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A note before beginning tonight’s post. Starting tomorrow, and for the next 12 days, I’m going to reprise my dozen favorite photos of the past year. This won’t be a repeat of previous posts. Rather, my plan is to write about how I came to make each of these photos. I thought it would be fun to talk about how I made the photos for a change rather than the subjects. Some of you may be surprised at what I’ve selected as my favorites and how I managed to get these images. You’re free to give these pictures thumbs up or down. We’ll see.
Tonight’s subject is the Verdin, a common songbird in the southwestern United States. These are truly tiny birds, much smaller than sparrows. They are pretty easy to find and damn near impossible to photograph. Verdins are common and not too shy. A Verdin rarely flees when it is approached. I’ve often stood within four feet of a Verdin as it calmly went about its business, totally ignoring me. But, as approachable as a Verdin may be, it has a knack for burying itself in foliage, almost never showing itself to an observer. Often, I will hear one just a few feet away from me and never see it. I’ve gone months on end without having a decent opportunity to photograph one of these pretty little birds.
The other day, however, I got lucky. I was standing next to a willow tree at Sweetwater Wetlands. I could hear a Verdin rustling around within the branches but I couldn’t see it at all. After a minute’s wait I all gave up on seeing the bird and was about to leave when, suddenly, it appeared in plain view.
It was visible and out in the open for about 5 seconds before disappearing once more. I frantically fired off some exposures and got a couple of useable images.
There are several species of little gray birds that hang out in bushes. Verdins can be distinguished by their yellow heads and by the tiny red epaulets on their shoulders. Look closely at the first image and you’ll see the epaulet. Verdins also have an easily recognizable song, a distinctive three-note whistle.
One last thought about Verdins — they are damn cute. Actually seeing one out in the open makes the frustration of looking for it well worth while.
Photos taken with a Canon 5Diii, 400 DO, ISO 400, aperture preferred setting, f6.3 @ 1/1600.