11.05.17: Facing the sun

An Eastern Bluebird faces the sun in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio. 

PHOTO OF THE WEEK ARCHIVES

Technical information

Date/time:
Nov. 10, 2012,
9:50 a.m.

Location
40°6’51” N,
82°57'32" 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: 
1/1000th second

ISO: 
800

I do a lot of bird photography. I guess that’s obvious from looking at my web sites.

But I do have favorite birds to photograph. The Eastern Bluebird sits near the top of that list. Maybe that’s because I don’t remember ever seeing a bluebird when I was growing up in Eastern Kentucky.

But there was a reason for that.

While Eastern Bluebirds have become a somewhat common sight in the Eastern U.S. and in Central Ohio where I live now, that wasn’t the case 25 years ago, when harsh winters, the destruction of natural habitat, the harmful effect of pesticides and competition with other cavity nesters combined to make the Eastern Bluebird a rare sight.

The number of Eastern Bluebirds had declined almost 90 percent from populations recorded in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The significant decline led to the Eastern Bluebird being declared a rare species in the late 1970s.

The rebound of the Eastern Bluebird population can be credited to the efforts of wildlife enthusiasts who worked to create habitats attractive to the remaining birds. In 1978, the North American Bluebird Society was formed to encourage the installation of nest boxes. This extensive effort provided sufficient nesting locations for bluebirds as the species competes with other cavity nesters (swallows, chickadees, wrens, house sparrows, starlings) for nesting sites. The efforts were so successful that the Eastern Bluebird was removed from the rare species list in 1996.

Bluebirds prefer to nest in open fields, meadows, hedges or gardens. Several metro parks in the Columbus area (like Sharon Woods Metro Park, where I got this photo of a male Eastern Bluebird basking in the sun above a fall field) have numerous nesting boxes in fields. The bluebirds can often be found perched on the boxes, on plants in the fields or on tree limbs adjacent to the fields.

The male bluebird is more colorful than the female, with deeper blue feathers on its head/back and a bright chestnut chest above a white belly. The female is more muted, with the blue feathers taking on more of a gray cast and the chestnut chest more subdued. 

In recent years a growing number of Eastern Bluebirds have become year-round residents of Central Ohio in spite of the often harsh winter weather in the area. I’ve seen several bluebirds braving the snow during my winter treks through the parks.

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.