While visiting my wife’s parents and sisters in Illinois, I “escaped” one day to a large Nature Conservancy Prairie in northern Illinois. It is near the town of Franklin Grove and is called the Nachusa Grasslands. It had been incredibly hot and humid but this day was relatively “cool” at least by Illinois standards. Much of the preserve seemed to have been burned that spring which left me wondering if I’d find much. But cresting one of the many rolling hills I heard several singing Henslow’s Sparrows. This is a bird that is quite rare in Minnesota. It has been categorized as “”Endangered” but may be reduced in status to “Threatened” since many more have been found in new locations recently. This increase in Minnesota may be due to large chunks of fallow farmland put into the CRP program (farmers paid to leave some land fallow). You see Henslow’s like brushy fields and prairies with some taller stems and stalks for singing. They are picky about their habitats. But once you find one, you may find several singing males since they are semicolonial.
So it was a real treat to find several cooperative males. I “wasted” a lot of pixels by taking many photos from far away but you need to do this just in case you can’t get close. But I discovered a slick trick…By taking some video footage and recording a singing male with a shotgun microphone, I could play back the video with the camera volume set to max and the Henslow’s would think another male was in his territory! It worked great (but I only did this sparingly, not wanting to disturb them too much). I got some great head-on shots of him singing but I really wanted a shot from the back with the Henslow’s head thrown back and singing. This would show the more colorful back feathers than the lightly marked breast feathers.
Note his subtle greenish head markings. Their song is a two to three syllable buzz…Almost insect like.