Blue-gray Gnatcatcher In An “Unnaturally Natural” Setting

Sometimes I enjoy a little incongruity in my photos.


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

Yesterday one spot and one spot only on Antelope Island was awash in songbirds including this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. I rarely see them and I’ve never posted one to my blog so getting this one in my viewfinder was a real treat despite the shadow on its lower back. That shadow was probably caused by another sunflower. Many areas on the island are loaded with gorgeous sunflowers right now and this one was no exception.

I didn’t even notice that the sunflower was detached from its stem and had been caught in other vegetation as it fell until I got home and looked at my images on my monitor. The flower looks so silly and out of place in this context that I actually enjoy having it there – it almost looks “unnaturally natural”. I have no idea how it got there. A guess would be that a wandering bison, pronghorn or deer might have broken it off as it passed by.



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

The gnatcatcher seemed a little perplexed by it too.



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

But then it apparently decided to ignore the out-of-place flower.

I’ll likely be posting a few other migrants I photographed yesterday in the near future. Our recent storms sure got the migratory species moving but the down side is that three days of rain proved without doubt that I need to have my roof re-shingled (I don’t even want to talk about the ugly details of how I know that).

Just what I needed…




38 comments to Blue-gray Gnatcatcher In An “Unnaturally Natural” Setting

  • Fran

    He is a cutie! Don’t have him out east here. The flower makes it more like a painting not photo, like it needs interpretation.

  • April Olson

    Beautiful bird, it sounds like you and Mia had a wonderful day!

  • Patty Chadwick

    I think you baited sunflower….

  • Love it.
    And there appear to be no shouts of ‘The sky is falling!’

  • Laura Culley

    “I think this little feller is cute as a button!” Indeed! I agree 100%! Thank you for allowing me to see him/her–and the broken sunflower? I LOVE it. I love the weirdities of life!
    Like Susan Stone said, my eyes are so slow to focus these days that I miss a lot of little guys who flit around here! I hear more slowly than I used to, also. I hate those things!
    But a leaky roof? Yeah, that’s bad! And we all know how you know. If you live long enough, a leaky roof will happen. DARGH! 🙂

    • Laura, Until my late 30’s I used to have the sharpest eyes of anyone I knew. Broke my heart when I started to lose it and now that I’m a bird photographer it’s especially galling.

      Thankfully my hearing is still very good.

      • Laura Culley

        My hearing went with too many race cars, too close for far too long. But it’s weird that I can generally still hear hawk bells even with the deadly background noise! But I also hear slowly. If someone is speaking quickly, their speech either garbles OR I hear it as if my brain is loading it like a computer that’s spooling data. Weird!

  • Alice Beckcom

    I think this little ‘feller’ is cute as a button, as well as you. Love the expression!!

    The detached sunflower adds more interest to the positions of the little bird.

    Love the photos and thanks Ron.

    • Thank you, Alice. I always wondered where that phrase came from – I seldom see any buttons I’d call cute…

      • CUTE AS A BUTTON – “cute, charming, attractive, almost always with the connotation of being small, 1868 (from the original 1731 English meaning of ‘acute’ or clever). Cute as a bug’s ear, 1930; cute as a bug in a rug, 1942; cute as a button, 1946. Cute and keen were two of the most overused slang words of the late 1920s and 1930s.” From “Listening to America” by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1992.)

        I like word origins and did a little search; the above is the best I could find. Yes, I agree; it’s a very cute Gnatcatcher and such fun images with the help of a detached sunflower!

  • Marty K

    Super series — your commentary combined with this expressive bird made me chuckle out loud. 🙂

    Good luck with the roof. Been there. Leaked that. We are still getting leaks from a skylight (I want to take the damn thing out and just have solid roof there) and old termite holes. We can’t seem to find the entryway for some of those paths. There’s one “exit” in the exposed beam right over hubby’s spot on the bed and about 3 days after it rains, he gets dripped on. As the saying goes, “Better him than me!” 😉

    • Marty, I don’t have a skylight but I do have an old swamp cooler on the roof that I’m going to have them remove and patch while they’re doing everything else.

    • Patty Chadwick

      I have three skylight– a smaller one over our once dark stairs and two HUGE ones in the bedrooms….LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them!!!

  • Dick Harlow

    Great shots Ron, especially the incongruity of the sunflower!

  • Patty Chadwick

    That’s got to be one of the cutest birds! Love the series, especislly the second image where the little guy is looking at the flower..”How the heck did that get there???”

  • Susan Stone

    I love everything about this series, except that the Gnatcatcher is sitting on a Russian thistle, aka tumbleweed. Those things are real pests. The Gnatcatcher may be tiny, but it looks like it has tons of personality. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one – if I did it probably didn’t sit around long enough for my slow old eyes to figure out what I was seeing. The only bird that small I’ve seen and been able to identify was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. This Gnatcatcher put a smile on my face. Thank you!

  • Even though out of place with an unnaturally whacked-off stem, in the first image, at least, the size and shape of the sunflower’s petals are an unusual “match” for the lovely bird’s flight and tail feathers–
    makes for a lovely and oddly congruous image– really enjoyed it !

  • Charlotte Norton

    What a wonderful series!


  • Joanne OBrien

    Love Blue -Gray Gnatcatchers! My favorite LGJ! (Little Gray Job) Two springs ago I saw so many of these little guys for the first time. Every park and reservation I went to for a few weeks was cluttered with them – guess they were stopping by on their way up north. You know, I haven’t seen one since. Thanks for the great pics of this little sprite!

  • Judy Eberspaecher

    These little birds are so sweet. They are quite common here in Southern Ontario but often are ignored or mistaken for some other little gray jobs. Lovely series.

    FYI when we discovered we needed our roof done, water was coming into my office from the ceiling but that same morning our microwave quit and our back pond sprung a leak… all when we had 4 guests from Germany waiting to be taken to Niagara Falls! Things are never so bad they couldn’t be wor4se!

  • frank sheets

    I like the flower and the color it adds to the image. Of the three, #3 is my favorite. Like the angle of the head. Good luck with your roof. Sounds like a pain in the you know what.

  • Diana

    Ron Endearing photos. Thanks for posting . Made a dreary morning better for me. Diana

  • Utterly delightful! All the more knowing that this indeed was as natural as anything, since you don’t set up photos. I’ll think of this little fellow during the day.

  • Michaela

    This little guy is just too beautiful. Congratulations. And thanks for your astonishing blog! It’s great to daily have a look on birds I wouldn’t get to photograph here in Germany.

  • Judy Gusick

    Pretty little bird and the sunflower, tho out of place, also is in a good place. 🙂 We’ve been dealing with a leaky skylight……….. Know how THAT goes! Not the best time of year to have to deal with such things – Good Luck with it!