Meadowlarks — A Welcome Sign Of Fall
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The weather here in Tucson has been anything like autumnal these past few weeks, with daytime highs pushing into the mid-90s and, on one or two occasions, close to 100 degrees. We’re averaging 10 or 15 degrees above normal most days this month and the heat has been accompanied by withering drought. So, anything that suggests that fall may be around the corner is welcome.
One small sign of fall is the arrival of Meadowlarks in the agricultural flatlands near Tucson. These birds show up in great numbers from their summer homes on the northern plains just as the weather turns cool and they stick around until late winter. I love to photograph them. They are extremely attractive little birds, have a beautiful song, and really brighten up the countryside.
They’ve started showing up in just the past few weeks. Three weeks ago I saw only one bird in several hours of driving around. Yesterday, I saw dozens of them.
Meadowlarks love to sit on fences and wires. They’re easy to spot, with their bright yellow and black plumage and often, they will perch on the barbed wire fences bordering the vast agricultural fields northwest of Tucson.
There are two subspecies of Meadowlarks that visit our area, the Eastern and Western Meadowlark. The differences in appearance between these two subspecies are minor and it probably would take an expert to tell them apart. I certainly cannot discern the differences. Their songs are different, however. I’ve been told that the vast majority of Meadowlarks that we see around here are of the Western variety.
The bird in the third image looks somewhat different from the first two in that its cheeks are yellow and its dark bib is rather indistinct. I do not believe that this is indicative that the bird belongs to a different subspecies from the first two birds. More likely, this bird is a juvenile bird or is making the transition from breeding to non-breeding plumage.
I will continue to photograph these charming little songbirds from time to time and I’ll post more images of them as the season progresses.
Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400 mm f4-5.6 ISIS II zoom lens+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting. The first and second images taken at ISO 1000. The first image shot at f8 @ 1/1600, the second at f8 @ 1/2000. The third image taken at ISO 500, f8 @ 1/1600.