For the many photographers out there, think back to an image you captured that may have taken weeks, months, or even years to capture. For me, it’s an image of a female Red-winged Blackbird.
When thinking about Red-winged Blackbirds, thoughts of the marsh, incessant calls, and dark birds with bright red wing bars come to mind. What is a shame in my mind is that of the female who is typically rarely seen and forgotten about. The female Red-winged Blackbird is a stunning specimen with contrasty barring and hints of carroty color around the throat and beak. The rare sighting of this bird above the reeds make this secretive gem somewhat of a specialty. Seeing these birds is always a treat but setting off to get a great image turned out to be harder than I thought, mostly due to the rare times this bird pops into the open.
One warm spring day birding along a bustling boardwalk for Warblers, this image would finally come to fruition. As we walked, we passed several openings with marshy habitat where male Red-Winged Blackbirds were calling and fighting over mating rights. From time to time females would show themselves, but rarely away from cover and never high enough to get a face-to-face image with a clean background. While others snapped away, I knew the results would be bland so onward we walked. We soon approached another opening with a nice bench for resting. We stopped and decided to take a break from carrying all the heavy gear. As we enjoyed the spring morning and the orchestra of bird songs, the chack and chatter calls of a close female caught my ear. I turned and brought my camera up just as a beautiful adult Female popped on to an open branch. I captured an image and was beside myself until she let out one more call, which beckoned me to continue shooting. I was completely content with getting a perched shot of this beauty but to capture an image with her singing was the icing on the cake. I captured a handful of nice songbird images that day but the one that will always stand out is the singing Female Red-winged Blackbird.
If there was any lesson to be learned that day, it was that preparation is key. By having my camera gear ready to go and exposure settings close to where they needed to be, I was able to bring up my camera and fire away. Always monitor your settings as natural lighting changes by the second. Being ready is most the battle.