Monday, November 23, 2009

Winter Blend

Although winter isn’t quite here, it is fast approaching, which sometimes makes the subject matter that I love most quite scarce. However, one thing that I can always count on when I need a pick me up is time spent in a nearby shrub swamp.

I love freshwater wetlands of all kinds but I particularly enjoying slogging through flooded fields, swamps and creeks. This is something that I share in common with author David M. Carroll. I recently spent a morning photographing sparrows and hermit thrushes, which find the shrub swamp a rich resource for food in the leaner months.

I’m always amazed at how cunning birds can be when they don’t want to be noticed and sparrows are no exception. Although there aren’t too many birds friendlier to man than sparrows –perhaps with the exception of the Kea– these small passerines are amazing at blending into their surroundings and sitting in loose vegetation mere feet from an onlooker without being detected.

There are a lot of photographers who prefer to produce tightly cropped images of birds (often employing the derogatively termed “bird-on-a-stick” approach) but I enjoy showing a bit of habitat whenever possible. I was first inspired to do this many years ago after seeing a 'small in the frame' photograph by Chris Gommersall of a male winchat perched on the end of a long stalk of grass. To my eyes it was pure poetry.

Perhaps in a less poetic photograph, the small song sparrow featured in the image above happily made its way through the grasses and frost covered leaves appearing to be quite unconcerned about my presence. I wanted to showcase its ability to cryptically blend into its surroundings while foraging. I couldn’t have asked for better company on a cold, frosty morning!


Heather said...

A nice post, Clay. Those sparrows certainly are hard to spot. Various sparrows congregate below our deck in the winter months, ground feeding under the feeders that hang from our deck railings, and they are certainly hard to see and identify from up above! By the way, I think that's a Song Sparrow you've got in this photo, not a White-throated. I've never seen that much streaking on the chest on a White-throated before.

clay bolt said...

Hi Heather,

I must admit that I seem to enjoy the company of sparrows more and more each year and yes, that is a song sparrow for goodness sake. I really must proofread my posts more often. Thanks for the correction!

When it comes to identifying sparrows in the field, I definitely do better if go on their songs.