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Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

I often hear and see Song Sparrows in my back yard but the bird had been elusive to photograph.

I spotted this Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) while returning to my car after a morning walk in Mercer Meadow. As an avid bird photographer, I was thrilled to spot this bird. Song Sparrows are frequent visitors to my backyard, but capturing one on camera has been challenging.

The sparrow was perched on a branch of a tree, its melodic calls filling the air around me. The sun played a game of peekaboo, hiding behind the bird and casting shadows. This lighting situation demanded careful exposure. I wanted to capture enough detail to work with during post-processing.

The Song Sparrow, a native North American passerine bird, is a symbol of versatility, adapting to diverse habitats such as grasslands, marshes, meadows, and shrubby areas. As I learned on All About Birds, it is a common and well-known bird in New Jersey. The Song Sparrow prefers dense vegetation like shrubs, grasses, and wetlands, where it can build its nests and find sustenance.

In bird photography, patience is essential. As much as I wanted to linger and observe this sparrow for hours, I had to respect its natural rhythm. So, I snapped my photographs, capturing the moment without intruding on the bird.

Common Yellowthroat at Mercer Meadows

This wasn't the first time I had photographed the Common Yellowthroat Warbler, but it was my first time doing so at Mercer Meadows.

After a brief distraction watching a rabbit enjoy breakfast, I continued my search for birds. Earlier, two photographers with impressive zoom lenses on their cameras had passed by, clearly interested in capturing avian moments. I walked past them and found a spot about ten meters ahead to focus on my own bird photography.

I attempted to capture images of birds coming and going from their nests in the meadow, but unfortunately, I didn't have much luck. As I was trying, the two photographers caught up with me, and we struck up a friendly conversation. The elder photographer seemed quite familiar with the park and shared some helpful tips on where I might have better chances of spotting birds in the meadow. The other photographer appeared to be around my age and was relatively new to bird photography.

While we were talking, I heard a chittering sound coming from a nearby thicket, and I immediately got my camera ready. This wasn't the first time I had photographed the Common Yellowthroat Warbler, but it was my first time doing so at Mercer Meadows. The male warbler was busy hunting for insects in the thicket, and I was fortunate to capture a shot of him holding his prey in his beak.

Common Yellowthroat Warbler.
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) · 18 June 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR

The Common Yellowthroat Warbler stands out due to its unconventional nesting habit. Unlike other warblers, it chooses to nest in open marshes, making it a common sight in reed beds and areas with cattails throughout the country. The male of this species can often be seen perched on tall stalks, delivering its unique song, characterised by the rhythmic repetition of "Wichita-Wichita-Wichita."

Meadow Rabbit

The magic of early mornings. You never know what you might discover.

One early morning in June, I planned to ride my bicycle and capture bird photos. I awoke around 6 AM, loaded my trusty e-bike into the back of Bhavna's Acura, and drove off to Mercer Meadows, a scenic park with biking routes through 1600+ acres of meadows and woodlands. But I hit a snag.

As I unfolded my e-bike at the park, I suddenly realised I had forgotten the keys to the batteries. I removed the batteries to lighten the e-bike before lifting it into the trunk. Those keys were crucial for locking the batteries back in place. I was disappointed. But hey, no worries, right?

I was wandering through Mercer Meadows, enjoying the sweetness of the air. You know, that time of year when everything's in bloom, the sun's just peeking over the horizon, and the world's still quiet?

I had my Fuji X-T3 camera and Fujinon XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR lens, hoping to snap some pictures of birds, maybe a butterfly or two. I love that kind of stuff. But as I'm walking down this beaten path, I spot something out of the corner of my eye. There, in the grassy field, a flash of movement. My heart skipped a beat, thinking I'd spotted some rare bird. But no, it was something else.

I crept closer, trying not to spook whatever it was. And as I got nearer, I could see it clearer: a rabbit, just nibbling on some grass, ears perked up and nose twitching. My camera was ready, so I clicked away to capture the moment. But the whole time, I wondered: What kind of rabbit1? I might know something about birds, but I'm no rabbit expert. They all look pretty similar to me.

I must've spent a good half hour just watching this little guy, pondering the mysteries of rabbit identification. But it didn't matter. The sun was climbing higher, the dew was evaporating, and I was sharing a quiet morning with nature. Eventually, I moved on.

That rabbit, that meadow, that morning - they all told a story of life waking up and starting a new day. Sometimes, it's not about identifying every creature or capturing the perfect shot. Sometimes, it's just about being there, at the moment, and appreciating the simple beauty of life.

Who would've thought a little rabbit in Mercer Meadows could be so exciting? But that's the magic of early mornings. You never know what you might discover.

  1. I later discovered that the New England cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis) is the only rabbit native to New Jersey and is considered an important part of the state's natural heritage. This species has a distinct appearance with a short, fluffy tail and dense, coarse fur that provides effective camouflage. It also has large, rounded ears for detecting sounds and threats.