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Six hours of patient observation produces unique view of a skulking warbler

Mourning Warbler (Geothlypis philadelphia), Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Lucas County, Ohio, May 18, 2013, 10:58 a.m., by Mark Preston
Mourning Warbler (Geothlypis philadelphia), Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Lucas County, Ohio, May 18, 2013, 10:58 a.m., by Mark Preston

This spring at the famed boardwalk at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area in northwestern Ohio, Mark Preston took more than 4,000 photos.

BirdWatching reader Mark Preston
BirdWatching reader Mark Preston

Preston lives in Columbus, Ohio, and is the operations manager for a small company that specializes in activated carbon for clean air and water applications. Every spring since 2006, he has visited Magee Marsh to photograph warblers and other songbirds. He often picks up BirdWatching from the newsstand and says he especially enjoys David Sibley’s column “ID Toolkit.”

Of the thousands of shots he took at the marsh, the one above, which he posted to our Flickr group, stood out.

As a Mourning Warbler foraged in the undergrowth, Preston noticed a pattern: From where he was standing, the bird stuck to an area about 100 feet wide by 30 feet deep, and every 45 minutes to an hour, it would fly up to a branch 6-10 feet high, pause for a few seconds, and disappear into the tangled brush below.

“After seeing this pattern for about six hours, I was able to get in a good spot and wait,” he says. “I had my camera raised and my elbows on the railing.” Like clockwork, 45 minutes after its last appearance, the bird landed on a branch six feet off the ground, displaying its gray, black, and yellow plumage. It stayed for about one second, long enough for Preston to make one memorable photo.

He used the following equipment and settings to take the photograph:

Camera: Nikon D7100
Lens: Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3
Settings: 1/1250, f/6.3, ISO 800, focal length 500mm
Light: Nikon SB-600 AF Speedlight i-TTL Shoe Mount Flash with Visual Echoes FX4 Better Beamer Flash Extender
Format: RAW converted to JPG
Adjustments: Exposure adjusted in Adobe Photoshop

A version of this article appeared in the August 2013 issue of BirdWatching magazine.

Originally Published

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