Category Archives: Bobolinks

Male Bobolink

Photographing Bobolinks – and Being Respectful of Bird Habitats

Photographing Bobolinks in Restricted Areas

A friend and I were having a marvelous time photographing, from the side of the road, two (or possibly three) male Bobolinks.The birds were taking turns scaring each other off. They would circle multiple landing sites and then light on an isolated mullein flower, close to the cameras, that offered a lush green background. The Bobolinks were definitely competitive, carving out territories and vying for ownership of this one little mullein stalk. It gave us ample opportunities to practice landing shots.

Photo of Bobolink
Bobolink Coming in for a Landing.
I like the Motion Blur and His Right Wing
Although, I Just Barely Got that Wing in the Frame.
ISO640; f/9; 1/1250 Second

Photographing Landings and Takeoffs

The morning was sunny and windless. Over and over, a Bobolink would gracefully touch down and try to stabilize himself. My lens was resting firmly on the car door and focused on the top of the closest mullein flower. Trying to anticipate the perfect moment to press that shutter button, my eyes intensely tracked the flight of each bird as he circled and then came in for his landing.

This task definitely requires some precision, and lots of practice. I was successful only a couple times with the landing and take-off shots, but was able to capture the complex efforts the birds made to brace themselves on the mullein stalk. The legs and feet on Bobolinks are large, long and prominent, perfect for grasping and clamping on all sorts of perches. The toes are independent and flexible, three toes in front and one stabilizer in the rear. You can see in the photo below how this Bobolink works his feet and his wings to balance himself.

Photo of Male Bobolink
Male Bobolink, Using
Both Legs and His Wings to Try to Steady
Himself on the Mullein Flower.
ISO400; f/8; 1/800 Second.

Noticing Deformities While Photographing Birds

My 500mm lens allows me to get close to the action and see many details. It was not until after I downloaded the photos onto my computer that I noticed that the right leg on one of these male Bobolinks has only a partial foot and one claw. Sadly, I was not able to get a landing shot of this handicapped bird, but the three photos below reveal that even with one deformed leg, he accomplishes his takeoffs and landings quite well.

Photo of Male Bobolink
Male Bobolink Using His One Good Leg to Try
to Steady Himself on the Mullein Flower.
ISO320; f/8; 1/800 Second
Photo of Male Bobolink
Frontal View of Male Bobolink-
Balancing on the Mullein Flower with one leg.
ISO640; f/9; 1/1250 Second
Photo of Deformed Male Bobolink
Close up of Deformed
Leg of Male Bobolink, as he Leaps of the Mullein Stalk.
ISO800; f/9; 1/1250 Second.

Photographing Birds in Restricted Areas

Not all birders and/or photographers respect the birds’ habitats. They trespass into restricted areas and cause serious disruptions as the birds go about their mating and nesting rituals. The DNR officers are charged with protecting the wildlife and enforcing the rules on all birders and photographers, respectful or not.

I was born well into the last century and I have always been a member of the teacher pleaser class known for respecting and following the rules. So why did I feel offended when the DNR officers told me recently that while photographing birds at the Todd Farm Bird Refuge (in the Allegan County Game Area), I could not stop the car in the road, prop the camera on the door window and photograph birds from the car. The officers said that I must first park the car in one of the designated parking areas and walk (hauling all the equipment) to an approved location (mainly on the road)  from which I could set up and shoot.

Of course, I’ve parked, hauled and set up equipment in the past when I found a location that, given time and favorable conditions, would be productive to photograph birds. Being the rule follower that I am, I have always set up on the roads and pathways, staying well clear of the prairie and wooded nesting areas.

A Little Mutiny

I’m feeling offended because bird photography is so much more than walking to a location with all the photo gear, then waiting and hoping for the best. More important and exciting is the opportunity to explore beautiful back country roads in a vehicle, camera at the ready on my lap. There is always the hope that on these exploits, a fabulous and serendipitous encounter will occur, unknown, exciting and captivating. Seconds later, if I’m on my game, I will have a wildly pounding heart and wonderful photos.

Well…Just saying…. that driving around on public roads with my camera in my car, looking for an occasional and unanticipated thrill is too much to give up, teacher pleaser or not. Nope. They can’t take that away from me.

To read more about photographing Bobolinks, press this link.

Photo of Savannah Sparrow

Photographing Bobolinks in a Wildflower Meadow

Photographing Bobolinks in A Wildflower Meadow

I’ve discovered that I don’t have to wait for perfect sunrises or sunsets and a windless day to get a blaze of color in my bird photos.

Photo of Female Bobolink
Female Bobolink, Perched on a Vervain Flower Stalk.
One of Dozens Flying in a Wildflower Field..
ISO 1000; f/10; 1/1600 Second

Capturing Soft Movement in Wildflower Meadows

For artistic inspiration, bird photographers should go in search of wildflower meadows, luminous with dew kissed green and golden grasses, sunflowers and other wild flowers. Birds and butterflies abundantly feed in these fields.

I was sitting quietly in the front passenger seat of my car watching the birds flit about in the grasses and wildflowers. It was a relaxing and meditative scene. Dozens of bobolinks were flying in this field, struggling to perch and then lifting off from the flowing grasses and drooping flowers. I was able to stay clear of too much foliage clutter in the shots because there were three or four tall stalks near the car on which the birds could perch. My camera and lens rested on the door window. It did not take long for one or two of the bobolinks to fly in for a closer look at me.

Photo of Female Bobolink
Female Bobolink Lifting Off from Sunflower Stalk.
ISO 1000; f/10; 1/1600 Second

Compensating for Movement

There is not much exposure flexibility when it’s windy. For these photos, I had to compensate for the effects of the wind (10-15 mph) with a fairly high shutter speed. I also tipped the 500mm (with 2x extender) lens downward just a touch to make sure the entire background was filled with the soft movements and rich colors of the meadow.

Cultivating Beauty

To attract birds, the land preservationists in charge of the Allegan State Game Area cultivate an assortment of seed and grain bearing flowers and grasses. Many years of hard work and preparation went into these low maintenance wildflower meadows. When the sunflowers turn brown and droop their heads, the tiny florets on the head become seeds. They are then ready for the birds to harvest.

Photographing Patterns in the Midst of Disorder

Beauty is there to behold at all stages of a flower’s life, not just at the bloom’s peak. The wind added drama to this wildflower scene and challenged me to try to capture that vibrancy in my bird photos. In the midst of all this background light, movement, energy and disorder, my camera’s sensor captured enticing patterns and vibrant colors.

I loved the caress of the wind in and around me as it reshaped the meadow’s landscape. It’s a glorious feeling and reminded me that I’m not just there to take photos.


See this blog post to read more about photography during the golden hour.

See this blog post to read more about photographing Bobolinks.


Photo of Male Bobolink

Photographing Bobolinks and Thoughts About Protecting Your Passion

Discovering Bobolinks

It seems to me very odd that this is the first Spring that I’ve noticed and photographed bobolinks, even though I’ve been in their territory many times looking for new birds. This year, bobolinks seemed to be posing for me everywhere. I had a wonderful time watching and photographing their rituals and antics and was very pleased with the results.

Photo of Male Bobolink
Male Bobolink Calling Out For Female.
ISO 800; f/8.0; 1/2000 Second

Photographing Bobolinks – Colorful Blackbirds

Bobolinks are beautiful songbirds, related to orioles and blackbirds. They forage for seeds and insects in farm fields and grasses. The male bobolink is particularly striking in the Spring. When he is not singing or furiously chasing other males, he is elaborately bobbing his tail feathers and displaying his white shoulder patches and black and gold plumage. It’s hard to miss that straw colored headdress atop his head.

Like many other songbirds, female and immature bobolinks have very different coloring than the mature males.  (See last photo in this post.)

Bobolinks get their name from the lovely songs they sing. For a wonderful, short video of the bobolink singing and displaying, published by “The Music of Nature”, see this link.

Photo of Male Bobolink
Male Bobolink – A Good View of the Spring Plumage on His Back.
ISO 125; f/9.0; 1/500 Second
Photo of Male Bobolink
Male Bobolink Displaying in the Grasses.
ISO 800 f/8.0; 1/1600 Second
Photo of Female or Juvenile Male Bobolink
I Thought This was a Female Bobolink, But Because It Was Taken in
Early August, What Says it Might Be a Female or a Juvenile Male Bobolink.
ISO 500; f/9.0; 1/1000 Second

Reflections on Protecting My Bird Photography Passion

In an effort to feed my growing passion for photographing birds, I have spent countless hours trying to improve my skills and way too many dollars to purchase new cameras, lenses, storage drives and computers. I also maintain this bird photography blog as an incentive to keep working, learning and sharing. Why do I do it?  Because these bobolink photos (and many, many other bird photographs) make up my digital portfolio and represent the joy I find in wild bird photography.

Protecting Your Investment in Photography

Maintaining specialized insurance and backing up your photo files are not trivial pursuits. Backup and recovery/replacement systems (in the cloud and at home) are uncommonly simple, but immensely important precautions, costing very little money, but affording photographers basic peace of mind.

The Inevitability of the Unexpected

Taking a few basic precautions to safeguard your digital portfolio and photo equipment are fundamental practices for photographers. Hard drives and memory disks that hold your favorite photos and wild life experiences will fail; it’s just a matter of when. Ridiculously expensive lenses and cameras can be stolen, lost, or damaged, shattering your investment.

Not having insurance plans in place that allow you to promptly return to that happy place where you left off before the devastation is just plain silly.