Pursuit of the Passerine* Persuasion
Morning walks usually begin at a small park at the end of my block. Mostly open except for a grove of live oak, the park skirts a small lake with a little shoreline thicket thus making it a perfect location for observing a variety of birds.
I usually don’t take my camera on these walks because if I do, I end up capturing images rather than exercising. However, as fall descended on Northern States I couldn’t help but observe new feathered visitors to the park. Most fascinating were a reading** of small songbirds with yellow-rumps that kept dropping from the trees only to run around in the grass then hop into the air and grab insects before returning. They seemed tolerant of park visitors of the two-legged sort so I decided to return with my camera. Photographing them turned out to be more difficult than I thought so my returns became habitual. Why? First, they never stop moving. Second, they flit in and out of shady trees on to sunlit lawn, presenting exposure challenges. Last, they are elusive. Could they be camera shy? Undaunted, I returned repeatedly in quest of at least one sharp photo of the little guys. Finally, as I sat resting on a park boundary railing one landed not too far away. Success!
By this time, I had observed enough field marks to identify this cute but clever bird as a palm warbler. I decided to spy on them. I learned to listen for their crisp chek, chek call and let my ears lead me to the trees they frequented. Next, I watched for a rustle in the leaves, a flash of yellow, and a snappy pumping tail. Voilà!
Encouraged, I announced my new morning mission to my husband. I would come back with a photo of a palm warbler in the air with an insect in its mouth. Ha! Those of you that know how to do that, please tell me. You can see photos of flying palm warblers at The Celery Farm & Beyond. The best I could do was capture one in the grass—however, I haven’t given up.
In the process of pursuing palm warblers, I’ve discovered other birds that frequent our park during fall migration. As a result, my digital and avian learning curves seem to be expanding, but I don’t mind one bit. To be truthful, I love it!
*Passerine: birds of the order Passeriformes, which includes perching birds and songbirds such as the jays, blackbirds, finches, warblers, and sparrows.
**Reading: a group of warblers