Cerulean Warbler

Cerulean Warbler

In the hushed serenity of Stokes State Forest Park, I saw a small yet striking Cerulean Warbler perch gracefully amidst the complex lace of bare twigs. With its sky-blue back, this individual flits through the overgrown foliage, a splash of colour against the green canvas. Its delicate form is a testament to the surprises hidden within the leafy branches near Sandyston.

The setting is a dance of natural Spring hues; the emerging leaves' soft greens blend with the branches' muted tones. Light filters through the tree canopy, radiating a peaceful glow on the warbler's plumage, highlighting the crisp white underparts and the band of streaks along its chest.

In this tranquil woodland setting, the warbler is the star, a transient beauty amongst the woods. This image captures a moment of stillness, a glimpse into the life of one of nature's most elusive songbirds.

This individual was challenging to photograph. It always seemed to land in the thick of the leaves and stems. Of the dozen or more frames I captured, this is the best photograph of the set. It is the only one I have where the bird landed and was not somewhat obscured by a branch.

Blackburnian Warbler

I love the flame-orange throat of the Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca).

This is the second workshop that I have booked with Ray Hennessey. When I registered for Ray's workshop, it was mainly because I was attracted to the flame-orange throat of the Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca).

The Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca) is a vibrantly coloured bird, noted for its striking orange and black plumage on the face and throat, which is incredibly vivid during the breeding season. They are often found in coniferous forests and are a brilliant spectacle for any bird enthusiast. Ray had his camper van set up in a Stokes State Forest Park, a state park in Sandyston, Montague and Frankford in Sussex County, New Jersey.

Ray knew just where to go, and this bird was very cooperative, flying between the surrounding branches of the shorter trees. We found this individual near the area where we photographed the Black-throated Green Warbler. We waited patiently for the bird to rest in just the right spot. His throat seems to glow. I learned that no other North American warbler has an orange throat.

Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca)
Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca) · 13 May 2022 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

Photographing these tiny birds is a challenge. We would find a spot with a confusion of Warbler and stand around, waiting for the bird to come down from the trees and land on an open branch. The bird may land in a leafy tree or shrub and is either fully or partially obscured by leaves or stems. Sometimes, the bird is facing away from the camera. Getting a good photograph requires time, patience, and lots of luck. But the results are rewarding.

Black-throated Green Warbler

After two years of waiting for the threat of COVID to pass, it was time to get outside to photograph warblers.

After two years of waiting for the threat of COVID to pass, it was time to get outside to photograph [warblers]. I booked a one-on-one half-day workshop with wildlife photographer Ray Hennessy.

Just before the pandemic started, after decades of part-time bird photography, Ray switched from wedding photography, his primary source of income, to focus on his passion for bird photography. Originally from southern New Jersey, Ray now lives out of the camper van, travelling around the country to conduct group workshops wherever the birds are; South Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, Alaska, Utah etc.

The day started at 6:30 AM in Stokes State Forest in northwestern New Jersey. Stokes State Forest Park is over 90 minutes from my home. I met Ray in one of the parking lots where he had parked his camper van.

Ray knows the birds by their call, and he has remembered the locations where he has seen the specific birds he expected to see that day. We drove around to his list of sites, searching for the birds on my shot list. We sat among the leaves in a clearing just off one of the roads in Walpack. We waited patiently for a Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens) to land on a log nearby. After about twenty to thirty minutes and many missed opportunities, I was rewarded with these photographs.

The Black-throated Green Warbler is identifiable by its bright yellow face, black throat, and side streaking. This stunning adult male bird is olive-green and white below, turning to black streaks on the flanks, with two bright white wing bars. These songbirds are common in wooded areas, primarily during migration seasons.

Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens)
Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens) · 13 May 2022 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

The Black-throated Green Warbler is a common breeder from northern boreal forests to hardwoods of the southeastern U.S. I have not yet learned the calls, but Ray knows the distinctive and persistent song. Black-throated Green Warblers are the easternmost representative of a quartet of closely related warblers. Black-throated Green Warblers often remain high in the canopy, so this was a very lucky capture.