Birds (and snakes) of Lost Valley Trail (Weldon Spring C.A.)

April 26, 2016

A yellow-billed cuckoo shows off the underside artwork of its long tail this morning along Lost Valley Trail at Weldon Spring Conservation Area. I had to use manual focus to search through the brambles for the eye of the secretive bird. Although the cuckoo was looking away, this was still my favorite image of the morning, perhaps because I’m rarely in the vicinity of this species when it is not high in the trees. Thanks to my friend Bill Fritz for spotting this individual as it skulked through the shadowy brush along Little Femme Osage Creek.



This Kentucky warbler landed on a stem right behind Bill while I was photographing a white-eyed vireo. “Kentucky, right behind us!” he strongly whispered. I replied, “Don’t move,” and swung my gimbal around 180 degrees, right into the sun. The iconic warbler was only a few feet away and below eye-level. I quickly overexposed by a full stop to account for the oncoming light. This was the best of about six shots. The focus isn’t perfect, but the rim-lighting and color turned out fine. In other words —  I’ll take it!



The white-eyed vireo I was photographing when Bill discovered the Kentucky warbler. As you can see, it was in the process of building a nest. Bill and I both love listening to the “Chick Corea” song of the white-eyed vireo.



A female, rose-breasted grosbeak looks down on me with disdain from above.



A rare image of a gray catbird, for me at least. I spent about 15 minutes, with Bill directing me from the trail behind, trying to get in position for a shot of this reclusive customer. Catbirds have a unique ability to bury themselves in layers of vegetation. I’m still surprised that I somehow found a clear shot to this one. It almost seemed curious as it watched me struggle through the vines and briers in an effort to find a shooting lane. I think it was Bill’s raspy “mewing” sounds that finally brought the catbird into view.



A final image of Dr. Bill inspecting the throat of a black rat snake. The healthy specimen was soon released after a gentle reminder to quit trying to eat its own tail.

Bill and I had a great morning at Lost Valley Trail, a perennial favorite of birders in the St. Louis area. I’ve been there several times this spring and the activity seems to be peaking at this time. I look forward to returning soon.

Thanks for looking,


Email:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Gallery of Images:  Danny’s Website



2 comments on “Birds (and snakes) of Lost Valley Trail (Weldon Spring C.A.)”

  1. Enjoyed every word, every image. How you get such sharp images through the foliage clutter beats me. I’m happy, though, it doesn’t beat you! Deepa.

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