Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

May 22, 2011

Wilson’s Warbler Migration

Filed under: backyard, Birds — richditch @ 12:17 pm
Wilson's Warbler

Wilson's Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler, Phoenix, 5/15/2011 10:03 am, Nikon D300, Nikkor 300/2.8 AF-S plus TC20E (2x), ISO 640, 1/160th second at f/5.6, Aperture priority matrix metered at -1/3rd stop, 56% of frame

The most common warbler in spring migration around Phoenix is the Wilson’s Warbler. That’s a real treat for a former east coast birder since this species wasn’t very common in the mid Atlantic states. In our suburban yard we get to watch the Audubon’s form of the Yellow-rumped Warbler working our mesquite trees all winter, and just before they depart we start to see a few migrants. That usually includes a couple Yellow Warblers and  a Black-throated Gray Warbler, and if we’re lucky a MacGillivray’s as well. But these always seem to be outnumbered by Wilson’s.

This spring they seemed to be everywhere I went birding, and our backyard was no exception. They usually stay high in the canopy making it hard to get a good view, but they can’t resist the sound of running water and will drop down to check out the tiny water feature near the patio. This year we had three Wilson’s on the water feature at the same time.

Photography here isn’t easy, though. The light is never very good, the plants my wife has around the water feature are often blocking my view, and I have to shoot from inside the house through the crummy glass door. This always degrades image quality by lowering contrast significantly and killing detail. It also gives the shots a color cast that can be difficult to eliminate. But I can’t resist and shoot anyway hoping for the best.

These birds gave me an opportunity to try out a new (to me) piece of gear – a gently used Nikon D300 body that I found locally. I picked it up because it offers better auto focus performance and less noise at higher ISO settings than my trusty D200. I must say I’m enjoying it while learning to get the most out of it.

Wilson's Warbler

Wilson's Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler, Phoenix, 5/19/2011 8:06 am, Nikon D300, Nikkor 300/2.8 AF-S plus TC20E (2x), ISO 400, 1/25th second at f/11, Aperture priority matrix metered , 44% of frame

Wilson's Warbler

Wilson's Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler, Phoenix, 5/19/2011 8:06 am, Nikon D300, Nikkor 300/2.8 AF-S plus TC20E (2x), ISO 400, 1/80th second at f/5.6, Aperture priority matrix metered , 46% of frame

If I ever decide to build a backyard studio to do setups for birds it will definitely be built around running water of some form.

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2 Comments »

  1. Wonderful shots of the Wilson’s. Living in South Mississippi, the only time I have seen this species was during a visit with relatives in the Phoenix area. Your handling of the D300 (and the 2X converter) shows great technique even if you were shooting through the door.

    Comment by Larry Basden — May 22, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

  2. I think this must have been what I saw years ago in the timber near Hereford, Ore, SW of Baker City. The locals were calling them “mountain canaries.”

    Comment by Sharon at ruralroute2 — May 23, 2011 @ 2:50 pm


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