My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Carolina Wren, Thryothorus ludovicianus

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Carolina Wren, Thryothorus ludovicianus

Well, it had to happen, I knew that it would at some point in this series. On Sunday, February 17, 2013, while walking in a local county park, I spotted a carolina wren, but the photos I got are less than great, as you will see. The photos do meet my minimum, self-imposed standard of being good enough to make a positive ID, but they’re not photos that I would normally post in this series. But, what is one to do when they see a somewhat rare bird, and bad photos are all one can manage?

Before I continue that train of thought, here’s some info about Carolina wrens from Wikipedia, which will help me fill in the blanks later.

“The Carolina Wren is sensitive to cold weather. Since they do not migrate and stay in one territory. The northern populations of Carolina wrens decrease markedly after severe winters. Because of this sensitivity to weather, gradually increasing temperatures over the last century may have been responsible for the northward range expansion seen in the mid 1900s.

Populations in Canada and the northern half of the US experience regular crashes following severe winters, but their high breeding productivity soon results in a return to higher numbers. These birds are generally permanent residents throughout their range and defend territory year round; some birds may wander north after the breeding season.

They eat insects, found in leaf litter or on tree trunks; they may also eat small lizards or tree frogs. In winter, they occasionally eat seeds, berries, and other small fruits.

These birds prefer sites with dense undergrowth, either in mixed forests or in wooded suburban settings, in a natural or artificial cavity. The nest is a bulky, often domed structure, with a small hole towards the top. Nests of the more domestically inclined wrens have been reported in a great variety of nooks and crannies in, about, or under buildings of various kinds, under bridges, or in holes in any structure such as a porch, fence-post, flowerpot, tree, house or barn. Almost any kind of receptacle may offer an acceptable nesting site. Pairs may mate for life.”

According to both Wikipedia and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology “All about birds” website, Carolina wrens are not residents of the area where I live. I thought that I was going to have to travel to the southeast corner of Michigan to have any hopes of spotting one. But, during my walk, I heard an unfamiliar bird call, and then spotted the bird making the call. However, it was buried deep within the branches of the brush along a creek. No way that the auto-focus of my camera could get a lock on such a small bird with all that brush between us. To make matters worse, like all wrens, this one was always moving, and quickly.

After several failed attempts to get a photo, including the “Hey, it was there just a split second ago” shots of empty branches, I hatched an idea. Luckily, there was enough sunlight for a change to make this almost work. I switched to manual focus, set the aperture to f/14 to give me the greatest depth of field that I could get under the conditions, and managed two not so good photos of the wren before it flew off out of sight. Here they are, in all their inglorious badness.

Carolina wren

Carolina wren

Carolina wren

Carolina wren

Switching to manual focus meant that I was more or less shooting one-handed, as it’s hard to steady the camera when you left hand is spinning the focus control like crazy trying to keep up with a hyper wren. The slow shutter speeds with the lens stopped down didn’t help either, but, the increased depth of field gave me a better chance of getting the wren at least somewhat in focus, and at least I got something recognizable as a Carolina wren.

If the experts are correct, and these wrens are expanding their territory northward, I may get chances in the future to replace these photos with better ones, I sure hope so, but who knows when that could be? Since this is not only is this an entry in my photo life list, a Carolina wren is a regular life list first for me as well, I feel it is important enough to post these photos now, rather than hope I get better ones later on.

Of course I have noted where I saw the wren, and it was in a park that I walk through at least once a month, I will return to the spot where I saw the wren in hopes of seeing it again for better photos.

March 17, 2013, better photos added.

Male Carolina wren

Male Carolina wren

Male Carolina wren in full song

Male Carolina wren in full song

Male Carolina wren

Male Carolina wren

Male Carolina wren

Male Carolina wren

Male Carolina wren

Male Carolina wren

Female Carolina wren

Female Carolina wren

This is number 38 in my photo life list, only 312 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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