Song Sparrow In A Frosty, Sparkling Wonderland

Sometimes the setting is just as important to the photo as the subject. I believe that to be the case for each image in this series of six.

 

song sparrow 2113 ron dudley

1/2000, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in 

I photographed this Song Sparrow at Farmington Bay WMA in January of 2010. It was one of those magical mornings when the entire universe seemed to be covered in thick hoarfrost that sparkled in the sunlight. It was still very cold when I found the sparrow feeding on seeds encased within the frost so most of the time the bird was fluffed up while it was trying to feed and that combination made its feeding efforts a little awkward.

 

 

song sparrow 2129 ron dudley

1/2500, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in 

At times the sparrow seemed to be playing peekaboo with me.

 

 

song sparrow 2150 ron dudley

1/2500, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

At first glance this perch may appear to be a different one than in the first two images but the bird had simply moved further out on the stem so that the weight of the sparrow bent it down. As it moved along the twig it had some difficulty maintaining its balance – thus the somewhat awkward positions of its feet, the angle of its tail and the more streamlined and slightly less fluffed-up body feathers.

 

 

song sparrow 2154 ron dudley

1/2500, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in 

Once it found a comfortable spot on the stem it squatted down on the perch, fluffed up and began to seriously harvest seeds (this is the only image in this series that I’ve posted before).

 

 

song sparrow 2201 ron dudley

1/2000, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

The sparrow fluffed up so much as it squatted down on the stem that its profile reminded me a little of a water balloon resting on a flat, solid surface.

 

 

song sparrow 2246 ron dudley

1/2000, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in 

The feeding activities of the sparrow knocked a lot of the frost off the stem and when the ice-flakes would fall the sparrow sometimes watched them go down. These guys don’t miss much…

Another thing I remember about that morning was how eerily quiet it was. The frost and snow muffled any sounds so when I stopped my pickup for a bird and the crunching noise of my tires on the snow stopped, the lack of sound was mesmerizing in that white, crisp and sparkly world. It was one of my few times in the field where I wasn’t mostly focused on birds. It was truly delightful to be out there.

I may be posting more images like these from my archives over the next few days because there’s a series of storms lined up to give us more snow so I likely won’t be going shooting anytime soon since good light will probably be nonexistent.

Maybe I’ll get a chance to try out my new snow blower…

Ron

 

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38 comments to Song Sparrow In A Frosty, Sparkling Wonderland

  • Incredible drama you’ve captured here Ron, along with these precious portraits. Each of these has a special story and twinkle but the underlying message to me is despite the visual beauty, it’s a tough living for these little birds that time of year! As usual, you’ve done a fabulous job capturing each of these momentary poses. Thanks for sharing them!

  • April Olson

    Absolutely beautiful! I love your description of the silence. One of my favorite things is the quiet softening of sound in winter. I love to sit outside and listen to the snow fall. I also enjoy the crisp tinkle of frost as the sun starts to warm it up at dawn. It is getting harder to find that silence as the Wasatch front population grows.

  • Jean

    Love all of the pictures. The hoarfrost added a special touch!

  • Leslie

    Exquisite. Absolutely exquisite.

  • Oh.
    How absolutely magical.
    So very beautiful, and the thought of hearing those snow flowers fall has blown me away.
    Megathanks.
    And yay for Patty’s best of ‘featheredphotography’ suggestion.

  • Beautiful “Sound of Silence”.

  • Kris Eberhard

    Your words elicited the sense of silence and wonder almost as magical as did the images of lacy, sparkling hoarfrost and puffy feathers……thanks !

    • Thanks, Kris, for the kind words and for the ear worm! I’ll likely be hearing Simon and Garfunkel in my head for hours now (because I first read “sense of silence” as “sound of silence”) – not a bad thing…

  • Patty Chadwick

    The more often I scan through these wonderful images, the more I’m drawn to the first and last….love the crystal arch and composition of the first….all are magical!

  • Patty Chadwick

    I not only look forward to some of the images from your archives that we haven’t seen before, but would also enjoy “repeats” of some of your favorites…..

    • “would also enjoy “repeats” of some of your favorites”

      That’s a good idea, Patty. Some of those very early images when I first started blogging are among my more interesting photos and very few people ever saw them back then.

    • Jo Ann Donnelly

      Great idea, Patty!! I vote for that!!

  • Patty Chadwick

    I love this series! Such a cute LBJ!…each image is cuter than the last…and the “frost flowers” are so beautiful! They look like something out of a fairy castle and remind me of the crystals on a stick or string some kids used to make.

    • Patty, One of the special things about hoarfrost is that when the sun hits it the darker stems the ice is stuck to warms up the stems before the frost melts so those little ice crystals fall to the ground. In the quiet you can actually HEAR the soft tinkling sound they make when they land on the snow if it’s still very cold and the snow is hard. Pretty damned neat!

  • Charlotte Norton

    Beautiful series Ron! Thanks for sharing, I’ve never seen hoarfrost,it’s beautiful.
    Charlotte

  • Laura Culley

    What a special series, Ron. Hoarfrost and that complete silence is so rare in our noisy world. The silence is one of the reasons I went out hawking yesterday–well that and to see what footprints I could see in the snow. While I haven’t seen hoarfrost in YEARS, yesterday’s bouts of silence were so peaceful and restorative I HAD to stop and listen. Song sparrows and white-crowned sparrows sing with a purity that delights my soul (along with cactus wrens). Such magical critters. Beyond that my hands and face quit working in the silence, it’s one of the primary joys of falconry–just being out there to hear it. Thank you for sharing this special beauty!

    • “Song sparrows and white-crowned sparrows sing with a purity that delights my soul”

      Agreed, Laura. The species name of the song sparrow (“melodia”) is well deserved. To my own list of songsters that I really enjoy I’d add the Canyon Wren. I don’t hear them often but when I do it really gets my attention.

      • Laura Culley

        YES, Canyon Wren…sorry, memory fail. Their song will break your heart with its purity and magnificence and make it sing with joy that you’re alive to hear it. I’ve often supposed that birds were here to teach us humans about music. Just a thought when I ponder the meaning of life. Oh how I love birds (even starlings as hawk food…LOL) and dogs 😉

  • Joel Harris

    Love the song sparrow among the ice crystals. Great work!

  • Christine Bogdanowicz

    I echo the thoughts of others–love the artistry, the bird and the setting of each image Ron. I always enjoy the stories that go along with your photos, but this post in particular strikes a chord. Times we’ve spent in the far north are filled with memories of that quiet calm–your images/post bring me back–thank you.

    • “Times we’ve spent in the far north are filled with memories of that quiet calm”

      Your words make it obvious that you’ve experienced it, Christine. It’s a very special kind of experience. Thank you.

  • Dick Harlow

    Now I look at these shots as artistic as well as avian – love the inadvertent ice crystal framing. Very nice set.

    Don’t talk to me about wind. I monitor my own weather station here and we live in a wind tunnel. It doesn’t hit 50 that often, but our average gusts are between 25-35 and we seem to have strong winds most of the time, especially fall winter and spring. So, when we have a day with light breezes it is heaven!!

    • Yes, wind can get old very quickly. Back in the 50’s my mother used to dry clothes on a clothes line on our Montana farm. I remember her chasing sheets and other clothes all over the prairie that had been blown off the line. I also remember her tears. Thank you, Dick.

  • Zaphir Shamma

    Lovely everything Ron. You took a common bird and made uncommon photos 🙂 And YES, please post from your archives. I recently started to follow your blog, so it’s new to me. I am sure there are others that feel the same.

    • Thanks for the “archival encouragement”, Zaphir. I don’t like to overdo those older shots but I think some of them deserve another look, partly because I had very few followers when I first started blogging so many have never seen them.

  • Judy

    Beautiful sequence, Ron. The frost does help make the pictures and you caught the detail in both well. Looks like the sparrow was trying to keep it’s feet warm while feeding. The chickadees bend the hollyhocks that way when working their way up sometimes. Quiet morning like that are also rare here – the hoarfrost means there is no wind – unusual for here – it is to be treasured.:) We have rain here at the moment with snow to follow:(

    • “the hoarfrost means there is no wind – unusual for here – it is to be treasured”

      Ha, I fully understand your appreciation of no wind from my Montana days, Judy. Sometimes, especially in spring, the wind almost drove me nuts.

  • Jo Ann Donnelly

    Wow, Ron – this series has such a magical look to it. I love this little guy all hunkered down getting his morning nourishment. It was hard for me to pick a favorite but think the peek-a-boo capture and last one are very special. I can tell that was a special moment for you to have it stick in your memory. Most of the time I don’t miss winter up North but your experience does bring back some happy winter memories. I always thought the world was magical when all the tree branches were encased in ice and they sparkled in the sun!

    • Jo Ann, we don’t get mornings like that one very often so it was easy to remember. It was also memorable because I pretty much had the refuge all to myself – they don’t plow the roads out there and lots of folks are unprepared to drive in the snow so they avoid it.