A Pleasant Feathered Surprise

If I was a pressure cooker I’d be whistling up a storm about now.  More like a “perfect” storm from trying to prepare for a practice run to help friend learn the course for our upcoming relay marathon, working on Project Auuunold, trying to resolve some difficult architecture issues at work and most stressful of all, being two posts short on the last week of the month.  I’ve come too far this year to blow my quota so I will officially give up sleep and try and get through it.  The good news is this post topic literally fell out of the sky into my lap.  Umm, that might be a slight exaggeration, it actually did not land in my lap, rather in a tree about 30 feet from where I was sitting on our porch.  As luck would have it, I was actually out there photographing some of the many hummingbirds that have made our porch feeders their regular stomping grounds.  The ones I was focusing on ended up getting startled by something and split for the woods.  Not a big issue since they find their way back after about 15 minutes of calm.  During this delay I was fiddling with the Beast settings when something darted by and took up perch in a clump of nearby leaves.  Hello there greenish bird I’ve never seen around here before!

A quick flip to my user setting for bird on stick and I was snapping away.  By the way, I need to commend our friends at Nikon for adding the U1 and U2 Manual modes to the D7000.  This has been a godsend for quickly moving between stationary bird settings to bird in flight mode.  A quick flip of the dial brings my ISO to 400 and shutter speed to a slower setting for the perch shots and when it decides to take off all I need to do is flip it again to get my ISO up to 800 and shutter speed doubles – from that base I can quickly adjust the exposure setting to capture the moment.

Since I had not shot this bird before I was concentrating on getting a variety of poses and views to help identify it – head shot, breast shot, wing shot, tail shot etc.  This turned out to be very helpful during the identification phase.  Based on a discussion with John at work and a hefty amount of research both in my reference manuals and Google, I narrowed it down to a Vireo and then specifically either the Warbling Vireo or the Red-Eyed Vireo.  Both of these breeds have compatible ranges so that checked out good.  Both have a greenish hue and display a white to blush yellow  breast.  Initial indicators made me lean to the Warbling type.  There were some reservations regarding the fact the Warbling has as smaller stature than what I witnessed and the beak looked smaller on them than on this specimen.  The National Geographic North American Bird guide threw me with their illustration of the Red-Eyed Vireo – their graphic indicated a much darker green to grey wing coloring which did not match this bird.

Hit the jump to read more about this new bird to the Blog

They also indicated a very red iris which at first did not match.  Still concerned about the stature issue, I went to Google and did my standard image search.  Wow, what a variety of colorings and postures.  It must be common to misidentify this bird because clearly some of those shots were just plain wrong.  A little frustrated I pulled out my Smithsonian bird reference and was pleasantly surprised to see a quite different illustration of the Red-Eyed Vireo.  This one had a matching wing coloring (not the dark set as in the NG guide) and more importantly, the dark eye lines matched perfectly.  The Warbling version was missing the darker line above the eye.

Pretty confident now I zoomed into the shot and noticed the iris had a reddish tint to it – the pupil was pretty large due to the overcast day.  Lastly, I went to our friends over at Wikipedia.   Their image on the right side was a little off being a little more stocky than this specimen, but their image to the left looked pretty dead on.  Flipping back to the Smithsonian guide I matched the wing coloring to their illustration confirming in my mind that I was looking at a Red-Eyed Vireo – that my friends is a new check in my bird list!  As always, I will leave the identification up to debate in case anyone wants to weigh in on their opinions.

Apparently these birds are usually quite the chatter boxes.  This particular bird did not make a single sound the entire time I was photographing it.  It just sat there cocking its head in various positions intently listening for something.  According to Smithsonian, they have a song that sounds like a whistled version of “Here I am, in the tree, look up, at the top”.  How appropriate.  John actually mentioned that you’ll hear these birds whistling away in the tree canopy but you will never be able to find them – Wikipedia confirms this along with mentioning they own the record for most songs in a day at the 20,000/day level (Sheldon from Big Bang Theory must HATE this bird).  Definitely lucked out that day being right out there in the open.

They tend to feed on insects crawling in the leaves including caterpillars (the fuzzy ones, not our babies) and spiders.  Based on the abundance of arachnids this year out here in the country, none of them should be going hungry.  Unfortunately, I never had the chance to capture it with any food in its beak – that would have been cool.  These birds build a neat cup like nest in a fork of a branch.  Nothing like this has been found in any my lot walks so guessing this is just a passerby – strengthened by the fact this is the first time I’ve seen one in the area.

An now for my signature “viewer in the frame” shot…

Obviously this visitor caught a good view of the Beast and wasn’t exactly thrilled it was pointed directly at it.  A few tilts of the head as if trying to quantify the threat resulted in a quick flight to safety.  I did manage to get a parting shot showing off the tail feather and the under wing coloring.

In closing I’ll mention they have least concern conservation status but I would not have guessed it based on the scarcity around our area.  I hope you enjoyed my new friend.  The good news on being pressed for time is I usually break out the more current shots to process rather than having to hunt through the thousands and thousands of backlog images on our NAS.  This bird was actually shot on the 7th of this month which is close to Flash speed for shoot to post.

7 thoughts on “A Pleasant Feathered Surprise”

  1. A very pretty bird! I’ve never seen one. All the pictures are great in this post. The leaves accentuate the yellowish-green tinge in the bird, which must be quite small based on their relative sizes.

    Least concern, least concern…what to do…



  2. Thank you – I am pretty pleased how these pictures came out – it was actually on a dreary day so wasn’t exactly sure if the settings were right… on what to do.. take finger off of trigger and just admire!!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s