Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shoot first and ask questions later



So last Sunday night, I went up to Rockport and thought I’d try to get some sunset shots of Thacher Island. When I arrived on the scene, this little guy greeted me. The light conditions were low, and wide open, I could get 1/40th of a second. Not a good shutter speed hand holding a 300mm lens on a twitchy little sparrow.

I wasn’t sure what he was so I invoked the “shoot first and ask questions later” policy. I can upload and figure it when I get home. So I rattled off about 20 frames because I know that photos of twitchy little sparrows in low light conditions end up in the recycle folder. Again, my strategy was to over shoot and hope for discernable field marks.

Five photos were good enough to show field marks. “It’s a Song Sparrow. I’m near water, it’s brushy…case closed.” I though. But then, the colors are a little off and he was more interested in standing on rocks than on the tops of bushes…what is this guy? After an hour of studying face patterns, digging through four field guides I made up my mind. “It’s a Song Sparrow. The face pattern, the spot on the chest, the notched tail, it all adds up. Notched tail????” No, Song Sparrows have rounded tails. Harrumph.

Back into the field guides…finally, it is a Savannah Sparrow. I was stumped because Savannah Sparrows have yellow eyebrows. The lesson learned is that the eyebrows fade in the fall. This is cool, because I’ve never seen the Ipswich sub species. (It’s a birder thing.)



Notice the yellow eyebrow on this Savannah Sparrow that was shot in Mechanicville, NY last April. We came across him him singing on a bulldozer in a development that was being built. The land was farm fields, perfect for Savannah Sparrows. It was like he was singing and claiming his land saying, "This is my home, get this dozer out of here!"

5 comments:

Eve said...

Great shot of your Savannah!! This is one of my breeding sparrows here. I love hearing that sweet quiet song first thing in the morning before it gets covered up by other louder songs!!
Thanks Steve!

John Theberge said...

For a quick grab shot the photo came out pretty good.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

This narrative sounds a lot like how mine go Steve!! LOL!! I wish there birds would not change their plumage and confuse us like this!!

Marvin said...

"Shoot [lots of photos] first and ask questions later" is by far the best policy, especially in this age of digital cameras. I have tiny twangs of regret when I must delete photos that just didn't turn out well enough to save, but major regret pangs for the ones that got away without me even trying for a shot.

Congratulations on your Savannah Sparrow photo. I think it's excellent for the conditions you describe.

Steve B said...

Hi Eve. The Savannah Sparrows in Eastern Colorado were in trouble with all of the development. I didn't have much experience with them unless it was breeding season. This is the first time I've seen them in Fall Feathers, so I learned something...which is always cool.

Thanks folks. I just wanted to get out the word that it is okay to to take chances, fumble with field guides and learn some things. The important thing is to have FUN!

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