It’s been a great last week for migrants. Warblers are hit-or-miss around here, as some seasons are great for warblers, and some…not so much. Even within a given year though it’s unpredictable, as they can seemingly be everywhere one day, and gone the next. What’s been great about the last week is that there have been good to great numbers of warblers nearly every day, and the variety has been good as well.
The downside of a protracted, good warbler migration? Warbler neck!! I would be that on an hour-per-photo measurement, warblers rank much higher than most other kinds of birds. Around here, the most common place to spot warblers is up in the forest canopy. It makes for tough photography conditions, as either the warblers are usually too far away for a good photo, or you’re shooting from directly below and just getting a shot of their bellies. It also makes for a SERIOUS case of “warbler neck”, a sore neck you get from continually having your head tilted back, looking straight up into the canopy with your binoculars as you scan for warblers.
Yesterday I just couldn’t do another trip of scanning the tree tops, so I thought I’d try some of my old tried-and-true locations for getting up a bit to the birds’ level. Out here on the plains, trees are mostly found in woodlots, protected ravines, urban areas, and riparian areas. If there’s a riparian area, that means roads with bridges over the water. I have several bridges in the area that I’ve used for taking photos of birds in the tree canopy, as the taller bridge places you up towards the tree tops a bit.
It was actually slower for warblers yesterday than it had been all week, and I was a little disappointed when I came to one of my “photo bridges”. As I pulled over at the corner of the bridge, positioning myself right next to the tree branches, I heard a thin, weak buzzing song. I’m not the greatest at bird calls, but I knew that buzzy call..a Golden-winged Warbler. Beautiful birds, but pretty uncommon migrants through South Dakota. I had no photos of the species and was really hoping this bird would cooperate. Fortunately, he kept on foraging in the riparian trees, oblivious to the guy with the camera. When I first started to try to take a photo, he was obscured by leaves and branches, but after a minute or two of waiting, I was finally able to get some decent photos of a Golden-winged Warbler.
And all from my elevated “photo bridge”, eliminating any aggravation of my warbler neck!