Easily Heard, Hard To See
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I’m featuring an image of a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher tonight. This is a truly tiny bird, not a whole lot larger than one of the larger hummingbird species. Black-tailed Gnatcatchers are common in the desert Southwest. One can find them out on the open desert and in dry washes. However, “finding” them does not mean “seeing” them.
These little birds tend to hang out in dense shrubs where they forage for insects. They call constantly, a loud and rather unmelodic “zhee-zhee.” But, most of the time they are damn near invisible, shielded from view by twigs and leaves as they forage. Only very rarely does one pop out into the open. So, one hears them often but rarely sees them.
For me, this was one of those lucky shots. I could hear this bird foraging, so I planted myself a few yards away from the bush in which the bird was at work and waited. Over the course of the next ten minutes the bird would emerge partially from time to time, sticking out its head, or perhaps its hind end, but never completely emerging from the foliage. Then, suddenly, it appeared, but only for a few seconds. I frantically shot a burst of photos and got this one good image. The dark “cap” on this bird’s head suggests that it might be a male. In breeding season the male’s cap turns entirely black.
Image made with a Canon 5Diii, 400 DO, aperture preferred setting, ISO 400, f7.1 @ 1/800.