Field Notes Update

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.

Katydid Cleaning Itself by Todd Henson

First of a sequence of a katydid cleaning itself.

Second of a sequence of a katydid cleaning itself.

Animals aren’t the only creatures to exhibit interesting behaviors. Insects do, as well. These images are of a katydid cleaning itself much as a cat, dog, or bird would. This process lasted several minutes as the katydid cleaned much of what it could reach, which was mostly its ovipositor.

Third of a sequence of a katydid cleaning itself.

Fourth of a sequence of a katydid cleaning itself.

The ovipositor is the large curved organ at the tail end of the insect used to lay eggs. Different katydid species have differently shaped ovipositors to help them lay eggs in their locations of choice, whether that be on grass stems, under a layer of dirt, in the stems of dead or living plants, etc.

The fibers stuck to the back of this katydid are from the cattails it had been moving through. I found many other katydid in this area, some in the fluffy portions of the cattails. It appeared they may have been eating these parts of the plant.

Fifth of a sequence of a katydid cleaning itself.

Sixth of a sequence of a katydid cleaning itself.

Another characteristic I found interesting in these photos are the katydid’s antennae. Notice how much they move around from image to image, sometimes facing forward, other times straight up, sometimes down.

Seventh of a sequence of a katydid cleaning itself.

Eighth of a sequence of a katydid cleaning itself.

Next time you’re out hiking keep your eyes open for katydid or other interesting insects that are so easy to overlook, but so fascinating when you take the time to investigate.

Please leave a comment below if you can identify this specific species of katydid. I believe it may be a Dusky-faced Meadow Katydid, but I find many of them very difficult to identify.

And if you’re curious what katydid look like in action, I found the following videos on YouTube showing katydid laying eggs.

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.

Photographing Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warblers in the Wetlands by Todd Henson

Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler perched on a branch.

On a recent trip to a wetlands park I was fortunate to watch and photograph several Yellow-rumped Warblers of the Myrtle variety. These are a beautiful bird with a yellow patch on their rump, the top of their head, and on their sides. Their back is grey, and the rest of their body is white with black patches and stripes.

Side and underside of a Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler in the brush.

I worked to create photographs of these warblers from every angle I could, trying to capture images of their identifying characteristics. This makes it easier to identify the species from field guides.

Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler facing forward and singing.

Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler facing forward, head facing the left.

I also worked to create as many pleasing images as I could. In one location I noticed how the warbler would return over and over again to the same set of perches. I found a perspective to shoot this location that gave me a nice, simple, out of focus background. Then I just watched and waited. I readied my camera when the warbler appeared to be returning to the perches I’d seen it use before. And then I began photographing, hoping to capture some nice gestures, some pleasant angles.

Side view of a Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler perched in the brush.

There is skill in photographing wildlife. Some of that skill is learning the behavior of the animal, learning its patterns and anticipating what it might do next. Some of the skill is knowing your gear, getting it setup and ready.

Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler perched on a tree, head looking down towards the ground.

But there is also luck in photographing wildlife. You can’t control the animal. It will do what it wants. Luck will play a part in whether you see the gestures you might wish for. Luck will play a part in whether the animal actually does return to the same spot or whether it decides to move on to another location.

Profile of a Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler perched on a branch.

Finally, patience plays a huge part in photographing wildlife. The animal may very well return to the same location, but it might not do so right away. You may have to wait many minutes, or in some cases hours for the animal to return. It may not return at all that day. You may need to try again another day, over and over again, watching and waiting, but never giving up.

Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler perched on a tree, getting ready to fly.

A top down view of a Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler on the side of a tree.

But photographing wildlife is worth it. You get to spend some small part of your day out in nature watching, learning about, and creating images of all these beautiful creatures. It doesn't get much better than that!

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.