Female Redwing Blackbirds. San Joaquin Valley, California. January 21, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
Three female redwing blackbirds among the reeds near a San Joaquin Valley pond.
Among the relatively small number of birds that I actually can identify with some certainty are the red wing blackbirds… or so I thought. (To repeat my frequent disclaimer, I’m no expert on identifying birds, despite the fact that I frequently photograph them.) I have long been intrigued by these small birds, which I’ve photographed in large flocks and as individuals. The flocks are fun to watch and shoot for many reasons, but one is that as the birds turn and angle across the landscape many of them may reveal the namesake red areas on their wings for brief instants.
I remember making this photograph and being intrigued by the small birds hanging out in the reeds of this pond where I had gone to photograph other larger and more impressive migratory birds, including geese, cranes, and more. The soft light on the birds caught my attention – fog was thinning but still muting the light – as did the warm golden and brown colors of the vegetation and the out of focus background of small trees. At the time I really did not know what kind of birds these were, but I figured that I could look them up later. I did so somewhat later when I had time to work on the photographs from this shoot. I tried to match them with various different sort of common small birds but nothing quite fit. I finally asked some folks if they knew and one online friend quickly got back to me to say that they were female redwing blackbirds… which don’t have red wings and are not black! (He was sympathetic and suggested that others had been confused by these birds, too. Thanks, Chuq!)
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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