Birk, Bjorn and I have a morning ritual…On the way to daycare—if everyone’s been good—we go “look for animals” on our special loop. It’s a real treat for Birk..Bjorn is usually sleeping. The 8-mile circuit takes us across a small river, through a WMA (Wildlife Management Area) and down a little-traveled dirt road through huge rolling hayfields (huge for mostly-wooded Carlton County Minnesota). On this little loop over the past year we’ve seen Rough-legged Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, Ruffed Grouse, and deer…plenty of deer.

Today, we found a bird I’ve only seen once before in Carlton County…an Upland Sandpiper…And it was cooperatively perched on a beautifully weathered, lichen-encrusted wooden fence post (see my blog post from June 29, 2010). Birk was as excited as me…of course, everything is exciting to him now. Bjorn continued to snore. And I was prepared; camera (switched on) with 400mm lens on the passenger seat, set to Shutter Priority (Tv) at 1/2000 second and auto ISO at f6.3. Rolling to a stop so we’d be between the sun and the bird, I simply rolled the window down (I guess we don’t “roll” windows down anymore..I hit a switch) and started shooting.

As is probably true with many who did a lot of shooting back in the “film days,” I am conservative when I hold down the shutter. Too conservative. Every activation of the shutter used to cost us about 50 cents (about 25 cents per frame for a roll of 36 Kodachrome, Velvia, etc and about 25 cents to develop each frame). I’ve missed many an action shot because I didn’t just “let ‘er rip.” Today I missed the take off as the Upland flew from its perch.

After dropping the kids off, I went back to the spot. Gorgeous spring day…sunny calm and temps in the low 50s. Then I heard it…the aerial song of the Upland Sandpiper…a slow rolling “wolf whistle” given from high in the air. Across the road the first Bobolinks of the year burst forth with their bubbly song. From a distant fenceline a Meadowlark sang. I felt as if I was back on the western prairies, and it felt good.

Vertical Upland Sandpiper: Canon 7D, Canon 400mm f5.6, Tv Shutter priority at 1/2000 second at f5.6, Auto-ISO decided on ISO 250
Horizontal Upland Sandpiper: Canon 7D, Canon 400mm f5.6, Tv Shutter priority at 1/2000 second at f5.6, Auto-ISO decided on ISO 320

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