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“Cat Call” (Gray Catbird, Adult Male, Dumetella carolinensis) Nikon D300, 490mm (VR 200-400mm F/4G w/1.4x Teleconverter), F/6.3, 1/320s, ISO 320

After the silence of winter, the chirping of birds in the spring is a welcomesound!

When you’ve been listening for as many years as I have, you can’t help but learn the different bird calls and, after some time, can instantly identify what birds are around just by the prevailing sounds.

Since it is mating season, the songs have been abundant! Many will sing for hours on end, desperately trying to entice a mate. Once a mate is found however, the songs do not end but rather, turn into chattering between the males and females.

Oh, wouldn’t you love to understand their conversation? 😉

The male Gray Catbird returned time and time again to this particular branch to sing out his melody. I spent quite awhile photographing in order to achieve a well-composed, well-lit shot of him in full song, his beak wide open. Another must-have was to capture an image where that tiny spot of red under his beak was exposed as he sang. Not an easy task, as I soon found out! Persistence, however, does indeed, pay off. 🙂

During his song, a House Wren joined in on a lower branch and began to sing along. Not one to pass up an opportunity, he now became the focus of my attention.

“Sing to Me” (House Wren, Adult Male, Troglodytes aedon) Nikon D300, 490mm (VR 200-400mm F/4G w/1.4x Teleconverter), F/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 320

The wren’s song was different as he was already successful in finding a mate who was busy making a home in the large yellow bird house for the inevitable wren brood to come. Still, their voices blended and harmonized and I enjoyed the free entertainment on that warm, sunny day.

Eventually, both birds flew off to other tasks and I called out a “Thanks, guys!” for the private concert, knowing that it wouldn’t be my last.


  1. These are terrific images! Great use and control of the background!

    • Thank you, Rick! The background was definitely tricky in both these shots and good thing I had the time to switch positions, lens angle and distance from subject until I found what worked! :-0

  2. Beautiful images, Tracy! I especially like the catbird shot with the framing branches, lighting on the breast and the blue in the backround. Just super! 🙂 We’ve been getting the free concerts as well, but of a different variety. This week we’ve had warblers, robins, western tanagers and my all-time favorite, the meadow lark.

    • Thanks much, Ted! How sweet of you to say! 🙂

      Sooooo, with all the “bird action” going on in your landscape, where are the photos, hmmmm? 😉

        • tedgriffith
        • Posted May 24, 2012 at 2:01 pm
        • Permalink

        Due to the openess of the area around our house, I can usually only get within 30 to 40 feet of them. With the limitations of my equipment, I tend to enjoy the songs and forego the frustrations of trying to capture their images. If I can entice them closer, you might see an image or two. 😉

  3. Gorgeous shots! Impeccable focus and light. Love those birds.

  4. Both are wonderful, M.P!
    Wrens remind me of my father… he’s always liked them (because they seem so scrappy for their size).
    I love your first image, too – the lighting really is fantastic, I really like the color balance, too (it almost feels a bit retro to me… and a bit Audubon-esque, too…)

    • Thank you, Sig! That is a wonderful memory to have.

      I’ve been reading up on wrens and was astonished to find out how tenacious they are! If they set their sights on a nesting site and another bird is there, they will kick them out! Fiesty little things they are!

      Wow – such accolades! You tryin’ to grow my head?? 😉

  5. Wow, that is a stunningly clear shot of the cat bird! Persistance indeed!

  6. The lighting in your first photograph is just lovely. It’s as if the Gray Catbird has a spotlight shining on him from above as he “takes center stage” : )

  7. Finding a suitable angle in order to get the background right is a tricky job indeed. But you’ve done wonderfully well in both shots here. Great job!

  8. These two photos are fantastic captures, Tracy!

  9. Fantastic images, Tracy. 🙂

  10. Very good pictures, Tracy, and the “bird singing” is a pleasure here too. It is true about getting to know the birds, at least some of them. At the moment I am trying to learn the blackbird´s song. He use to copy small elements from the daily noise, and that is what I remember when I hear it. I read about a blackbird imitating 911, (in USA) I think it was one or two years ago. There is a video on Youtube, the people living around its territory were so tired of that bird. 🙂

    • Aw, thanks so much, Birgitte! 🙂

      I don’t know the blackbird’s song. What a funny story! I went on Youtube and it appears that blackbirds have been captured mimicing so many different things from ringtones, to police cars to ambulances, to car alarms! I think I might just be glad we don’t have any blackbirds here because we play music in our backyard and I just bet they would learn a few tunes! 🙂

  11. great shots Tracy! Love the depth of field in that 2nd shot!

  12. Love wrens!

  13. Stellar photos, Tracy! Love the little wren sitting in all the luscious green. Hope you get a few more concerts in this Spring.

  14. Beautiful captures of birds! That’s not an easy task, although you make it look easy! I love your description of the bird language. It is definitely a wonderful thing to hear. After the chatter between male and female, there is another “call” that you will hear… the cries of a parent bird in protection of the nest they have created. We have the same family of blackbirds lay eggs in a bush in our front yard. During this critical time it is near impossible to be in our front yard. If you dare you will hear the shrieks and possibly even get dive bombed if you get too close. So funny how we are all so similar, human and animal alike.

    • Thank you, Amy! 🙂

      Yes, I’ve heard those cries, too. We currently have a family of wrens in our large yellow birdhouse and whenever I go over to fill the birdbath that is close by, the calls go out! They haven’t resorted to dive bombing me but that simply may be the wrens’ nature OR, while they may go on “alert” they realize I mean no harm. As much as I’d LOVE to photograph the noisy chicks inside (which would involve getting a ladder and taking off the roof), I’d never put a critter in danger for a shot. So, now we simpy need to wait for the flight of the fledglings. Should be soon! 🙂

  15. Such beautiful light and rich color, really outstanding!

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