Black-tailed Gnatcatcher On A Hot Morning
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We’re having a brief respite from extreme heat but that won’t last long, with temperatures predicted to be well above 110 by next week. It’s getting more and more difficult to find wildlife in this weather, with nearly every bird, mammal, and reptile hunkered down and waiting for the rains to begin in about three weeks.
One exception, however, is the Black-tailed Gnatcatcher. This tiny bird (three could easily perch side by side in the palm of one’s hand) seems to revel in the hot weather. It is a peripatetic little insectivore, always on the move, never sitting still for more than a few seconds. It is extremely frustrating to try to photograph one of these birds. Typically, a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher will do its foraging deep within the foliage of brushy vegetation, hopping from branch to branch in search of small insects. It is indifferent to humans’ presence just a few feet away but it is also mostly invisible. I usually find one of these birds by hearing its call, a loud and frequently repeated “zzzzzt, zzzzzt.”
I got lucky the other day. I heard a gnatcatcher calling from inside a thicket of vegetation. I stood and waited for a few minutes and, finally, I had an unobstructed view for just a few seconds, long enough for me to take a couple of pictures.
This bird is a female. During the hot months the males have black plumage on the tops of their heads.
In this second image she’s planning her next move, getting ready to jump to another branch.
Images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting, ISO 640, f6.3 @ 1/1600.