Sunrise Bobolinks!

May 14, 2014

Last week, I was inspecting some stream corridors at Logan Conservation Area when my friend, Eric Merritt, a wildlife biologist, mentioned that he had spotted a flock of bobolinks at B.K. Leach Conservation Area. I began making mental plans for the weekend just as soon as I heard the news. Following is my account of the two mornings I spent chasing these stunning cousins of Missouri’s ubiquitous red-winged blackbird.

Day One:

I was up at 4:30 a.m. for the 90-minute trip to Leach. I made a short stop at Foristell for an Egg Sausage McMuffin, big surprise, but I didn’t waste any time. When I finally arrived at the sprawling waterfowl area, the sun was quickly separating itself from the horizon. I would have to work fast to find the bobolinks before the light became too harsh. Unfortunately, I was distracted by an abundance of dickcissels on the area and I kept stopping to photograph them.

By the time I found the first bobolink, the early-morning sun was glaring through the cloudless atmosphere, leaving my images stark and shadowy. By 8:00 a.m. I was making ground with the bobolinks, learning how to “become one with them” so to speak, but the light was just too much. Shooting wildlife in bright light, especially birds with such contrasting colors, is like slathering ketchup all over a fine steak. My morning was cooked so I packed up and headed home.

Day Two:

On Sunday morning, I rose at 4:00 a.m. and checked the radar on my iPhone. I only found one intense storm cell and it was perched right above B.K. Leach Conservation Area! Next, I began making excuses not to go. For instance, my big toe on my right foot was very sore, apparently from mowing the lawn and weedeating in flip-flops the previous afternoon. I limped out onto the deck a few times to look at the sky and almost decided to “call it” and go back to bed but I kept thinking that the light might be fantastic on the heels of a storm at my destination. But what if I ran into a hailstorm in my new 4Runner? Yes, more excuses, but not enough to keep me from my mission.

DJB_BKL_2014_0750700 mm; 1/320; f/5.6; ISO 400

When I arrived at the area at 6:00 a.m. it was covered with water. The bobolinks, dickcissels and other birds must have had a heck of a night. I immediately began to wonder if I would see any of them. I donned my hip boots and waded out into the sheet water, shin deep in places, looking for my quarry. It wasn’t long until I found them again, feeding and posturing in the brambles of the prairie. Oh, and the light was magnificent!

DJB_BKL_2014_07391000 mm; 1/640; f/8.0; ISO 400

I spent the next few hours photographing the bobolinks as the males fluttered among the prairie stick-ups, singing to the females which generally stayed low to the ground. My favorite of the morning was the featured image of a male showing off for a female (700 mm; 1/200; f/6.3; ISO 400). After two mornings of shooting, the strutting males didn’t seem to have a care about my presence but the females remained wary and only allowed a shot from afar. I’ve included an image of one of the females for comparison.

DJB_BKL_2014_0799700 mm; 1/500; f/9.0; ISO 400

By the time I was finished, I realized I had walked a long way through the wet prairie and my car was but a tiny spot on the horizon. Funny how I’d forgotten all about my sore toe. On my way out, I spotted a pheasant in a field adjacent to one of the wetland pools. Somehow, I managed to get some nice images of the gorgeous, gaudy rooster out in the tall grass, my first images of a pheasant in Missouri. I’ll share that story in the next edition.

Thanks for looking,


Email me at:  NatureFrames@Rocketmail.Com


4 comments on “Sunrise Bobolinks!”

  1. Marvelous, as always. Bedraggled-looking fellow in the first picture looks like he’s rather be almost anywhere.

  2. Read the story, enjoyed the pictures…I hope I’ll see one of these beauties one day!

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