May 25, 2008
146: Banding Together
From May to September, leg-banding of songbirds is conducted every Friday morning where I work (weather permitting). Using mist nets (much like ultra-fine badminton nets), the birds are snared in clearings between willow bluffs, carefully placed into individually-sized cloth bags – then banded, identified, aged, measured and weighed before being released. May is the best month for variety as many birds pass through while heading further north, so I staked out a spot at the table this past Friday with my camera. Small warblers like these are prized catches, though in the hour I stuck around I also photographed a bank swallow and three species of sparrow.
In the realm of professional bird photography, this is deemed 'cheating'. I make no bones about it though: I am no professional, and these warblers were all hand-held while I shot. Even still, there is much difficulty in "keeping my eye on the birdie" through the lens. The birds can sense impending freedom at this point of the procedure, flighty and anxious to flee the scene (many outtakes reflected this). Selective cropping eliminated the human presence, then a quick run through Photoshop (primarily dodging and blurring of backgrounds) helped to create further focus.
Respectfully then, I submit this for Photo Friday's current theme of difficult shot. Pictured are (from top to bottom) a magnolia warbler, blackpoll warbler and Wilson's warbler (click on the species names for closer looks at their feather detail).