Thursday, October 17, 2013

This Week's Crops & Clips: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Love 'em or hate 'em! Here in Florida we welcome the fall arrival of the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, as it means that the warblers can't be far behind. Finding gnatcatchers often means that warblers may join them in a mixed-species flock, all benefiting from the many eyes to spot the insect prey.

One also can grow weary of being distracted by an abundance of gnatcatchers when trying to pin down that elusive migrant warbler after it provides a tantalizing glimpse. So many hoped-for rarities turn out to be only these active little nymphs.  

Shades of gray can be very attractive. My favorite shot of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was this one, perched on exotic and invasive but admittedly beautiful Brazilian Pepper:

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 20100108

Exuberant and active, it is so nice when a gnatcatcher decides to settle down for a portrait. The blue shows up in the cool shade.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher edited 2-20131010

If I could paint I would try to create this image...

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2-20120120

...or this, when the maples began to leaf out.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher on maple 2-20120113

With luck, they may be caught in delightful poses.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 20110123

This might look like "singing," though it is a call that comes out as a barely audible "pissst."

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher calling 20130924

Photographing small birds is fun but also can be challenging. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers often hunt for insects by hover-gleaning. It takes a quick "trigger finger" to catch them in the act.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila_caerulea)

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in flight 20120218

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Hovering 20090105

In this sequence I captured the approach,...

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 20121201

...locking in on the target, and ...

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2-20121201


Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3-20121201

All the following flight shots were "accidental," as the bird suddenly took flight as I was photographing it while perched. In most cases I expected the "failed" photo opportunity to end up in the trash heap:

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Soft Focus 20100211

Gnatcatcher attack 20110218

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 8-20120125

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher coming at me 20131011

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in flight 20120125

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 20101231

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in flight 2-20120125

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3-20120120

Gnatcatcher are extraordinary acrobats. Weaving through the foliage, it is almost impossible to keep them in the camera's viewfinder.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 20100920

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3-20110923

In Illinois, I found a pair at their nest, a marvelous globe decorated with spider webs and lichen "shingles."

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at nest 2-20120501


  1. Hi Kenneth I am trying to get caught up to post I missed over the lastweek due to my friend being here. I have now seen them on your blogs and am azazed aat the Waterthrush adn the snake shots. Lovel the Heron photos adn this present post isthis little birdarewonderful. You managed to captured in all positions. great eye ring.

  2. holy smokes! these are awesome captures of these tiny, flitting, fidgeting birds! having only seen one once, i know how tiny and how active they are! your shots are gorgeous!

  3. Absolutely stunning photographs ... as always!

  4. These are all amazing! Those little guys don't stay still very long. They look so cute.

  5. A beautiful little bird. The flight shots are awesome!

  6. Absolutely superlative!!! I saw one since we've lived here in south Texas, but NEVER got good photos. I was going to say that I especially liked the 2nd one down from the top...but my goodness...the ones in flight just blew me away!!! EXTRAordinary images.

  7. What a beautiful little bird! I love your serendipitous flight shots.

  8. The pictures are so incredibly beautiful, I don't think you need to be able to paint...I'd frame several of these on my wall anytime! Also it is hard for me to imagine a birder being disappointed because of seeing "only" a gnatcatcher, but I guess that's one difference between serious birders wanting to add to their lifelist and people who just love to observe birds


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