Vacation is supposed to be for relaxing, catching up on sleep, and taking a break. However, a lot of times when I come back from vacation, I’m more tired than before I left. This is due to my (questionable?) practice of getting up at dawn every day and going out birding before my wife and son get up. I don’t want to spend family time birding, so doing it in the mornings before they’re ready to go for the day is one way to get my birding in, and not disrupt the family schedule.
One reason I do it is that there are usually a new mix of birds wherever we vacation, with the opportunity to see (and photograph) birds that I just don’t have an opportunity to see here in South Dakota. One group of birds that I have trouble photographing are warblers. There’s an amazing variety of warbler species, with 40 or so that have been seen in South Dakota. However, the majority of these are just migrants through the state, or rare vagrants. I’ve SEEN nearly all the warbler species that come through the state, but it’s typically a case of seeing individual birds of a given species. It’s one thing to go out and try to photograph a bird that’s common in a given region…you’ll have multiple opportunities and multiple birds to try to photograph. It’s quite another task to try to get a photograph of the ONE Black-throated Green Warbler that you see during a given spring migration.
It also doesn’t help that warblers in general are active little buggers!! The day I see a warbler just sitting still in a tree is the day I can die a happy man. But NOOOOOOO….warblers are never that cooperative, they’re always flitting about and moving through the vegetation while they’re foraging. Several warbler species also tend to spend most of their time high up in a forest canopy, making them even more difficult to photograph.
We vacationed on the coast of Maine, northeast of Acadia National Park. Many of the “wood warblers” that are migrants or vagrants here breed in the forests of Maine, so warblers were going to be my primary focus during this trip. I wasn’t disappointed in the number or variety of warblers seen during my morning excursions!! From the very first morning there, I heard and saw warblers in seemingly every forested patch that I could find. There’s an expression in birding, often used with warblers during migration in South Dakota, where on the rare occasion the birds are “dripping off the trees”, there seem to be so many. I wouldn’t say they were exactly dripping off the trees in Maine, but they were quite easy to hear and see.
But to photograph? Not so much! They were STILL warblers, after all, with the tendency to fly out of the frame JUST when you trip the camera’s shutter, and several species did indeed typically stay high in the forest canopy. The weather also didn’t help! It only truly rained a couple of days in the two weeks we were in Maine, but there were many days where it was overcast, and sometimes foggy. Low light plus very active birds? Not a great combination for photography! Despite that though, I had a wonderful time on my morning excursions. I’ve been doing birding and photography for about 12 years now, and after that much time, it’s getting tougher and tougher to photograph a “new” species, one I haven’t photographed before. However, on this trip, I was able to get photographs for 6 “new” species.
I’ve actually seen each of these before, but haven’t been able to get photographs. The 6 new ones were 1) Black-throated Blue Warbler 2) Black-throated Green Warbler 3) Canada Warbler 4) Blackburnian Warbler 5) Northern Parula and 6) Common Eider. It was a bit frustrating in that there were about 6 other “new” species that I saw or heard, but was unable to photograph. However, I’ll never complain about a trip where I was able to get good warbler photos, of species I hadn’t photographed before.
Great trip, very relaxing, and new bird photos as well!