New Kid On The Block
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I made a quick trip over to Ft. Lowell Park today. This is a park within Tucson’s city limits and it is dedicated mostly to leisure activities. The park has a baseball diamond, soccer fields, and tennis courts. It usually has its share of joggers and dog walkers. At first blush one wouldn’t think that there would be many opportunities for wildlife photography there, but that initial impression is incorrect. The park, with its large trees and small pond, is a haven for songbirds, particularly insectivores.
I was wandering around the park when some action caught my eye in a large Palo Verde Tree. There were several small birds in the tree, chattering noisily and hopping quickly from branch to branch. They were not easy to photograph: for the most part they were obscured by vegetation. However, I got lucky for an instant when this little bird appeared briefly in plain view.
A cute little bird and I was pleased to get its photograph. For a few seconds, however, I was stumped as to what it was. There aren’t that many all-gray or nearly all-gray species that I’m aware of and, besides, that ivory colored bill threw me off. After a few seconds I watched as this bird was joined by two others, in identical plumage. And, then, suddenly, a fourth bird showed up, ever so briefly, and when it did, the three gray individuals mobbed it for a moment. I saw it quickly pass something to one of the others and fly off.
The fourth bird looked very different from the other three. It had a bright gold head. And, that was the tipoff. The gray birds are fledgling Verdins, probably just out of the nest, and still being fed by their parents. Here’s an image of an adult Verdin, one that I made last autumn.
You can clearly see the difference between adult and fledglings and the similarities as well. Both birds are the same shape, but the adult has a gold-colored head, and tiny red “epaulets” on its shoulders (not very visible in this photo), as well as a dark bill. It will take a season before the youngster acquires adult plumage.
Verdins are very common in the Tucson area. They are delightful little birds, tiny, extremely pretty, and invariably cheerful as they hop around in vegetation searching for small insects to eat. If anything, the kids are cuter than the adults, albeit less colorful.
Images taken with a Canon 5Diii, 400 DO. The first image was taken with a 1.4X Extender at ISO 640, aperture preferred setting, f7.1 @ 1/800. The second image was taken without extender at ISO 400, aperture preferred setting, f6.3 @ 1/1600.