I mentally erase the sighting from my memory. I have not studied and internalized information about most bird species and therefore have trouble determining if a species is rare or common. That distinction does not really matter to me as I am generally more focused on getting a well-composed shot in decent light with an interesting pose, ideally a dynamic pose. I was therefore excited by the sequence of shots that I captured of a bald eagle taking off when I did a photowalk on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and immediately posted those images in posting on Friday morning.

I also took some shots of a small yellow bird on the icy surface of a small pond. I really did not know what it was, but suspected that it was some kind of warbler. I posted a photo on the Virginia Birding Facebook forum and asked for help. The response that I got from birders was immediate and excited—I was asked to document the sighting in eBird, an online database of bird observations with real-time data about bird distribution and abundance, and to repost the photo in the Virginia Notable Bird Sightings Facebook forum.

Why were the birders so excited? The bird, I was told, is a Nashville Warbler (Leiothlypis ruficapilla). According to the moderator of the Virginia Notable Bird Sightings forum, current records for Nashville Warblers are “very sparse on the East Coast. There are no other winter records for the species currently input to eBird at Occoquan NWR so this is quite remarkable.”  Apparently this is really late in the season to see a species that should have migrated through our area quite a while ago.

As for me, I am happy with the way I was able to capture the warbler’s reflection on the ice and the natural framing of the subject by the vegetation. The fact that it is a rare sighting at this time of the year is at best of secondary importance to me.

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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