Mid-Spring (2022) in Stories and Pictures

A common yellowthroat scans the prairie from a spiderwort plant.

It’s been a chilly, wet spring but that hasn’t slowed me down so it’s time to catch up with some stories and images. I made the featured image of a common yellowthroat during a morning hike at Shaw Nature Reserve. It was a mostly cloudy morning, my favorite condition for shooting. On sunny mornings, the light becomes harsh so fast I’m often packing my gear by 8:00 AM, especially this time of year when the sun rises so early.

On the same morning I was able to capture a nice image of a male and female on the same plant, something I hadn’t done before.

A pair of yellowthroats interacting on a spiderwort.

Before I left the yellowthroats and spiderworts I spotted an indigo bunting in full song. It was a mighty fine morning at Shaw Nature Reserve.

An indigo bunting sings its sunrise song at Shaw Nature Reserve.

On another recent trip to Shaw Nature Reserve, my friend Bill and I had quite a surprise, at least from a “Bird Nerd” standpoint. As we descended down the Rus Goddard Trail from the glade to the river bottom I saw some movement in a small tree which I surmised from a fleeting glimpse as a Nashville warbler. But as soon as Bill locked on the tiny warbler with his binoculars, I heard him say, “Hey man; that’s not a Nashville, that’s a Connecticut!”

The moment I heard the word “Connecticut” I knew it was a special moment for Bill, a first-time sighting of a species he had mentioned many times before. A “lifer” if you will, probably the only one left for Bill, at least within the context of reasonable migrants through Missouri. Of course it was a new bird for me as well, but I’m only a casual birder so I encounter new species all the time.

Our morning instantly went from “nice” to “spectacular” and high-fives and a nerdy-birdy jig ensued. I only made two images of the rare visitor, neither of which exceptional, but I’m sharing the better one here. A morning to remember.

A Connecticut warbler at Shaw Nature Reserve. What a surprise!

I’m still seeing at least one pair of meadowlarks on the knoll of fescue and Indian grass behind our house. Once the grass sprouted up over the male’s favorite singing perches, I set a 4 x 4 post on the highest spot on the hill. It wasn’t long before the male found it and made it his own. He often sits on the post all morning and in late afternoon, singing away.

My little meadowlark friend, singing from his custom perch. It made me feel good to help him out.

We have green herons at our pond again this spring. I hope they will nest as they have in years past and I’ll see some little ones. One morning while I was sitting in my hide along the shoreline I heard a loud screech followed by a cackle and looked up to the top of a willow tree where one of them had just been perched. Instead of the heron, I saw a red-shouldered hawk perched in the same place. The heron swooped down and landed on a log right in front of me, its neck in full scruff, still cackling with fear so much that it regurgitated a frog. After about five minutes, the heron finally settled down and began frogging again. Every once in a while it stopped to look up at the hawk which finally flew off.

A green heron on high alert (see neck scruff) after an attack by a red-shouldered hawk.

Later a friend mentioned that a green heron would be a big meal for a red shoulder, but you would be surprised how tiny a green heron really is if you saw one up close as I have, sometimes only a few feet away.

The green heron is one of my favorite birds. What a beauty!

One morning, Bill and I were hiking along Lost Valley Trail in St. Charles County, when I noticed him checking out a thicket along the creek. He had discovered a veery, a bird I had never photographed. After collapsing my tripod and crawling into the brush, I was able to make a decent image. Bill had pointed out the species to me in the past but I’d never captured a proper image. It was another “well done” morning for both of us. Bill’s birding expertise and my photography skill make for a great team.

A secretive veery in the riparian corridor along Lost Valley Trail.

I’m going to close out today with some images of another of my favorite birds, the eastern kingbird. We have several that hunt the fields surrounding our house and I can often photograph them right from my deck. They are a such a joy to watch and photograph, I find myself setting up to capture their images day after day.

Eastern kingbird in a rainstorm.

What a beautiful creature, the eastern kingbird.

Portrait of a king.

That’s all for now. I’ll see you again soon, probably as spring comes to a close. After that most of my shooting will be near water somewhere, as always when it heats up. Speaking of critters near water, I’ve finished a story called “Watchable Wildlife at Water’s Edge,” which features seven critters I regularly photograph near water. Watch for it in the May, 2023 issue of Missouri Conservationist.

Happy Naturing!

Danny Brown

Website/Contact Information: Here

America is beautiful. I vote to keep it that way.

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