A handsome yellow warbler visits the garden, poses for the fauna gallery

American yellow warbler

American yellow warbler

This morning, there was a flurry of activity in my backyard avian sanctuary.

I’ve been confined to the house by a monstrous flu bug, so feeling well enough to take my breakfast on the little deck, overlooking the waterfall, was particularly enjoyable. The weather has been summery throughout May, with temperatures 2-3 degrees above normal.

The usual sparrows swarmed about the feeder — adults feeding fledglings — while the odd nuthatch and chickadee took to the water feature for their morning ablutions, splashing jewels of water droplets into the slanting sunlight.

These were soon joined by an Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna), buzzing between nearby mock orange blossoms and the cascading water. I was hoping she would perform the bathing ritual I’ve seen before, but never captured in photo or video: grasping the lip of the upper waterfall, letting the water cascade around her body — a critical behaviour for hummingbirds, to wash sticky nectar from their feathers.

Anna's hummingbird

Anna’s hummingbird

Then, a flash of canary yellow. What was that? The golden bullet disappeared over the bamboo fence.

If whatever it was decided to return, I’d be ready. Last year, I think I glimpsed the same bird, but never had a chance to make a photograph. I climbed up to my third-floor studio and grabbed the Nikon D800, attaching a TC-20E III 2x Teleconverter and AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II lens. Where’s my tripod? Back up the stairs.

Settling in behind my chair, tea at hand, I waited for a reappearance of the mystery songbird.

The yellow warbler (Dendroica petechia) is not a particularly rare bird, breeding in the whole of temperate North America as far south as Mexico, wintering in Central and South America. Nonetheless, like many other songbirds, it is in decline.

It’s certainly not every day a spectacular specimen of this species turns up in the yard. But here he was again. As he grew bolder, hopping out from behind the “creekside” sedges, I tried to make myself inconspicuous behind the camera and tripod. In the end, he approached a mere 3 metres away from my position, preoccupied with bathing and rehydrating.

I made a few acceptable photos of the hummingbird, sparrows, nuthatch and our vibrant warbler. I think he deserves a place in the fauna gallery, don’t you?

On the fence

On the fence

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Raymond Parker Photo
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