Kentucky Warbler

By: Danny Brown

Aug 17 2012

Category: Songbirds and Gamebirds


August 17, 2012

Recently I was photo-hiking at Shaw Nature Reserve, watching for “anything that moved” as a potential image. A flash of yellow in the corner of my eye made me think, “common yellowthroat” but as I focused on the little birdie its yellow spectacles immediately revealed it to be a Kentucky warbler! I’d only photographed one Kentucky warbler before, right here on the farm, a disappointing Kentucky blur. I knew I would only have a second to capture this warbler’s image so I didn’t even try to change my camera settings, which were optimized (tight aperture and low shutter speed) for a blazing star plant I had been photographing earlier. Somehow I managed to get a reasonably sharp image of the skittish juvenile, in spite of technical issues. Of course it would have been nice to photograph an adult Kentucky in spring plumage but I’ll take what I can get with this species.

As I processed the image of the young warbler I wondered if it had any idea about the journey on which it would soon embark. As the chill of fall approaches, this Kentucky, along with all of its kind, will begin an epic trip southward, including a non-stop flight across the gulf of Mexico (about 1000 miles), to its ultimate destination – the Yucatan Peninsula. I can only imagine the relief that this little fella will feel when it reaches the beach head in Central America after crossing all that water. But maybe not. By instinct the bird’s brain will probably just chalk the trip up as no big deal. Regardless of the bird’s position on this matter, I’m impressed! My friend Mike Smith, a school teacher and naturalist, gave me a new appreciation for warblers many years ago. He reminded me that it’s not just their stunning beauty that makes them so special; it’s also their exceptional life history.  I sure hope this Kentucky warbler survives its winter vacation and returns next spring to Shaw Nature Reserve where I’ll be waiting to capture it in vernal attire, including Neil Young sideburns. You can bet I’ll be checking out the same area when the time comes.

Canon 1D Mark IV; Canon 500/4 L IS Lens with Canon 1.4 TC II Teleconverter; 1/40 sec at f/8.0; ISO 400; RAW Capture; Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod with Wimberley II Head; Processed in Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP); Better than 50% crop

Interview:  Read an interview about my wildlife photography techniques in the current issue (Summer 2012) of “Our Mississippi” on page 11.  A PDF of the issue can be downloaded for free at:

Thanks for Looking!



8 comments on “Kentucky Warbler”

  1. Awesome Danny! Love your warbler pictures.

    • Thanks Mike. I’ve been seeing a lot of new birds in the last few weeks. Heading out to the cattail flats tomorrow to see what’s what. Take care.

  2. Hi Danny,

    Amazing–he’s a beauty–tried to access your Mississippi article but it’s in a language my brain can’t translate! Didn’t know you were friends with Mike. His wife Maria and I have been friends for years– Happy weekend. Sure you’ll be photographing lots with the beautiful weather!


    • Hi Chris: A small world indeed. I’ve know Mike for a long time as I taught at Washington School District myself back in 1983. Mike actually found the three pileated nestlings for me a few years ago on the Washington riverfront.

  3. Well, *I* liked the “Kentucky blur” bit a lot, because for me, Kentucky may change to Karnataka but most birds are blurs! 🙂 Thanks for the lovely image of a bird I may, or may not, get to see 🙂

    • You might be surprised at how many of mine turn out to be blurs as well. They all end up in the delete bin. Have a great weekend Deepa. I guess I don’t need to tell you how amazing the weather is in St. Louis this weekend — Smile.

  4. This is just beautiful and I love the “story” behind it.

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