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Magee Marsh warbler madness

A tiny fraction of the thousands of birders that descended upon Magee Marsh Wildlife Area in Lucas and Ottawa counties, Ohio, last Friday. Even more people were in the area the next day, which was International Migratory Bird Day. Spring songbird migration is near peak, the Biggest Week in American Birding is in full swing, and there are few better places to be if you are a warbler enthusiast.

I was there all day Friday and Saturday, and a good chunk of today as well. In all, I spent about 20 hours on the boardwalk "Bird Trail", mostly working with newer birders and helping them find and identify birds. Consequently, I took far fewer images than I normally would in that amount of field time, but did manage a few. The Canon 7D Mark II coupled to the 100-400 mm 4.5-5.6 II was slung over my shoulder, so shots of irresistible subjects would not be missed. By the way, this rig is certainly one of the best for handheld bird shots. Not only that, it is extremely versatile and I also used it to photograph snakes, muskrats, and even orchids this weekend. There were solid keepers in every group. I'll try to find time to write about this marvelous Canon pairing sometime.

A Yellow Warbler milliseconds before it sprang from the branch. It was one of untold thousands in the area. The marshes of western Lake Erie may be the Yellow Warbler capital of the world. These gorgeous warblers are smitten with soggy soils grown over with willow shrubs, and there's an abundance of such habitat at Magee and vicinity.

I've enjoyed experimenting with different photographic techniques for birds. This image was taken with the aforementioned rig, at f/5.6, a shutter speed of 1/640, and ISO at 250. When I know or suspect that my avian subject is going to put on a sudden burst of speed, my natural inclination is to bump the shutter speed WAY up to try and freeze the action. You know, get the image crisp enough so that the individual shafts of the primary flight feathers are crystal clear.

Such tactics surely do make for a good image, but so can using shutter speeds that aren't nearly fast enough to freeze all of the action. For this photo, my focus was locked on the bird's face, and when he started to move, I rattled off a 10 frames per second burst mode. I like the way this shot came out: face, eyes, and upper breast sharp, but the rest of the Yellow Warbler is an artistic blur of wildly gyrating feathers. As always, click the image to expand it.

I'll try and post some other images from my weekend at Magee later.


Dave Lewis said…
Hi Jim!
Nice to see you as that warbly shot!

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