When the light, the foliage and the bird align

Palm warber with wings extended flies near bushes.

Every once in a while, the birding and photography gods smile upon me. Such occasions are rare, and the latest came on a recent Sunday morning at what you might call the Church of the Pole Farm.

I took one of my standard routes at the park, making a left into the alley of trees along the Lawrence-Hopewell trail and heading toward the observation deck situated at the mid-point of two of the main fields. The sun was out, the breeze was light, and I noticed that the trees were just starting their transition to fall colors.

With those basics covered, all that remained was for the birds to cooperate and show themselves in force. I paused briefly on the lower level of the observation deck, hoping to catch some of the sparrows flitting about. No luck there, so I walked ahead, hoping that a couple of clusters of trees might be luring birds into their branches, as they often do in fall and spring.

While the cluster to the left was quiet, the branches on the right were teeming with birds. Expecting Savannah sparrows, I stopped 10 or so yards away and peered into the leaves. Through my binoculars I saw not sparrows but palm warblers, who have arrived in abundance during this fall’s migration season.

Warblers are shifty, flighty birds, and I pulled up my camera in hopes of catching one of them pausing on a branch. One of the birds was darting up and down on the branches, and I did my best to keep my lens trained on it. I had no idea what I’d captured. With luck, I had something worthwhile.

When I got home, I popped the SD card into the reader on my laptop and hoped for the best.

I scrolled through the images and when I brought up the one topping this post, I gasped, “Oh my!”

I’m proud of this image. It’s not perfect, but to my eyes it’s darn close. In a way I wish the wings were perfectly locked in, but the slight blur conveys the sense of motion from the moment.

Thank you, birding and photography gods.

Published by Dan

University media executive by day, blogger by night, I am a well-traveled resident of New Jersey

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