A Wet Yellow Warbler Fledgling

Photographing small songbirds flitting around in dense foliage is a different game than I usually play. Typically I’m cussing larger birds who are out in the open but won’t let me get close. But yesterday morning in the mountains of Morgan County I was cursing Yellow Warblers who came in close (sometimes too close) but stayed hidden in shadows and behind leaves and used a bevy of other tricks to ruin my shots.


1/5000, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I watched this fledgling for a while but had never been able to get a clear shot when I saw it pop back up into the bush and it was obviously very wet. There’s a stream close by and it had apparently been down there bathing. By the time this photo was taken it had partially dried off but it continued to groom and shake its feathers to dry them.

This is one of those times when I’m glad I had a very fast shutter speed. This may look like a static pose but in reality the bird was fluttering its wings very fast as it tried to dry off and the individual flight feathers are still quite sharp. There’s nothing wrong with motion blur for behaviors like this (in fact some folks prefer it for its implied motion) but my personal preference has always been to get all of the bird as sharp as possible.



1/2500, f/7.1, 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

A few minutes later the youngster was mostly dry (though still disheveled) when one of its parents came in with food. Part of the head of the adult can actually be seen at left but of course there’s a leaf in front of its face. But I’m mostly OK with that because I think the begging pose of the fledgling is the star attraction in this photo – good look at the adult’s head or not.

I’ll likely be posting more photos of these warblers sometime soon because I did get some interesting portraits and feeding shots.

And by the way, just to be clear, when I cuss in these situations I’m not really bad-mouthing the birds. I’m just upset with circumstances that made me miss the shot. I actually often thank the birds as I drive away, just as I did this time.





43 comments to A Wet Yellow Warbler Fledgling

  • Debbie

    I love your shots of these little birds. They are so cute and precious. Thanks Ron.

  • Charlotte Norton

    Awesome shots Ron!


  • Love that you thank the birds. Even when they have been messing with your mind.
    The small birds make greased lightening appear slow and predictable don’t they. And seem to be able to take off in any direction…

  • Patty Chadwick

    “I actually often thank the birds as I drive away”…that phrase meant a lot to me…it told me TONS about you and left me with a very warm sense of appreciation and respect…something my parched soul desperately craves these days…

    • Sometimes I feel pretty silly talking to birds, Patty. But it seems like the appropriate thing to do so I do it.

      • Laura Culley

        Oh for pity’s sake Ron! There’s no need to feel silly. In addition to the birds/raptors/critters, I talk to plants (of ALL kinds, but admittedly I have no kind words for goatheads and the language is bluer than blue worthy of a sailor!!), rocks and pretty much everything on this gloriously beautiful and sometimes weird spinning rock.
        Just the other day, I had a long conversation with a medium-sized tarantula who had wandered into Jack’s mews! Jack (Harris’ hawk) didn’t want ANYTHING to do with the tarantula, and even though he’s a MAJOR food hog, he wouldn’t come to the fist because the tarantula was in his eating place/dining room. He WANTED the food. He just didn’t want anything to do with the big spider. Soooo, it was up to me to evict it. The conversation was about the tarantula cooperating willingly with the catch-and-release program. He stepped into the plastic cup without any fuss and was released in the shade in the front of the house.

        • Me too. I talk to the birds, I talk to the trees, I talk to the cats. More than I talk to people most days. I understand the responses better too.

          • Laura Culley

            Ain’t that the truth! Non-humans are so much clearer and honest in their communications! They make sense.

  • Dick Harlow

    Nice shots Ron, looking forward to the others you will show.
    Been there (trying to get shots of birds in a mass of sticks and foliage) and tend to go there quite frequently! I’ll just say I was in the Army for 6.5 years, and let it go at that with my language, but only said now in the environment out of frustration!! So I understand and have graduated to natural history images.

  • Patty Chadwick

    Didn’t even notice parent’s head until I read your comments. I always look at the pictures first and was so pleased with the last, I totally missed the parent at first. Love that shot of the little begger!

  • Susan Stone

    I really like the shot of the youngster begging, both for the behavior and the great feather detail.

  • Trudy Brooks

    Always nice pictures and love your comments, it always adds color to the photos. Little birds flit around to much most of the time for good photos to be taken. You at the right place and right time.

  • Kent Patrick-Riley

    I join the chorus in saying the second shot is unforgettable. Thanks for sharing!

  • Marty K

    Please thank the birds for us too! 🙂 The second shot makes me smile, seeing that big round baby. Adorable!

  • April Olson

    Wonderful begging shot, the pose, the light and amazingly you stopped the wing flutter. There were many Yellow Warblers up Big Cottonwood Canyon the other day too. I did not take my long lens, I was hiking and did not want the extra weight. Of course I always regret that decision later.

    • “Of course I always regret that decision later.”

      Yup, if you need it you don’t have it with you, if you carry it along you don’t need it. Just the way it usually goes…

  • Laura Culley

    Outstanding that you thank the birds, despite your frustrations in capturing the perfect image. I love that. But I would expect nothing less of you. I always feel blessed to see the little ones at all and I rarely get the chance to see warblers.
    Your captures, as always, are spectacular. I always love the behavioral glimpses into their lives, especially their family lives. What a joy it is to open your blog and Mia’s (almost) every morning. Thank you for sharing your joy!

  • frank sheets

    Little birds are tough, especially in the bushes. Your patience paid off again. Great photo! Are you using single point af here?

  • Elmer Deloso

    Love the 2nd shot as well. It’s quite challenging to shoot Warblers of any kind, frustrating yet rewarding when you do get the shot. Thanks for sharing!

  • I appreciate the frustration cussing. 🙂 I love that you thank them. I thank places and creatures too. It is, for me, part of my gratitude work.

    • I’ve never thought to thank places, Arwen. But then I seldom shoot landscapes.

      • Patty Chadwick

        If you ever run out of cuss words let me know…I won a cussing contest with a mutinous, disaffected group of High School seniors who had just come off a week long backpacking trip in the mountains only to find that the bus that was supposed to be waiting to pick us up hadn’t even left yet…for a 5 hour trip to the trail’s end. I won fair and square (I nailed it with creative a string of cuss words my youngest sister had gained fame for when she she was in kindrgarden) …strangely, our parents didn’t swear!!!

        • Marty K

          Patty, I think I love you. 😉

        • Laura Culley

          Patty, you and I are kindred spirits. As the girl reporter at the race track, I had to keep up with the boys and I did it well…I could tell stories, but this is not the forum 🙂

          • Patty Chadwick

            Are you challenging me to a duel??? If so, “rots a ruck” as our friend Kunihiko Takeuchi used to say….

  • Joanne OBrien

    Thanks for the great shots. Love those “fledgies” ! They are all out and about here too, and I get such a kick out of their behaviors.

  • LS Clemens

    I love your phrase: I actually thank the birds as I drive away…..

  • Diana

    And we thank you Ron. I’d have missed the adult even tho I knew one was near because of the fledgling’s posture.

  • Judy Gusick

    Love the 2nd shot and DO know why the VERY fast shutter speed! 🙂 I also know why you’re cussing and that it’s not the birds……..know there HAS to be a way to get the shot. 🙂