Lost Valley Trail — Featuring the White-eyed Vireo

June 11, 2014

Lost Valley Trail, on MDC’s Weldon Spring Conservation Area, is only a few miles from my office so I’ve been paying the songbird-laden path some visits on my way to work lately. It’s late in the season, so I’ve been searching for colorful nesting birds, such as the cerulean warbler, Kentucky warbler and northern parula. During each of my visits, I’ve heard white-eyed vireos calling from the thickets, a tune that always seems to include the jazz great, Chick Corea’s name, at least to my ears. I’ve been trying to get a decent shot of a tiny, white-eyed vireo, with its yellow spectacles and pallid irises, for years but it wasn’t until Monday morning that my dream came true. Here is how it happened.

I’d been hiking along the trail thinking, “Woe is me. I’ll never get a decent shot today with all the birds so high in the trees and deep in the scrub.” I had just passed the part of the trail the gets really close to the creek when I saw a deer fawn in a wetland adjacent to the trail. As I tried to get in position to photograph the fawn, I saw two or three fledgling vireos fluttering awkwardly from shrub to shrub at eye level. A moment later, an adult, featured here, (700 mm; 1/100; f/5.6; ISO 400) swept down from the trees and landed right in front of me. As it let loose with a chatter to rival that of an angry chickadee, I swung my lens a few inches to the left, clicked the shutter, and mission accomplished. I didn’t have time to disturb the bird further because it immediately disappeared on the trail of the fledglings into the thick scrub around the wetland. I sure was happy to see how nice the image turned out.

Later that morning, I ran into a pair of Kentucky warblers and got a close look at each of them. I made a pretty nice image of the male but it was so deep in cover that my shutter speed was only 1/13 second. I was going to share it here but I bumped it at the last minute because it was a little too soft. Fortunately, I spotted an eye-level, yellow-breasted chat in the same location and it stuck around enough for one shot, which I’ve featured below. Note to camera buffs—check out the shutter speed on this one. Long lens technique works well if the subject is dead still.

DJB_LVT_2014_0966Yellow-breasted Chat; 700 mm; 1/20 sec; f/5.6; ISO 400

The final bird image this week is of a female, northern parula that I photographed on the trail a few weeks ago when hiking with a couple of friends, Brenda and Barb. The little gal landed in some tricky light, which I embraced as interesting instead of problematic. Rationalization works as well in photography as in other aspects of life. My friend Mike asked me how I ever got such a high angle on a warbler that typically frequents the treetops. I replied that it was easy at the time when three parulas dropped into a patch of trail-side shrubs to gorge on insects for several minutes. Too bad the one I photographed wasn’t a male. I believe the male, northern parula gives even the painted bunting a run for its money!

BR8I0246Northern Parula; 700 mm; 1/320; f/5.6; ISO 400

Finally, on my way home Monday morning, I rounded a corner to find a cool cottontail checking me out.

DJB_LVT_2014_0961Eastern Cottontail; 700 mm; 1/100; f/5.6; ISO 400

I like the way the image demonstrates the narrow corridor of focus across the rabbit and the trail, and an image of a rabbit on its haunches is usually an image worth sharing.

Thanks for looking,


Email me at:  NatureFrames@Rocketmail.Com

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