Song Sparrow on a Frosty Morning / by Todd Henson

Song Sparrow contemplating a piece of marsh grass

There are days when it’s cold out and I get lazy. I stay inside, nice and warm, drinking hot chocolate and having plenty to eat. But our little avian friends don’t often have that luxury. Regardless of how cold it is they still need to eat.

Portrait of a Song Sparrow on frosty marsh grass

A number of years ago I found myself hiking through a wetlands park on a morning when everything was covered by a thin layer of frost (I wasn’t lazy that morning). Cold or wet mornings can be very hit or miss when it comes to photographing birds. Though many birds do still need to forage, they often don’t come out in as large a number and they don’t stay out as long.

Song Sparrow pulling marsh grass on a frosty morning

But this morning I had the pleasure of watching a little Song Sparrow foraging through the marsh grass, pulling out pieces not covered in frost. It was very determined, and not very shy, provided I kept a comfortable distance. How far is comfortable depends on the bird and can vary over time. As a bird gets more comfortable with you it will frequently let you get a little closer. And some species just seem less afraid of people than others. But always pay attention to the behavior of the bird. If it starts paying too much attention to you, or startles too much as you move, or moves further away as you move closer, take that as a sign you may have gotten a little too close. Try to stay at a distance where the bird is comfortable with your presence. Not only will you get better images that show a relaxed bird doing what birds do, but you’ll also avoid overly stressing the bird. Putting too much stress on these little creatures can harm them in the long run.

Song Sparrow on frosty marsh grass