Rusty Blackbird at Maramec Springs Park

December 28, 2012

A rusty blackbird forages bankside at Maramec Springs Park. According to Cornell University’s website, my favorite reference on birds, the rusty blackbird is one of North America’s most rapidly declining species. The population has plunged an estimated 85-99 percent over the past forty years and ornithologists are completely puzzled as to what is the cause. Similar to a few other birds, including the grackle, the male rusty blackbird is identified in winter by its pallid yellow eyes, buff eye-streak, rusty-edged feathers, and short tail. I’ve only photographed three rusty blackbirds in the seven years I’ve been chasing critters with a camera so I was excited to run across this stunning male in winter plumage a few days ago.

I had already left the park and made it to St. James when I remembered that I had stashed my blind, coveralls and hunting chair under a bridge to retrieve later. When I returned to pick up the gear I noticed this rusty feeding at the edge of the spring branch. It flushed as expected when I approached its location but I sat and waited to see if it would return. I made myself comfortable, back to a sycamore, and sure enough the little beauty came right back to the spot and returned to feeding on unseen invertebrates in the watercress and moss. Although the sun was a little harsh, I was able to make several nice images.

The rusty blackbird will be one of the featured species at a new exhibit I’ll have on display at the Audubon Center at Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary beginning on January 5. I’ll be featuring a photograph of a rusty that I made at Riverlands from my kayak while pursuing trumpeter swans. The exhibit will highlight birds that visit Riverlands during winter, including trumpeter swans, goldeneye, bald eagles, fox sparrows and several other species. The kickoff on January 5 includes an Eagle Festival with activities for both adults and kids. You can learn more about the festival here.

This will be my last regular post for 2012 but I have a nice surprise for you on New Year’s eve—a rather unusual image for Nature Frames, to say the least. Over the last three years or so I’ve shared nearly 500 images and many stories about my “hunting trips.” I hope that some of you stick around for 2013 to see what I come up with next. Joyce and I will be heading to Zion National Park and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon next spring so I’ll be sure to sneak in a few images from that trip along with my regular Missouri captures. Take care and I’ll see you New Year’s Eve.


Rusty Blackbird; Canon 1D Mark IV; Canon 500/4 L IS Lens with 1.4 TC II; 1/320 sec @ f/5.6; ISO 400; Aperture Priority; RAW Capture; Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod with Wimberley II Gimbal Head; Converted and Processed in Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP)

P.S.  No end of the year post is complete without one “best of the year” statement so I’ll share with you the best novel I read in 2012. It was called “The Dog Stars” by Peter Heller. Maybe a few of you were as lucky as I was to experience such a wonderful novel. Thanks to my friend Chris Stuckenschneider—Author, Columnist, Book Reviewer and all-around super lady, for recommending so many great books in 2012. “She finds ’em….I read ’em. A perfect relationship! You can find out more about Chris here.


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6 comments on “Rusty Blackbird at Maramec Springs Park”

  1. Hey Danny, I really liked your images of the rusty blackbird both here and in the calendar. I haven’t crossed paths with this bird yet, but maybe I’ll get lucky some day. I still haven’t found a wetland that I can get to quickly to replace the Cooley Lake wetland that has been dry most of the year. And the highly channelized nature of the Missouri River usually doesn’t make it a good photo op location. Guess I need to venture out further to find productive photography spots. The Zion-Grand Canyon trip sounds like a winner. Irene and I hope to hit all of those Southwest parks in the years to come. Keep the great images coming in 2013!

    • Thanks Phil. Always great to hear from you. I’m having a back problem and in fear that it might try to slow me down in 2013. We’ll see!

  2. Thank you for the image of this bird, which I have never seen; and wish you and Joyce the very best for the new year! (And may we have more of your images….!) Looking forward to meeting you when I am in St.Loui.

  3. Hi Danny, just getting to read my E-Mail’s. Thank’s for sending me that beautiful image’ of that Rusty Blackbird. I have never seen one up close like that before. They certainly are a beautiful in there own way, and have a look like don’t push me. I want to wish You and Joyce, a Very Healthy, Happy New Year.


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