Monday, July 16, 2012

Scarlet Tanager. Wow!

Fellow photographer Ray Hunt joined me at Newtown Battlefield Reservation near Elmira this morning.  Each time that I go there, I see something different, and often come away with a new bird in my photo collection.  Same today.

I first wanted to find a Hooded Warbler for Ray. Technically, I did that.  Honestly, the bird was not  cooperative and the light was poor. It was a humid morning and I got the feeling that the birds were going to be scarce.  Never saw a single Black-capped Chicadee, and they are real common. But at least we saw one of the warblers and have a photo to prove it. I hope Ray got a better image.

As we moved on along the trail, I kept hearing birds that I was unfamiliar with.  They were high in the trees against a bright, flat white sky. All I saw was a form with no color and no real idea of size. The trail I had chosen is on a hillside with the sun shining towards the downhill side, so eventually we saw some at our eye level and against the distant land rather than the bright sky.  Scarlet Tanager!  I've never photographed them, so this became exciting.

You may ask how I could not see the color against the sky, but even such a bright red is lost in strong backlight. Thankfully, the bird came down lower on a few occasions.  My neck was pretty sore when the bird stayed high overhead. As a technical note, I used fill flash to bring out the colors against the brightly illuminated background leaves. The flash helps reveal the texture of the feathers too.

As nice as the preceding image is, I really wanted the bird to be in full voice.  It shows the energy of the bird. Over time, I finally had the combination of an uncluttered setting and the timing to catch the song in progress. You can see how the lower bill is quivering. It is less distinct than the upper bill. (More often than not, the bird perches behind a leaf or branch, and prevents a useful photo. Birds can be very uncooperative. Patience and luck are key ingredients for bird photography.)

Such a beautiful bird! But, I still wanted it to come lower and show those jet black wings and tail against the brilliant scarlet body. Finally, my wish was granted.

At some point, Ray and I were satisfied.  It was becoming more humid and uncomfortable. We had both forgotten to bring water.  I think we had each captured about 150 images to chose from.  We completed the walk over more trails, but it became really quiet.  We agreed that the heat and humidity had put the birds into rest mode. It was a good morning for both.

Paul Schmitt


1 comment:

  1. A gorgeous bird, great photos, I love the last one, what a capture! Great work Paul, and kudos for being at the right place at the right time! What a treat for you!