I received a call on Saturday from my contact at Boyce Thompson Arboretum reporting that birders had discovered a female Orchard Oriole and a juvenile male Rose-breasted Grosbeak at a pistachio tree near the lower parking lot. Both species are vagrants from the East in AZ. I had seen each species twice before in AZ – one of the grosbeaks was even seen at Boyce. But the oriole was a new species for the arboretum.
I arrived at 8:00 am just as the arboretum was opening this morning and immediately headed to the lower lot. This particular tree has attracted interesting birds in thre past, including this Rufous-backed Robin that I photographed a few years ago.
Within the first 40 minutes both vagrants showed up to feed on ripe fruit – first the grosbeak, and after it left the oriole. My friend Steve Ganley called me over to his side of the tree when he saw the oriole and I was able to get off only two quick shots. This is the first frame!
I’d had the camera set up for the darker shaded side of the tree at ISO 800, and there was no time at all to monkey with the camera settings. This brilliant morning light didn’t require that high of an ISO, but I’d rather be too high than too low and I’m glad I didn’t miss the shot while fiddling with that setting. I simply set down the tripod and swung the lens to point at the oriole, depressed the use-defined button on the front of the camera to switch in the spot meter, and took two shots.
I did manage to get a few documentary images of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, even showing the diagnostic red feathers under the wing that distinguish it from the very similar juvie Black-headed Grosbeak. So, not a bad couple of hours of birds and photography, and I didn’t even need to hike the trails with all my heavy gear.
Nikon D300, Nikkor 300/2.8 AF-S pus TC20E III (2x), Gitzo tripod with RRS ball head and Sidekick, ISO 800, 1/1600th second at f/8