08.15.21: Wren at work

A Carolina Wren carries nesting material in Six Mile Cypress Slough, Fort Myers, Fla.

A Carolina Wren carries nesting material in Six Mile Cypress Slough, Fort Myers, Fla.

Catching an active bird taking a break

Tech specs

  • Date/time: Mar 1, 2019 10:02 AM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: EF600mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x 
  • Focal length: 840mm
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter: 1/1000 second
  • ISO: 5000

Many birds fit into a broad “difficult to photograph” category.

Then there are wrens, a bird that ranks well beyond difficult.

Wrens are small — about five inches in length from the tip of their long, curved bill to the tip of their tail — and in constant motion, two factors that make a wren photograph more luck than skill, at least for me.

There are only two bird species that are more difficult for me to photograph: Brown Creepers, a wren-sized bird that constantly spirals up tree trunks; and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a four-inch long bird that moves constantly through foliage, seldom providing a clear view for photographers.

But I keep trying.

I found this Carolina Wren in Six Mile Cypress Slough, a wetlands preserve not far from our winter home in Florida. I had a quick look at a wren as it flew from a branch into some underbrush just above the water just as another wren exited the underbrush.

Aha, I thought. They are building a nest.

So I stood motionless and watched for about 10 minutes as the two wrens brought nest-building material to the underbrush. The wrens took an indirect path to the nesting site to make it less likely that any predator watching would find the site. But both birds would land on a fallen tree as part of that path.

I focused on the area where they tended to land and waited. Moments later a wren carrying a twig arrived and I started shooting. It may have been because of my camera noise, but the bird stayed much longer than usual before deciding to dive into the underbrush. I ended up with about a dozen nice photos with the bird in different positions. This was my favorite.

Carolina Wrens are a bit brighter the other wren varieties in the Eastern United States. The back and wings are a warm reddish brown as opposed to the dull brown of the House Wren and other similar varieties. The chest and underside are a buffy orange. The long white eyebrow makes it easy to identify.

I had a quick look at a wren as it flew from a branch into some underbrush just above the water just as another wren exited the underbrush. Aha, I thought. They are building a nest.

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