Yesterday Eric and Cathy Parker found a Brambling over by the airport and posted some pictures on Facebook. Unfortunately the Facebook notification system didn’t function correctly for me in this case and I did not get the notice at first. By the time I did learn about it, it was already getting dark, so I had to hope it would stick around overnight. I woke up around 7am and saw that it was starting to get light, but decided to give it a little more time to get brighter. The funny thing was, each time I woke up over the next hour, it seemed to be just as dim as before. Perhaps if I had been a little less sleepy, it would have occurred to me sooner, that this was likely to be one of those perpetually dim days, as the forecast was for heavy rain throughout the day.
I got a text from Lucy P. shortly after 8am letting me know that she had refound the bird. I finally made it over to the airport around 8:30am, but at that time there weren’t any birds around (apparently a couple of dogs bounded along the side of the road and scared the birds off). I pulled up in my car at my normal viewing spot, and settled in to wait. Joined for a time by Ryan and Betsy, they had to leave before the birds arrived (though did find it later in the day). Shortly after they left, a few juncos started to arrive and I noticed a bird making an odd swoop down. It didn’t seem very much like a junco or sparrow, so I peered through my binoculars trying to see into the bushes where it had landed. A few moments later I was able to catch a glimpse of the Brambling.
Of course I wanted to get pictures of the Brambling, and I have to say thank goodness for modern digital cameras and their higher ISO capability. It was such a dim day, that even at ISO 3200 at f/5.6 I had to shots were from 1/6 to 1/15 second. With a 400mm focal length, that made for a lot of blurry pictures. It would have been hopeless if I hadn’t been able to rest the camera lens on the partially open car window. I went out a second time later in the day, and by then it had brightened up enough that I was up to 1/30 to 1/45 of a second with the same ISO and f-stop as before.
It was fun to see my 199th Alaskan checklist species (198th in Sitka, and 193rd photographed). Thanks to Eric and Cathy Parker for finding and reporting this bird!