Little Birds with a Splash of Yellow

November 21, 2013

On Tuesday afternoon I stopped by Shaw Nature Reserve a couple of hours before sunset. My plan was to grab a snapshot of a tree trunk with sapsucker holes for a story I was working on for Missouri Conservationist. At the last minute, I decided to throw in my Canon 300/4 L IS lens with a 1.4x teleconverter just in case I saw an interesting bird, or a squirrel doing something funny along the trail. I didn’t even bring a tripod because I only planned to be there long enough to get an image of the sapsucker-riddled tree trunk.

Upon arrival, I found the tree I was looking for and made the image with a short lens. I noticed the high, thin cloud layer was producing some great afternoon light so I pulled the 300/4 out of my shoulder bag and slapped it on my Mark IV for the walk out. It wasn’t long before I saw some movement in the tallgrass prairie so I “pished” a few times and out came a beautiful white-throated sparrow to check me out. I thought to myself, “Wait until I get a smart phone with the Audubon bird call app if I can pish a bird up that fast!” Then I thought, “What do I do now; I don’t even have a tripod?” The next step was to go completely out of character for my shooting style. I turned on the lens stabilizer, something I never do, and began making handheld snap shots of the sparrow. A quick check of the LCD revealed a “not so bad” image.

As I proceeded up the trail, I noticed a group of butter butts (yellow-rumped warblers) catching insects along the roofline of a little storage building in the Whitmire Wildflower Garden. I eased up to the location and plopped down next to a tree and waited about 20 minutes. The butter butts soon returned and minutes later I had a second bird species in the bag, a female in plain winter wear, compliments of my handheld shorty lens.


By that time it was getting dark so I stepped up my progress to the truck. It sure felt nice to walk around Shaw Nature Reserve on a nice afternoon for a change. As most of you know, I’m usually there early in the morning. Also, I must admit the handheld rig was a nice departure from the aches, pains and awkwardness of my tripod-mounted 500/4 with converter. I was reminded of how effective the Canon 300/4 L IS lens can be when the birds decide to cooperate. Please don’t build up any false hopes though because Missouri birds rarely cooperate enough for a 300mm lens.

BR8I4426 “Tree trunk with yellow-bellied sapsucker holes”

I hope you don’t think this old dog has learned some new tricks because I’ll be right back there the next time at 0 dark 30 with the 20-pound beast. I promise to switch shoulders every 100 meters or so—just like my doctor recommended.

Thanks for looking,


Workshop:  I will be conducting a workshop on wildlife photography on January 11, 2014 at Shaw Nature Reserve. For details, click here.

2 comments on “Little Birds with a Splash of Yellow”

  1. Great job Danny. You managed to captured a most stunning image of that little sparrow, without the support of a tripod. You might rethink, about carrying one all the time. I hope you have a good weekend, and a Happy Thanksgiving.


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