Gina and the Magnolia Warbler

This Magnolia Warbler remains perched all day

This Magnolia Warbler remains perched all day

The next hardest part after getting someone to agree to pose for you is to find a setting to shoot them in.  Lucky for me, the ravine at the end of Gina and Gill’s street provided a lovely backdrop.

After seeing the critters that had been collected in the ravine that day (see yesterday’s post), we paused to check out Gina’s bird under the overpass.  A group of people had gotten together to raise money to have a mural painted under an overpass in the ravine.

Gina's Magnolia is a bit bigger than life-sized

Gina’s Magnolia is a bit bigger than life-sized

The idea was less about making it pretty and more about preventing people from touting whom they love in the not-so-public forum of graffiti on rarely seen walls.  Interestingly, graffiti artists do not usually graffiti over top of someone else’s art.  So, putting a mural on a space that gets graffitied a lot can be effective when it comes to combatting the problem.

I am particularly fond of the bird mural in Gina’s neighborhood ravine.  Gina and Gill sponsored the painting of a Magnolia Warbler.  They didn’t know they were sponsoring a Magnolia Warbler until after it was done and they were informed of what type of bird they had funded.

What's that birdie on your shoulder?

What’s that birdie on your shoulder?

The Magnolia Warbler is partially responsible for growing my interest in birds sufficiently that I started learning more about them.  My mom had tried to get me interested in birds for many years.  I did have some interest, but not enough to go out and learn much beyond feeder birds.  Then, I met a woman at work who asked me to sponsor her in a fund raiser for the local chapter of the Audubon.  This is when I first learned to open my ears and eyes and see birds I would have sworn I’d never seen before.

With a little more flash

With a little more flash

One spring, I was working from home back when my office window looked out into several trees.  As I sat at my desk diligently working, I looked up briefly–just long enough to notice a beautiful small bird sitting on a branch.  I watched it as long as I dared.  I was torn between running upstairs for the bird book to identify it and staring at it for as long as possible so I could sear the image of the bird into my brain and identify it later.

Creating a little drama with a Snoot

Creating a little drama with a Snoot

Realizing I didn’t really know (yet) what to look for and probably would have forgotten the bird by the time I got to the bird book, I decided to make a run for it and see if I could get the book and get back before the bird flew away.  I didn’t, but I did manage to remember what it looked like.  Of course, it took both looking it up in a bird book and talking to my friend the next day to confirm that it probably was a Magnolia Warbler I’d seen before I believed it.

It was such a surprise to learn such small, beautiful birds are really a common sight.

What a beautiful day in the park

What a beautiful day in the park

Visitors at the Visitor’s Center

Last Saturday, I watched the visitor’s center at Audubon Acres from 9AM-1PM.  It’s one of those volunteer jobs I don’t mind doing, but the visitor’s center isn’t often a busy place.

I guess it’s helpful for a volunteer to be there to deal with visitors who stop by so the various other folks who might be there can work on projects uninterrupted.  The property manager was off running an activity, which was a tour of a wetland at the local VW factory.  I was covered the front desk until he got back.

After taking advantage of the quiet to finish up some work of my own, I got out my camera.  I took the cordless phone with me, staying close enough that I could get back inside before a visitor could pull in, park, and walk in.

Someone had spent quite a bit of time decorating the front of the center for halloween.  They had found or grown giant pumpkins and strategically placed them in front of the center to make it look like a pumpkin patch.  I’ve never seen such large pumpkins.  I thought they were fake until I knocked on them.

A Brown Thrasher perched in the open across the parking lot from the center.  I, of course, couldn’t resist crossing to the other side to see if I could get a shot of him.  Brown Thrashers are amazing teases.  I believe they instinctively recognize a camera even if they’ve never seen one before.  They perch where they can be seen clearly with no obstructions just until the moment when the camera achieves sharp focus.  Then, they hop behind a bunch of leaves, disappearing completely out of the frame and forcing the photographer to take her eye away from the camera to locate said bird again.

Now, this kind of hide-and-seek is expected when you’re shooting a hummingbird or a warbler.  Tiny little birds that move quickly can disappear completely behind a single leaf.  But a Brown Thrasher is a big bird.  It’s bigger than a Robin and has a much longer tail.  It should NOT be able to evade my lens so effectively.  Yet, there it is and there it isn’t.  I rarely get a shot of a thrasher even though I see them almost daily here.  I hear their loud clicking and know they are making fun of me from their favorite hiding spots.

Fortunately for me, although I had no luck getting a shot of a thrasher, I did get to spend a few minutes walking around the property before I left for home.  Within minutes I’d spotted some warblers flitting around in the trees.  The first one I got several shots of was a Magnolia Warbler in fall colors.  The second was a Wilson’s Warbler–one I’ve never seen before.  I love it when I get to add a bird to my life list!  Unfortunately, 400mm is not enough for warblers, so the photos are heavily cropped.