A Choir of One by Mike Oxley

Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia

Cooper Marsh Conservation Area, Lancaster, Ontario, Canada
May 22, 2011

I was on my way back to the car after my wee wander and this little guy landed in a tree about 20 yards from the end of the trail. I was practicing my new bird shooting technique which is quite different from “Stealth Mode”. This involves standing in one spot and waiting for the wee buggers to show up. Seems to work. Not sure what to call it yet, though.

With thanks to www.borealforest.org


Distinguishing Features – Short, rounded wings; tail, long with rounded tips. Back, brown with gray feather edging; head, brown with black streaking and a narrow gray centre stripe; rump, olive brown with dusky streaks; tail, brown with two central feathers bearing a dusky central line; white to grayish line above eye; brownish stripes – behind and below the eye and down toward the throat; neck, grayish with light brown streaks; underparts, white; breast, sides and belly, streaked with dark brown or black. Bill, dusky; legs, pale brown. Male and female indistinguishable but female is slightly smaller.

Size – 15.3 – 17.7 cm (6 – 7 in).


Shrubby areas along the edge of forests, waterways, farmlands and residential areas.


On the ground, shrub or small tree. Nest is made up of grasses, weeds, bark and leaves, lined with fine grass, hair and down. Eggs, 3 – 5; pale shades of blue or green, speckled with brown or reddy-brown blotches. Incubation period 12 – 13 days.


The Song Sparrow is one of the commonest birds across Canada. It is also one of the most beneficial species as its diet consists of remarkable quantities of weed seeds and insects.
Its spirited and pleasant song is a familiar backround sound of the summer months: Sweet Sweet Sweet!

Sony Alpha 700, Sigma 170 to 500 at 500 mm
iso 400, spot metered, F6.3, 1/250 second

In love with Ma Nature! Always have been, always will be. Let’s keep her safe, eh?

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  • Photography by Mathilde
    Photography by...almost 4 years ago

    Mike – this is lovely – can think of a title for this type of shooting mode and capture of the " wee buggers" but would get thrown out of RB if I printed it here. One again, excellent information !!

  • Many, many thanks, Mattie! And thanks for being cautious. Would hate to see you getting banned! :o) I didn’t realize that there were so many of these “wee buggers”. Just about every second bird I spotted was a Song Sparrow.

    – Mike Oxley

  • leftysphotos
    leftysphotosalmost 4 years ago

    What a delightful photo, very nice work.

  • Thanks so very much, Lefty. Greatly appreciated!

    – Mike Oxley

  • Dorothy Thomson
    Dorothy Thomsonalmost 4 years ago

    I see you are practising my WBCM ………..translated as “Wee Bugger Capture Mode” !!
    Excellent shot Mike .

  • WBCM – I like that! And many thanks for your very kind words, Dorothy!

    – Mike Oxley

  • Sprezzatura
    Sprezzaturaalmost 4 years ago

    I bet you were thrilled this ‘wee bugger’ showed up, I know I am. It’s absolutely gorgeous, Mike. What a superb background, and the soft colouring is superb. Love it:)Cat
    P.S. Glad to see you had some dry weather:))

  • Much appreciated, Cat, and many thanks for the lovely comments! Thrilled he showed up, but even more thrilled he stuck around for more than a nanosecond. These little guys are rather busy! And it has been great to have a couple of days without rain. Unfortunately, my favourite trails are closed due to flooding.

    – Mike Oxley

  • Colin Metcalf
    Colin Metcalfalmost 4 years ago

    Lovely shot Mike. I have tried the ‘wait for the wee buggers’ mode. I get set up, garden chair positioned, tripod and camera set up, lock the zoom and focus then wait. One of two things then happens, 1. I get accused of sitting around when there are chores to be done OR 2. I nod off. It has not been a great success.

  • Many thanks, Colin! I can see how you may have problems. Some folks might not believe that you’re hard at work, trying for the perfect shot. In my case, the odd passer by must wonder what I’m doing, standing around in the middle of the trails, gazing into space.

    – Mike Oxley

  • Shulie1
    Shulie1almost 4 years ago

    Another great shot, Mike

  • Many, many thanks, Shulie. Greatly appreciated!

    – Mike Oxley

  • stickelsimages
    stickelsimagesalmost 4 years ago

    Something seems to be working Mike
    Old fart sneaking around in forest with tripod [if that’s what you call it… I don’t mind mate, you call it what you will but if tripod works for you who are we to argue… others have all sorts of names for it mate!!!!]
    ….waiting for birds to appear then swearing at them if they don’t sit still
    or if they don’t come up to you!!!!!
    Mike, mate you’re not painting a pretty picture here
    Do you wear a hat also?
    Nice wee birdie…. come to Uncle Michael!!!!!

  • LOL! Hat, long coat and dark sunglasses. Kind of puts a whole different light on “Come here little birdie. Nunkie’s got some seeds for you!”, eh? Here’s hoping the word doesn’t get out in the avian community.
    Cheers, Lee!

    – Mike Oxley

  • deb cole
    deb colealmost 4 years ago

    I’m hoping you don’t get the “wrong” birds mistaking you for a statue when you’re in your “unstealth” mode! Wonderful shot of the chirpy little sparrow!

  • Now that’s something I didn’t consider. Thanks for the “heads up”, Deb, and thanks for the lovely comment. Much appreciated!

    – Mike Oxley

  • Yannik Hay
    Yannik Hayalmost 4 years ago

    This too is so lovely! I like very much how your lens compresses the background makes it smooth. Very sharp birdie. great work :)

  • Thanks so very much for the lovely comments, Yan. Much appreciated, my friend. I’m having a bit of fun with that old “Bigma” of mine!

    – Mike Oxley

  • Robert Miesner
    Robert Miesneralmost 4 years ago

    Beautiful capture of this song sparrow! I have been doing the stand and wait variety of shooting for some time now myself. I find it usually depends on the species with which method I use. I love the lighting in this one as well, excellent work!

  • Many, many thanks, Robert. I’m finding the wait and see approach a little more productive. I accidentally “discovered” it when I was waiting for some action from an Osprey on a tree in the middle of the marsh. Quite a few little visitors arrived in the trees close by while I was just standing there.

    – Mike Oxley

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