Black and White Warbler (Mniotilta varia)

I have, for a few years now, admiring the wildlife photography of Ray Hennessy's. His images of birds, amphibians, foxes and other wildlife in New Jersey seemed to capture the animals at their best. I kept thinking, “I’d love to meet that guy!“. This weekend I finally did.

A few months ago, I was doing some location scouting and visited my Flickr to get an idea of things I might be able to shoot at the location. When I logged in to Flickr, I saw one of Ray’s warbler images. I was immediately down a rabbit hole, clicking and looking at his pictures. I visited his website. I noticed that he offered workshops.

I contacted Ray and arranged for a personal field trip to photography warblers. I don’t own any super telephoto lenses but I was willing to rent, and Ray helped guide me in equipment choice. We arranged a date and time, and Ray was excellent at communicating expectations. I rented the Fujinon XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR and Oben ACM-2400 Monopod w/ VH-R2 Swivel/Tilt Head for this field trip. The lens was unexpectedly light, and I had no issues handholding the lens. The f/4.5-5.6 aperture was fast enough for shooting fast-moving subjects, such as warblers, in daylight. The lens has a 152-609mm full-frame equivalent focal length which is an excellent range for this type of photography. I did not need the Oben ACM-2400 Monopod w/ VH-R2 Swivel/Tilt Head. Per Ray's recommendation, I shot in shutter priority mode, setting the shutter speed on the Fujifilm X-T2 shutter to 1/500s. With the amount of spring light available at that time of day, the Fujifilm X-T2 chose an aperture between f/5 and f/5.6 most of the time.

Ray explained his technique for finding the birds provided suggested lens settings and explained why the settings would work. He was patient and helpful when I encountered equipment challenges. He is very knowledgeable about the birds and their habitat and behaviour and was genuinely interested in ensuring I was successful.

Black and White Warbler (Mniotilta varia)
Black and White Warbler (Mniotilta varia) · 27 April 2019 · FujiFilm X-T2 · XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

We spent about three hours that morning searching, spotting and photographing birds in the dense growth of brush trees as they bounced around the trees searching for insects in the chilly morning air. Ray pointed out the colouring and bird calls that helped him identify the different types of warblers. Every kind of bird I shot seemed to have its personality as they flew between the greenery. The branches, leaves and background help to give the picture a more natural look. This male Black and White Warbler perched right in between the branches and fresh spring leaves and started singing. It was caught on camera!

The Black and White Warbler (Mniotilta varia) is a small passerine bird known for its distinctive black and white plumage, which consists of black stripes on a white background. It is primarily found in North America, breeding in mature deciduous or mixed forests across its range. This warbler species is known for its unique foraging behaviour, as it creeps along tree trunks and branches in search of insects and spiders, resembling a nuthatch or creeper more than a typical warbler.

The Black and White Warbler (Mniotilta varia) constructs its cup-shaped nest on the ground or low in a shrub, laying a clutch of 4-6 eggs. The Black and White Warbler is a migratory bird, spending winters in Central America, the Caribbean, and southern Florida. It is often observed during migration in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, parks, and gardens.

In addition to the Black and White Warbler (Mniotilta varia), I photographed Blue-winged Warbler, Prairie Warbler, and possibly the Prothonotary Warbler.

You can learn more about Ray Hennessy's work and sign up for his workshops on his website. You can learn more about the Black and White Warbler at the Audubon Society’s website.

Author:Khürt Williams

A human who works in information security and enjoys photography, Formula 1 and craft ale.

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