Sage Thrashers – A Hungry Chick And A Dutiful Parent

I’ve been hoping to observe fledgling Sage Thrashers for some time now and yesterday I photographed a single bird. My success was partially the result of extreme frustration with the weather. We’ve had gloomy, cloudy morning skies for so long now that I’ve had a serious case of cabin fever so when I once again woke up to dense cloud cover yesterday morning I decided to go shooting anyway, in spite of my best judgment.

I knew that I’d have deplorable light for photography and I did. But my shutter finger needed scratching…

 

sage thrasher 0916 ron dudley

 1/1250, f/6.3, ISO 1600, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

For weeks I’ve known there was a Sage Thrasher nest in this sagebrush next to the road on Antelope island because of the activity I’ve observed there from the adults (I can’t actually see the nest and never approach it of course). At first this youngster (I guess it’s really past the “chick” stage) was hopping around on the ground near the base of the sagebrush as it waited for a parent to deliver food but once in its impatience it landed on top of the bush and posed for a few moments before skulking around on the ground again.

 

 

sage thrasher 0942 ron dudley

 1/1250, f/6.3, ISO 1600, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

Then one of the parents flew in with a juicy grasshopper for its offspring and landed with it on a nearby sagebrush. The adult was calling incessantly to the youngster with its beak almost completely closed on the grasshopper as you see here – a nifty trick that always makes me think of ventriloquism. Then both birds flew further down the hill, presumably to complete the food transfer.

As always I was delighted to see the young bird as a sign of nesting success (generally these birds lay 4-5 eggs in a clutch but I only saw one fledgling). Hopefully, next time I’ll have better light and there will be more young thrashers in the vicinity of this nest and others.

Ron

 

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Chukar – Wish For It And It May Happen

Recently while photographing birds on Antelope Island I remarked to Mia that I’d like to photograph a Chukar doing a wing-stretch, something I’d only seen once in the past. I’ve often wondered why they so rarely do it and came up with a working theory that goes something like this – many birds stretch their wings in preparation for flight after an extended period of rest but Chukars seldom fly so they have less need for stretching (that’s only a guess of course).

Then, just a day or two later (10 days ago), it happened.

 

chukar 9276 ron dudley

 1/2000, f/9, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

As they often do this time of year this Chukar was apparently doing sentry duty atop this large, white lichen-encrusted rock and calling intermittently.

 

 

chukar 9315 ron dudley

  1/1000, f/9, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

Soon (as the light changed and cut my shutter speed in half) the bird began to preen. Many bird species would follow up such a grooming session with a wing-stretch but I just didn’t expect it from a Chukar.

 

 

chukar 9332 ron dudley

  1/1000, f/9, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

But that’s exactly what it did and it even chose to stretch the wing facing me and included one leg in the process.

 

 

chukar 9367 ron dudley

  1/1000, f/9, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

Then after its almost unprecedented (for me) performance the Chukar exited at stage left in traditional fashion, by hopping down from the rock instead of flying off. I thought it was pretty neat that my wish to photograph the behavior came true so quickly after making it.

Next time I think I’ll wish for a Golden Eagle. Fighting with a couple of ravens. Over prey. In good light. Close…

Ron

 

 

 

 

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