A Singing, Posing Meadowlark

I haven’t had this much variety from a Western Meadowlark in a very long time.

Birds don’t like it when you’re driving and you turn around to photograph them. When I spot a perched bird close to the road it seems I’m usually on the wrong side of the road to photograph it with a good light angle from the driver’s side of my vehicle so I have to pass them and then turn around and approach them again. Many will let me pass very close to them the first time but when they see me turn around and come their way again it makes them nervous and they fly off. This is true for both songbirds and raptors. If I can I’ll drive to a curve or a hill before I turn around so they can’t see me do it but often that’s not possible.

Every bird photographer who shoots from a vehicle knows this refrain well. It becomes so frustrating that I sometimes don’t even bother to turn around for them. I often wonder how many great photos I’ve missed because I got lazy…

 

 

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

But when I passed this one on Antelope Island two days ago it was on a natural perch in good light and singing heartily so I took a chance and made the effort to turn around. Surprisingly it stood its ground.

For a few seconds it just sat there and watched me warily – suspicious looking character that I am.

 

 

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

But with those spring hormones flowing it wasn’t long before it broke out into exuberant song. When meadowlarks sing they have their nictitating membranes closed for much of the time (much more often than most songbirds in my experience) and you never know when they’re going to do it. So I’ve learned to fire off many quick bursts whenever they’re serenading (and have light in their eye) just to get one or two shots that I like. This was one of them.

 

 

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

After a while it did some languorous stretching. First it stretched its right wing and leg.

 

 

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

And immediately after it performed a very nice wing lift. This is my favorite photo of the series.

When birds stretch it’s often a signal that they’re about to take off so I prepared myself for it but this one took its own sweet time before it did so.

 

 

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

And when it did I didn’t get a catch light because it turned its head ever so slightly to its right. If you compare the angle of the head in this shot to the one above you’ll see that it didn’t take much of a head turn for it to disappear. The catch light in the previous shot is already very close to the edge of the eye so I had very little wiggle room.

All in all I was quite happy with my photos of this bird but I sure wish I had light in the eye in this last shot.

Ron

 

33 comments to A Singing, Posing Meadowlark

  • Serena Falgoust

    Very nice photos. Thanks for sharing.

  • April

    Beautiful . The colors are wonderful.

  • Lazy? You? Where bird photography is concerned? Queue hysterical laughter. Lazy would be turned round to get your preferred angle – and to hell with what it does to the birds comfort levels.

    Love this series, and am so glad it was a sticky hormone laden bird.

    • EC, I guess I’m not really lazy when it comes to my bird photography but it’s very discouraging to have a bird that just let you drive by within 10′ of it suddenly flush after you turn around and try to get even 1/4th that close again. It’s a lot of work turning that long truck around on some of the narrow dirt roads I shoot from so after having it happen a dozen times or so it can be really tempting to just say to hell with it and keep driving! 🙂

  • Nancy Blake

    I love this series of photos! My favorite bird behavior to watch are those wing and leg stretches- I think of it as bird ballet.

  • Shirley Smith

    Absolutely stunning photos, Ron. Such a beautiful bird…can almost hear it’s song all the way to Canada(LOL)

  • Laura Culley

    Meadowlarks=joy! That’s a simple reality (and yes I AM easily amused…what of it? LOL!)
    I love your dialog here. To ME, that they’re wary of you turning around and coming back (even if you turn around out of their sight) points to an intelligence that recognizes your vehicle and your ne’er-do-well and nefarious mug 🙂 Once again, bird brains are far more complex than most people think! And don’t even get me started on how much a certain redtail hawk has taught me about bird language! We are SO blessed to have birds and critters sharing this spinning rock with us. We just need to learn how to do a better job of sharing!

  • Marty K

    I’d watch you warily too. 😉 Neat series. I’m glad he hung around. The stretch and the wing lift make for wonderful shots. I gotta say, that even without the catchlight, the energy and momentum that comes through in the last shot makes it my favorite. It makes me think of a takeoff tipping point.

  • Kris Eberhard

    Glorious—the essence of Spring in pictures–thanks !

  • Charlotte Norton

    Marvelous series Ron! I just love to hear them sing.

    Charlotte

  • Levi V.

    Funny enough, I actually know that rock squirrel from your recent post as a California ground squirrel. I guess that’s just what they’re called here (but maybe rock squirrel has a nicer ring to it)…
    Great pictures of the meadowlark!

    • Thanks, Levi.

      Actually the two squirrels are different species – Rock Squirrel (Spermophilus variegatus) and California Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi).

      • Levi V.

        Oh wow, I didn’t know that! It’s confusing (but kind’ve cool) when two animals look exactly the same but they’re actually different species. Makes me wonder if sometimes we are better off without scientific names and all…

  • Patty Chadwick

    A nice series, but I only recognize the bird in the second frame …the others resemble Meadowlarks, but they aren’t singing so must be some other kind of bird. Whatever that other bird is, my favorite is the resl Meadowlark in the seconf frame…love the composition, too…especially appreciated on this cold, snowy day…we’re having a big one!!!

  • Patty Chadwick

    A nice series, but I only recognize the bird in the second frame …the others resemble Meadowlarks, but they aren’t singing so must be some other kind of bird. Whatever that other bird is, my favorite is the resl Meadowlark in the seconf frame…love the composition, too…especially appreciated on this cold, snowy day…we’re having a big one!!!

    • Patty Chadwick

      What the heck is this evil iPad trying to do now??? Insent ONE it sends TWO….Jeeeez!!!!

  • Joanne O'Brien

    Wonderful group of photos! I’d love to find some spots around here to photograph birds out of my car window. So far the only experience I’ve had doing that, is with gulls at a local city beach. I found it great fun… of course my subjects practically flew in the window they were so eager to pose! And I WAS parked rather close to the trash can 🙂

    • Joanne, Sometimes I forget that not everyone has convenient places where they can photograph birds from a vehicle. I’m lucky in that regard but I often travel long distances to get to them.

  • Mavourneen Strozewski

    I know the feeling Ron. I’ve given up taking many pictures of birds because once they notice me backing up, they are gone lol – Sometimes it’s like they know before hand. 😀

  • Dick Harlow

    I’m not sure I would call it “lazy’ when experience has proven what you say. If it is any consolation I have more “luck” waiting in areas where I have witnessed previous activity. But, generally I think birds look at trucks and cars as if they were possible, not actual, danger items. I have come up on birds slowly to a stop and seem to have better chances that way. But those times are few and far between.
    The snow is coming down hard and fast warming up to 16 degrees, not much chance to get out and about today! Enjoy your good weather!!

  • Diane Bricmont

    What a beautiful series, Ron- a much appreciated burst of sunshine on this cold, snowy overcast morning. The wing lift is my favorite, too! 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Diane. I suspect you live in the northeast. We’re the opposite around here – supposed to be near 80 by the end of the week.

  • Judy Gusick

    Great series, Ron 🙂 Yes, the birds/raptors ALWAYS know when you slow down/stop and often decide they want none of if! Still a neat photo even if there is no catch light in the last one. 🙂 Often wonder if the stretches are just that or being a bit nervous…………

    • Judy, In my experience birds that have been perched for a long time are much more likely to stretch before takeoff and those that haven’t. I think they do it for the same reason athletes do it before strenuously using their muscles. Not many activities are more strenuous than flying.