08.12.18: Yellow-rumped Warbler

A Yellow-rumped Warbler perches on a branch in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio. 

PHOTO OF THE WEEK ARCHIVES

Technical information

Date/time:
Oct. 10, 2010,
9:21 a.m.

Location
40°6'49.739" N 82°57'30.499" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Camera: 
Canon EOS 7D

Lens: 
Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 

Aperture: 
f/5.6

Shutter: 
1/800th second

ISO: 
400

Yellow-rumped Warblers pass through Central Ohio during spring migration north and fall migration south, but — except for the yellow rump — the fall bird bears little resemblance to the spring bird.

The bird shown above is sporting its fall/winter brown plumage. In the spring and summer, both sexes are an eye-catching gray/black with flashes of white in the wings and yellow on the sides, head and — of course — the rump. 

I found this Yellow-rumped Warbler on an October morning, bouncing from branch to branch in a park north of Columbus, Ohio. It paused for a few seconds on a branch with an uncluttered background and I was able to get a usable shot.

I get nearly all of my warbler photos during the spring, when the birds are migrating north from their winter homes in Central and South America, or occasionally in the fall during migration south. The range maps for most warbler species show Central Ohio as part of the summer breeding range, but it's been my experience that few hang around here for the summer. Most head north into Canada.

While I often see warblers in local parks in the spring and fall, the best place to see a wide variety is in Magee Marsh Wildlife Area and other neighboring parks along Lake Erie in Northern Ohio during a few weeks each spring. Warblers' migration often includes non-stop flights of a thousand miles or more, so when they do make a stop they must feed constantly to refuel. That's what happens in May along the Ohio side of Lake Erie. The trees are filled with a variety of warblers, all feeding on insects to refuel before another long flight across the lake to get to their summer breeding grounds in Canada.

I'm not a bird watcher. I'm a photo hobbyist who happens to shoot birds primarily because it is a huge challenge. Every shot is a combination of planning, preparation and luck. But bird watchers live for the spring warbler migration. Magee Marsh is packed every year on Mother's Day weekend when the spring warbler migration is at its peak. There's even a website - The Biggest Week in American Birding - dedicated to the migration through Magee Marsh.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.