Friday, July 1, 2016

Struggling to get an Acceptable Picture of an American Redstart: A Birding Journey

Hi friends. I'm on a bit of a Florida birds kick these days (truth be told, this is largely because I haven't found the time for a real birding trip in a while). No bird gave me more trouble while I was in Florida than the American Redstart. Well, I guess I shouldn't say that, because the Redstarts made themselves abundantly clear from early on, while much desired birds like Painted Buntings and Snail Kites remained entirely absent. Simply put, I could not get a Redstart to sit still to save my life. Maybe my camera settings were off, maybe my skills were not where they needed to be, maybe it was just a bird I was not meant to get a great picture of. But I sure tried, folks. This blog is about that.

The first few pictures I got were at Morikami Park, in Delray Beach Florida. It's a heavily forested botanical gardens, and the Redstart(s) here flitted from tree to tree, staying mostly in the shadow.

Honestly these were probably the best pictures I got of them. My wife and family had to endure me doing a lot of standing around and staring up into the branches of trees. The pictures came out looking like this.

Truly a magnificent bird.

Lighting: poor
View: obstructed

Next time I saw him, he was down in South Miami Beach, Florida, amid the seagrapes. This one was so close to being perfect birdfans. Just a little tiny bit longer in this spot and I could've gotten the focus in on him, instead of the coral wall behind him. He was gone too quickly to get a second shot.

Oddly, the only time he sits still is when he's far enough away that I can't get a good picture of him. Almost as if being on the move around humans is a good idea or something. This is at the full 50x zoom my camera is capable of, so he was really a speck in the distance. All of the rest of these pictures are from Key Biscayne. It is a beautiful and undervisited park, but things did not get better there for our Redstart odds.

Out of focus level: medium
Still obstructed

This one, I think, would have been the shot, but the bird had other ideas. After this point, I had run out of other people's time to waste, and just figured I'd make the best of it when I got home. We've all been there, right? At least that's what I tell myself. I went to battle with the bird, and in this case, the bird won. Well, at least I was able to positively ID him. It's not called pro-ornithologist for a reason folks, and I hope that my continued struggles are an inspiration to all the other not-so-pro birders out there. Stay tuned next week when I hopefully have some really exciting stuff to share from a trip I'm taking this weekend.

American Redstart
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, Florida, USA
April 2016
Member of the Wood Warbler Family
§A Confusion of Warblers§

{etymology corner} American Redstarts are not part of the same biological family as other birds called Redstarts, and derive their name from their red tails (a start = a tail in olden times).

~true bird fact~ American Redstarts flash their bright tail and wingpatches while foraging, making them look like a blur of color. This startles their intended insect prey and flushes them out of hiding.

Feisty, responds poorly to rules and requests
Spends money recklessly
Always willing to stop what he's doing if something more entertaining comes up

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