Yellow-rumped Warblers In The Old Reliable Tree

And I’ve waited an entire year for them to return.

There’s a dead tree overhanging water near my home that has been reliable for a couple of bird species at particular times of the year. Most of my best shots of Belted Kingfishers have been taken there and in late September migrating Yellow-rumped Warblers use the tree as a staging platform to launch their attacks on flying insects over the water. Photographing birds there is always highly frustrating because it’s a thick jumble of branches so getting a clean look at the bird and a background that doesn’t include bright and distracting twigs is extremely rare. Yesterday I took almost 800 photos and if I’m lucky there might be about a dozen or so that I’ll keep.


1/5000, f/6.3, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

This was one of the few warblers that gave me a completely clean background in the 90 minutes or so I was there.



1/5000, f/6.3, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

There were a few shots where most of the background branches were far enough away and sufficiently blurry that I don’t find them particularly distracting and this bird even had a “bug” for lunch. I don’t like the diagonal branch at upper left so after the bird finished its meal, cleaned off its beak so it would look presentable…



1/6400, f/6.3, ISO 640, 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 posed nicely for a portrait I decided to remove the tiny portion of that diagonal branch at upper left that was originally visible. Here the background branches look enough like clouds that they don’t bother me. In fact I’d rather have them there than plain blue sky.

Dang I was glad to see these birds again! I’ve made dozens of trips to that tree recently and it was always an avian wasteland but when I checked it out again yesterday afternoon not only were the warblers there in good numbers but there was also a close and very cooperative Downy Woodpecker.

But wouldn’t you know it – I didn’t have my camera gear with me on that trip…




25 comments to Yellow-rumped Warblers In The Old Reliable Tree

  • Marty K

    These are three fantastic shots, Ron. I actually like the upper-left branch in shot #2 because it runs mostly parallel to the bird’s back. The two branches frame the bird so nicely and draw my eye back to the yummy morsel in it’s beak. I think the first shot is my fave for today, though.

    I love what Laura said: “Sometimes raw beauty comes not in a shout, but in a whisper, subtle and quiet, forcing you to stop and ponder the magic. Only then can you see the majesty and the intricate artistry of Nature.” I wish I could be as eloquent. I was at the animal shelter all day today and had the great fortune to watch one of the resident Red Tails lazily circle overhead. I think it was one of the females and she barely moved her wings — instead using her fanned tail as a rudder to steer along the air currents. I just stood there “married to amazement’ (thank you Mary Oliver!)

    • Thank you, Marty. There’s good reason why Laura became a writer…

    • Laura Culley

      Marty, that reminds me of a lyric by Kate Wolf, “The redtail hawk writes songs across the sky.”
      And thanks for the kudos, but the words don’t always come out right without a lot of work. Every now and again, though, they fall off my fingers. But that’s not normal 😉

  • Next time my partner whinges, bitches and moans about the number of photos I take I may point him in this direction. I am not nearly as fussy as you and keep rather more though.
    Loved this charmer. And of course you didn’t have a camera with you when the warblers and the woodpecker returned. It is a rule.

    • EC, believe it or not I’ve been known to take over 2000 photos in a morning session of shooting. Big memory cards are a essential for those kinds of days but culling all those images is a nightmare.

  • Linda Covey

    Lovely! The jumble of twigs and leaves is my biggest problem here in the desert.

  • Joanne OBrien

    Nice photos. I especially love the last portrait. Thanks you very much!

  • Laura Culley

    Sometimes raw beauty comes not in a shout, but in a whisper, subtle and quiet, forcing you to stop and ponder the magic. Only then can you see the majesty and the intricate artistry of Nature. This is one of those times. If you don’t take the time to stop and see, to breathe in the wonder, you miss it and I think your soul is diminished in its possibilities.
    I can’t even imagine culling through 800-plus photos. But aren’t you glad you’re not working with film and processing anymore? 🙂

    • Well said, Laura.

      If we were still back in film days I wouldn’t be photographing birds!

      • Laura Culley

        I well remember those days when racing photographers carried several bricks of film along with all the monster lenses and other stuff all around road racing courses like Watkins Glen or Road America in any and all kinds of weather (collectively, road racers don’t have the sense to come in out of the rain…LOL). That’s why I decided to be a WRITER! My momma didn’t raise no dummy! I could carry a notebook and a pen 🙂

  • Susan Stone

    Yellow-rumped Warblers are fun birds to watch; I still remember where I saw my first one. I wish you had your camera for the Downy Woodpecker – they have long been one of my favorite birds. I used to have several that liked my suet feeder, and they would wait very patiently for the other birds to leave. Sometimes I could swish my curtains, which would cause those other birds to leave, and the Downies would move in. I’ve missed them since I moved west, but feel fortunate that we have Ladderbacks here, including a couple that like our mesquite trees.

  • Dick Harlow

    Great shots of a Myrtle, Oh dang it, slipped into the old name, sorry, Yellow-rumped Warbler. VBG!
    Used to band hundreds (put light metal bracelet on their leg), of these in the Fall some years ago. We (students and I) would look forward to Fall migration so we could set up our net lanes to band the flights of Warblers that would come through. Memories!!

    • Old habits are hard to break, Dick. I’m the poster child for that…

    • Marya Moosman

      I grew up calling them Audubon’s Warblers and it was really hard for me to make the switch. This is actually an Audubon’s, the Myrtle has a white throat. I think both names sound much better than Yellow-rumped!

  • Charlotte Norton

    Fantastic series Ron!


  • Judy Gusick

    The life of the photographer……….:) Always something! Nice shots branches be damned. Glad you were able to get a few good ones. Can’t imagine trying to go through 800 photographs let alone for just one day! 🙁 I whine when I have a hundred or so. 🙂

    • I’m not looking forward to the culling, Judy, but that’s the price we pay…

    • Susan Stone

      Judy, when we travel, it’s easy for me to take 800 photos in a day. My husband always complains about how many I take, but I love having the memories. I’d probably feel differently if I were doing bird photography…

      • Judy Gusick

        Good thing there are no “requirements” for number of photo’s taken in a period of time! 🙂 More power to you! 🙂 One of my sisters probably takes those volumes of photo’s also and, she is MUCH more proficient than I. 🙂