The Creature Feature – Song Sparrows

song sparrowAs photographers, often times we tend to overlook the common species, and simply do not even bother looking for what could be a great shot. In the Pacific Northwest, the Song Sparrow is a readily abundant example of a common species, and is found in a number of environments common in the Northwest. One benefit to a wildlife photographer working with a common species is that you may find yourself in a relatively close proximity to a number of birds that are curious towards you, and more than willing to ham it up for the camera.

The Song Sparrow is a medium sized Sparrow and typically has heavy gray-brown streaking on dull white underparts, with a prominent central breast spot. The head has a brown crown with a paler median stripe, a pale gray eyebrow, and a white chin. The many sub-species show considerable variations in both color and size.

Of all the North American birds, the Song Sparrow is one of the most widespread and geographically variable. Ranging from small, sandy colored, short-billed birds, to large dark colored, large-billed birds, the 34 sub-species can be found in a large number of habitats. Some of these habitats include marshes, thickets, forest edges, grassy areas, city parks, and undergrowth in gardens.

The breeding range of the Song Sparrow is from the Aleutians Islands and mainland Alaska east to Newfoundland and south to California, North Dakota, and the Carolinas. The Song Sparrow Winters from southern Canada throughout the United States to the Gulf Coast and Mexico.

The images below were photographed with a Canon 1D Mk IV and Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens hand held. I did not use a tele-converter, as I spent a good amount of time at this location and the birds were coming in close song sparrowenough that I chose to remove the TC for a very slight increase in image quality. I was shooting in Manual mode, as there were so many different background colors and the light level was constant, I wanted to lock in the exposure I chose and not have it waver based on what the camera thought my exposure should be.  I have lost images through hard lessons, that would have been great shots had I not been in Aperture priority. The photographer is always the best metering system, as long as they understand exposure and know how and when to be in Manual mode, and what metering system works best for a given subject. Get to know your camera and don’t be afraid to experiment!

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