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There are a lot of plants and animals whose appearance and/or heightened activity levels coincide with the coming of Spring in southern Arizona. For me, however, nothing heralds Spring’s arrival like the courtship songs of Red-winged Blackbirds.
These birds are year-round residents of southern Arizona’s few marshlands. In Spring the males engage in song contests and plumage displays that are a sight to behold. A male, like the one depicted above and below, will find a favorite perch, often a tree limb or an isolated reed. There, he will flash his brilliant red and yellow shoulder patches, spread his tail and wings, and periodically, sing at the top of his lungs. His song is a distinctive three-note call, emitted so loudly that it can be heard dozens of yards away. Often, several males will perch near each other and compete to see who can put on the flashiest display and the loudest singing. Females, who are colored a drab brown, perch nearby and quietly admire the males.
Just at sunrise this morning I drove over to Sweetwater Wetlands for the first time in a few weeks, intending to get some Red Wing photos. I wasn’t disappointed, the males were everywhere, singing their lungs out, and I was able to make a series of nice images of them in full song. Best of all, I was able to get a couple of in-flight shots of these beautiful birds.
I’ve been trying for three years to get some decent in-flight photos of Red-winged Blackbirds, with no success whatsoever. These birds give no warning whatsoever when they launch and, in the air they fly an erratic and bobbing course that I find impossible to track. It’s been one failed attempt after another for me and I’d all but given up. So today, I get two pretty nice shots of blackbirds in flight within five minutes. Sheer good luck on my part, I planned neither of these photos, the birds just happened to fly within the coverage of my lens and in the plane of focus as I pushed the shutter.
Go figure. As I am known to say, it is often much better when taking pictures to be lucky than good.
Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 400 DO, ISO 500, aperture preferred setting, f6.3 @ 1/2000.