WINTER WARBLERS

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Warblers are notoriously difficult to photograph - they are small (4-5" long), active, and often spend much of their time in the upper levels of the canopy.  Fortunately, we have a half-dozen or so species that winter in central Florida, and many will respond strongly to screech owl tapes.  They are still incredibly challenging to photograph, though, as they would rather sit directly over your head if given the chance.  Even if they do perch on a photogenic branch in decent light, they rarely stay there more than 4 or 5 seconds, so if you don't work quickly, you miss your chance.  Very frustrating sometimes.

           

As they were last winter, yellow-rumped warblers (above) are the most abundant wintering species, and most mobbing flocks are dominated by these birds.  Part of the challenge of warbler photography is trying to pick out and track the less abundant species, and hope that they will offer themselves up for a portrait.

The yellow-throated warbler is one of my favorite, and most coveted, photographic subjects.  Though they winter here, they are usually present in mixed-species flocks as single birds, and they are not nearly as cooperative as some other species.  Normally a treetop species, when they do come down to check out the mobbing activity, they usually don't stay low for long.  I still don't have the ideal shot I'm looking for, but as long as they keep giving me the occasional opportunity, I'm not complaining.      
                      

Prairie warblers (above) are also usually seen as single birds in flocks, though sometimes 2 will come in together.   The little dark semicircle under the eye is a giveaway for this species, even the somewhat drab female on the left.

            

You have to wonder how some warblers are  named; magnolia and  palm warblers are two that seem particularly inappropriate to me.  No wondering where black-and-white warblers get their name.   They are especially neat because of their un-warbler like foraging behavior - they climb up and down tree trunks, sometimes upside down, much like nuthatches.  This one is behaving a bit more normally for a warbler.

           
           
           
Palm warblers are one of the commonest wintering warblers in central Florida, second in abundance only to the yellow-rumpeds.  Palm warblers are nice from a photographic perspective because they tend to forage lower in the habitat than most warblers, often down on the ground.   That, combined with their helpful habit of constantly pumping their tail, makes these neat little birds a snap to find and identify.  They've been especially cooperative to me this fall.  I didn't have a single palm warbler photo from last winter that I was pleased with - now I have a bunch.  Always room for improvement, though.          
             
As I did a few pages back, I'll close this one with one of the cutest little warblers in the country - the common yellowthroat.  They have remained abundant and responsive throughout the fall - still would rather skulk around in dense cover than come out in the open most of the time, but occasionally they oblige me.  Those are females  to the right, adult males below, and an immature male above.   Though the young dude looks like he was scolding me, he wasn't calling - he did gape like this repeatedly for a minute or so.  Who knows why?        
             

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