Geothlypis trichasPhotographing songbirds is a challenge when you don’t have a long lens and flash. Warblers, especially, are little, quick, and often at the top of a tall, leafy oak tree.

But we do what we can with the tools at hand.

I happened to catch this Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) male, easily distinguished by his wide black mask, the other day just after he bathed. He was preening; one of ten shots was usable.

Common Yellowthroats are more likely to be at eye-level or below, but their preferred habitat is thickety, so they are often tucked away out of sight. We’re looking through several layers of plant screen here.

You’re even more likely to hear one: their standard song sounds rather like “witchity-witchity-witchity.” The female lacks the mask and usually has just a touch of yellow on the throat; she is one of the plainest warblers. In the mixed-up vernacular of birds, there is also the very different looking Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica).

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