An Acrobatic, Spring-loaded Virginia Warbler (+ a bonus image)

First of all, apologies to my blog subscribers who received an email notification of this post last night. That link didn’t work and it was my fault. It’s my habit to work up post images and image techs in the evening and then compose the text the next morning just before publishing. During that process last night I accidentally hit “publish” instead of “save draft” so the incomplete post was published and the email notifications went out automatically. I had no choice but to delete the post so if you tried to open the link you got an error message. I’ve always feared that would happen and last night it did. Sorry about that…

The heat’s been dreadful in the valley for weeks now so yesterday morning we decided to go high into the nearby Wasatch Mountains for some relief. It was 20 degrees cooler up there near the top of Bountiful Peak and the views were spectacular but birds were few and far between.


virginia warbler 8983 ron dudley

1/3200, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

I did get a distant view of this Virginia Warbler and since I seldom photograph this species I had to take a few shots. Birds are highly athletic almost by definition (flight requires it) and this little acrobat demonstrated that fact once again.


virginia warbler 8992 ron dudley

1/4000, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

This bird decided it wanted to change its perch and with no warning at all it jumped almost straight up into the air and landed on the vertical branch above it. But what was impressive was the fact that it didn’t use its wings – they were kept to its side for the entire ride.



virginia warbler 8993 ron dudley

1/4000, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

In the next image in the burst (1/8 sec later with my slower 7D) the bird is just landing on the branch.

Events like this occur countless times per day with smaller birds and they’re so commonplace and quick that I think we often just take them for granted or hardly even notice them. But when you think about it this bird jumped almost straight up perhaps 3 times its standing height without the use of its wings. And it nailed the landing on a vertical perch. For me to accomplish a similar feat I’d have to be able to jump up about 17′ and that just isn’t going to happen – not now, not ever.

When you contemplate them some of these mundane events aren’t so mundane at all.



antelope island burn 8106 ron dudley

Approaching the summit of Bountiful Peak I took another photo that I thought some readers might be interested in. As most of you know the recent wildfire on Antelope Island consumed half of the island’s 28,000 acres (the island is 15 miles long and about 5 miles wide at its widest point). I’ve posted images of the burn scar recently from up close but this view from almost a mile above the valley floor puts the fire in perspective. As you can see the current severe drought and dropping lake levels have turned the island into a peninsula.

This view is looking west with the red arrows marking the north and south ends of the island (north to the right). The fire mostly burned the south half of the island – you can see the fire scar from the left red arrow to the black arrow. We see part of Farmington Bay at left.



  • The dirt road from Bountiful (city) to Bountiful Peak seems to get rougher every year. I suggest that any locals who attempt it use a fairly high clearance vehicle and have excellent tires. There’s many thousands of large sharp rocks imbedded in the road and flat tires are a constant worry. Even with my 10 ply tires I was concerned…
  • Photographers among my readers keep asking about the status of my faulty (focusing issues) 7D Mark II so here’s an update. I got it back from a local camera repair shop (Spencer’s Camera and Photo in Alpine, Utah) last night after Clarence replaced the focusing sensor and cleaned my very dusty camera. A few minutes of preliminary testing last night strongly suggest the problem is solved but only time in the field will tell for sure.



21 comments to An Acrobatic, Spring-loaded Virginia Warbler (+ a bonus image)

  • They put our much lauded Olympians to shame don’t they? I am so often awed at their athleticism and grace.
    Fingers and toes crossed your camera issues are a thing of the past.

  • Patty Chadwick

    I think you may have captured the rare jumping jehovastah (not sure of the spelling) in action…have never seen one myself….

  • April Olson

    Yes, the small birds have incredible springs in their legs. I have watched our house sparrow Lucky do incredible leaps never using a simple wing flutter.
    The air is so hazy I was impressed you could even see the island from Bountiful Peak. It is very interesting seeing where Farmington bay drains into the Salt Lake in your photo. Was the road open into Farmington Bay past the dirt hill observation point? Yesterday returning from BRMBR I contemplated stopping by Farminton Bay on my way home. But it was past 11 and getting hot, so I saved it for another day.

    • April, that gate and road doesn’t open until September 15. They keep it closed until then for the “nesting season” though I’ve never understood why they keep it closed as long as they do.

  • Charlotte Norton

    Wow! Wonderful!


  • Laura Culley

    Thank you, again (and again, and so on and so forth). What a joy it is to open your daily gifts.
    What a glorious beauty! There’s no question that birds are just outrageously athletic and simultaneously (mostly) graceful. I’m constantly reminded just how inadequate humans are in comparison. When I contemplate how *my redtail hawk (*who is no more MINE than the air I breathe) sees me, looking through her eyes, I wonder how humans have survived this long. I mean, really? There have been times I SWEAR she points a wing and laughs hysterically at my stumbling, bumbling journey through life. It’s humbling. Every now and again, that majestic thing doesn’t work for them, but overall, we’re just so clumsy in comparison 😉

    • Laura, I think it’s easy to just take the athletic abilities of birds for granted. But when I’m in the field watching them I literally marvel at what I see.

      • Laura Culley

        Ron, IF the reincarnation folks are right and I don’t come back as a big, beautiful golden eagle or redtail, I’m really NOT going to be happy! NOTE: I specified the kind of wings I want. Roaches also come with wings and I don’t want to go THERE! LOL!

  • Judy Gusick

    Amazing little critters always surprise us if we pay attention! Great capture! Thx for the photo on Antelope Island – does give the “big” picture tho one can be deceived about the cost to wildlife at that distance. 🙂 Glad the camera issue may have been solved and a good cleaning has happened. 🙂

  • Ron: Fun to see the jumping Virginia Warbler. As for the inadvertent email last night, I can spare the three seconds it cost me! You spend lots of time providing us with great photos and information about bird behavior; one tiny glitch amounts to nothing. Thanks for what you do.

  • Dick Harlow

    Very interesting pictures and post!
    Thank you for the last picture. It certainly gives a guy from the East, perspective of “your” Island, and the result of the burn on Antelope.
    Also, great news about your camera. It sounds like the self cleaning mechanism in our cameras is not as effective as advertised?

  • Susan Stone

    This post was definitely worth waiting for. I’ve not (that I know of) seen small birds jump like that, but a couple of years ago we were watching a pair of Rhinoceros Hornbills in Kowloon Park (Kowloon, China), who were having some kind of marital spat, and as they jumped around, they looked like they had built-in pogo sticks. I marveled at it at the time, and still do when I think about it. I wish my legs worked even a small fraction as well as theirs… Since we are currently on the east coast, where we have a lot more song birds, I’ll have to watch them more closely to see if they jump the same as your Warbler. I hope your camera issues are solved.