Eastern Phoebe Catching Insects for its Young by Todd Henson

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Eastern Phoebe looking to the left

This Eastern Phoebe was found in my favorite wetlands park, just off the boardwalk that extends over portions of the wetlands. It was common to see these birds in this section as they created a nest under the boardwalk each year.

Eastern Phoebe tilting its head towards the camera

This particular bird was catching insects to bring back to the nest. Eastern Phoebe are a species of flycatcher, and when watching them you can easily see why they fit that name, catching insects, often in the air. Amazing little birds.

Eastern Phoebe with an insect in its beak

Eastern Phoebe with another insect in its beak

According to Wildlife of Virginia and Maryland and Washington, D.C., by Charles Fergus, they eat a variety of insects, including small wasps, bees, beetles, flies, and moths. They sit on a perch and watch for flying insects, then dart out and catch them. And as with most all flycatchers, their “drab plumage makes the waiting birds hard to see, not just by its prey, but also by hawks that hunt for flycatchers and other small birds.”

Eastern Phoebe looking back over its shoulder

Many of the flycatcher species can be difficult to tell apart. Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds of North America lists the following as identifying characteristics of the Eastern Phoebe:

  • downward tail-bobbing
  • no eye ring
  • no strong wing bars
  • small, all-dark bill
  • dark head
  • its song.

Additionally, the Eastern Phoebe is known to nest in sheltered spots such as under a bridge, which was exactly the case with this phoebe (or perhaps it was actually a pair).

Eastern Phoebe preening

Spending a little time standing in the same location can sometimes pay off when observing and photographing nature. Doing so allowed me to notice this phoebe flying from beneath the bridge and onto a nearby perch. I noticed it kept returning to the same set of perches after darting off to catch an insect. And it always flew back under the bridge in the same spot. When I walked over that spot I could hear the young chicks in the nest.

So stop and stand (or sit) every so often on your hikes. Just rest a while and observe. Look around and listen. Maybe you’ll notice something interesting.


Fledged Red-winged Blackbird by Todd Henson

Drawn by the sound of my camera's shutter, the Red-winged Blackbird fledgling looks my way.

In this post we take a look at a fledged Red-winged Blackbird sitting on a perch in the wetlands waiting for a parent to return to feed it. The fledgling appears to be maturing nicely, but is still young enough to rely on its parents.

The fledged Red-winged Blackbird looks up, likely watching some other bird fly overhead.

The coloration of its feathers are those of both adolescent and female Red-winged Blackbirds, namely a pattern of light and dark brown. You can see the ends of many feathers stick out, they’re not yet smooth. You can also tell from its face that it is a fledgling. The feathers on the face have not yet fully grown in.

The young Red-winged Blackbird closes its eyes and takes a short nap.

This particular fledgling didn’t move around much while I observed it. In fact, at one point it closed its eyes and appeared to nap. And it remained completely quiet, as well, though I suspect it would have begun making quite a noise if it saw a parent approaching.

Parting image of the young fledged Red-winged Blackbird.

Keep your eyes open when you’re out in the field. There’s plenty to see if you stay observant.

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Young Hooded Mergansers Out With Mother by Todd Henson

Family of Hooded Merganser ducks taking a break on a downed tree.

A short while back I posted a series of photographs of a family of Hooded Merganser ducklings emerging from their nest box for the first time. A number of years ago I was fortunate to photograph another Hooded Merganser family in the same location. These photos show how the young ducklings quickly grow into adolescents that very much resemble their adult parents.

"Mom, watch that tail!," says a young Hooded Merganser as its mother swishes her tail dry.

Mother Hooded Merganser looking one way...

... and then looking the other way.

The mergansers had grown accustomed to seeing people on the boardwalks that stretch through the wetlands. They swam to a downed tree not very far from the boardwalk and took a short nap. I was lucky to be there at that time. I took my camera off the tripod and sat down on the boardwalk to photograph the birds as close to their eye level as I could. To help steady the long lens I brought my knees up and rested the lens between my knees. I’m sure it looked awkward, but it helped steady the lens better than I could have otherwise.

A young Hooded Merganser resting on a downed tree.

The Hooded Merganser mother looks my way one more time before closing her eyes and napping with her young family.

I sat and watched them through their entire nap, slowing down my photographing when they had all closed their eyes. I didn’t want the shutter to bother them too much, though it likely wouldn’t have. I ended up spending a little over half an hour with this wonderful family of Hooded Mergansers, and was fortunate to be the only person there for the majority of the time. I treasure these sorts of moments, and I’m thankful that photography lets me capture them and share them with you. I hope you get at least some small amount of enjoyment viewing this beautiful family.

Rest time over, the family of Hooded Mergansers rise. Notice how sleek the mother's head can sometimes look. 

Family of Hooded Mergansers swimming away after their short rest.

Lunch time! A young Hooded Merganser has caught a tasty morsel.

The resources below contain affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.