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

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.

Tillman Ravine, Stokes State Forest

Two weekends ago I wend on a photo-hike through Stokes State Forest with some friends.

Two weekends ago, I embarked on an adventure to Stokes State Forest, a captivating New Jersey state park nestled in Sandyston, Montague, and Frankford within Sussex County. The expedition was shared with my friends Chris and Walt, who had set up their campsites separately in the vicinity of Sandyston. Excitement filled the air as I coordinated a photographic hike to explore the forest.

Initially, our group consisted of five enthusiastic participants, but two decided to opt out on the eve of our expedition. Nature blunted our determination to brave the elements with sporadic and heavy rain throughout the weekend. Nonetheless, when I arrived at the meetup location, I introduced Walt and Chris to each other, and with decisiveness, we ventured deep into the forest.

Stokes State Forest
Stokes State Forest · 5 June 2016 · Nikon D5100 · Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX

The forest left a lasting impression when I set foot in it. Nature's spectacle was fully displayed, and lush greenery surrounded me. The air was sweet and damp, enriching the overall experience. Surrounded by green trees, I felt like a child in a candy store. Various hardwood tree species graced the landscape, including oaks, hickories, maples, birch, chestnuts, beech, sycamore, cherry, walnut, ash, elm, etc. While I am allergic to most, if not all, of these trees, the steady rain eased any concerns. Bryophyta moss and lichen, common in wooded or moist areas where it can thrive in the shade and dampness, adorned the base of nearly every tree I encountered, adding to the glamorous scenery.

Stokes State Forest
Stokes State Forest · 5 June 2016 · Nikon D5100 · Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX

We found ourselves caught in the midst of a torrential downpour with our cameras, tripods, and camera bag in tow. Swiftly, we collected our equipment and hurried back to the safety of our cars. Our hike had taken us quite a distance, and we were thoroughly drenched when we reached our parked cars. We exited our cars after the rain subsided. To our disappointment, Walt discovered a technical issue with his Nikon D800, which was displaying errors. Something was wrong despite his attempts to resolve it by removing and replacing the battery. I patiently waited, and miraculously, about 30 minutes later, his Nikon sprung back to life.

Stokes State Forest
Stokes State Forest · 5 June 2016 · Nikon D5100 · Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX

Our immediate objective was to find waterfalls, and thus, we ventured on the Tilman Ravine Trail. Although we hiked a short distance, the trail presented alternating peaks and troughs, creating a fascinating exploration trail. Ferns, likely part of the class Polypodiopsida, were displayed with their green fronds spreading out on the forest floor. With their straight trunks rising towards the canopy, the trees were a mix of deciduous and coniferous species common in temperate forests. I was greeted with many photographic possibilities upon reaching the waterfall. The many possible compositions left me momentarily indecisive as I stood there, absorbing the spectacular surroundings and pondering the perfect shot.

Walt Varn at Stokes State Forest
Walt Varn at Stokes State Forest · 5 June 2016 · Nikon D5100 · Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX

Tillman Ravine, located within the confines of Stokes State Forest in northwestern New Jersey, is the epitome of natural allure. This serene and picturesque haven in Sandyston, Sussex County, became the focal point of our expedition. The ravine beckoned us with its lush foliage, serene waterfalls, and captivating hiking trails. It is an idyllic escape into the heart of nature.

Stokes State Forest
Stokes State Forest · 5 June 2016 · Nikon D5100 · Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX

The ravine's defining feature is its dense vegetation, overlooked by towering hardwood trees and a diverse array of vibrant plant species. The lush canopy overhead created an atmosphere of tranquillity as we ventured deeper into this natural sanctuary. Beneath our feet, the forest floor was decorated with a tapestry of ferns, mosses, and wildflowers, enhancing the magic of the surroundings.

Stokes State Forest
Stokes State Forest · 5 June 2016 · Nikon D5100 · Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX

A central attraction of Tillman Ravine is its meandering stream, gracefully weaving its way through the ravine. Though smaller in scale compared to well-known waterfalls in other regions, the ravine boasted a series of charming cascades and waterfalls along the stream's course. These water features contribute to the ravine's natural splendour, providing a soothing backdrop for hikers and nature enthusiasts immersed in exploration. The pleasant blend of lush foliage, peaceful forest ambience, and the gentle melody of running water set the tone for our hike.

Tillman Ravine, Stokes State Forest
Tillman Ravine, Stokes State Forest · 5 June 2016 · Nikon D5100 · Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX

Navigating a network of well-maintained trails, we explored the ravine, providing Chris's daughter ample opportunities for adventure and discovery. The trails followed the stream, affording us occasional glimpses of cascading water and immersing us in the natural milieu. Though moderately challenging, the terrain added to the sense of accomplishment as we traversed the ravine's pathways.

Despite the looming threat of rain and the slippery rocks underfoot, Tillman Ravine is the kind of place that beckoned for repeated visits. Its charm and the various activities it offered left an indelible mark on me.