Monday, February 10, 2014

A Year-round Resident of Wildwood

One of the loveliest residents of Wildwood is the Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis), a member of the Thrush family. In the spring, they like to nest in boxes at the Park Road entrance. In winter, they are easier to see in the trees and on power lines at the Wetland. However, they enjoy a wide range in the park.
One morning in late January, as I approached the north bridge, I caught sight of bright blue wings flitting over the creek. Because there were no leaves, I could easily see small birds perched on bare limbs. Off came my gloves and out came my camera. I aimed toward the trees and hoped for the best. (Remember that my small camera does not have a long range for birding.) At first, it was a game of hide-and-seek!


Then one small bird ventured into the open. A dusting of snow lingered on the ground as the small female posed for me.

                                            Soon I saw a male perched on another tree.

               He fluffed out his feathers and tucked down his beak to resist the cold wind.

A few days later, as I approached the Grand Staircase from the upper west trail, I saw several Bluebirds in the trees in the woods. They were too busy to stop for photos. However, as I watched and waited, one finally stopped to rest. I had to shoot toward the setting sun which isn't good for pictures. However, the images turned out okay!


                                       And the birdie even turned to face the camera!

A Winter Resident

While walking through Wildwood Park on a bright but cold day in January, I heard a flutter in the brush beside the bike path. As I s-l-o-w-l-y walked toward the flutter, I could see a bird hopping from limb to limb. Pulling my gloves off, I began snapping pictures.

I stood as still as I could. It was very cold, but I tried not to shiver inside my down coat. The bird hopped to a tangle of Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora) brambles and began to occasionally peck at the rose hips (berries or fruits) lingering on the thorny twigs.

I could see its white throat speckled with dark dots and decided that it probably was a Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus). Although my hands had begun to ache from the cold wind, I continued to squeeze a few more shots from my camera. Opportunities such a this do not come often for me and my camera.

I was very eager to return home and view the images on my computer. My small camera does not have a long range so I do not often get successful bird photos. I was very pleased to see that yes, I had gotten several clear pictures and that yes, I was correct with the identification of the bird's species.

This Hermit Thrush probably was spending the winter in Wildwood before flying off to mate and breed in states north of Virginia or perhaps in Canada. However, according to Radford's resident bird expert, it may go only as far as the higher elevations of the southern Appalachians to nearby Glen Alton in Giles County. In summer, it will feed on insects that it finds by scratching under dried leaves. However, it seemed content to find these berries on a cold day.

There is a feeling of satisfaction when all elements of a fine photo come together: light (just enough, but not too much to cause a glare), distance (a subject that allows me to get close enough), and steady hands - a simple and profound joy.