Neotropical Birds and Temperate Luxury 14 May 2016
Baltimore Oriole and mossy perch
One of my favorite challenges in bird photography is to capture an image that reveals something about the lifestyle of the bird in the image. Many of our birds famously engage in epic migrations spanning thousands of miles, and a vast percentage of the Great Lakes states' birds arrive from tropical forest. From early May until mid-September, these truly tropical songbirds become breeding residents at 45 degrees North Latitude. A couple of hundred species of birds, while spending the majority of their lives in the tropics, hatch from the egg within a short flight of Lake Superior.
Baltimore Oriole, Female
An interesting scientific challenge is to graph climate data from a variety of biomes and search out intersections. My favorite way to do this is to plot average temperature against average precipitation in scatter plot fashion, with a single point for each month. When all points have been plotted for a single biome, I encircle the points. I repeat this for each biome, and then I analyze where intersections of polygons occur. What is truly interesting about large areas of Wisconsin and Minnesota, especially in the north country, is that over the course of a single year, the climate averages intersect with temperate deciduous forest, prairie, boreal taiga forest...and tropical rainforest. July in Wisconsin is nearly identical to the average climate of a tropical rainforest. Suddenly, it makes more sense that tropical birds with wanderlust would find this place so much to their liking. Since the last ice age, clouds of nervous, wandering tropical birds have learned to make this place their home.
Embracing the artistic challenge to capture the essence of the life of a bird in a photograph, I worked hard to get images of tropical rainforest birds utilizing luxuriously tropical-looking temperate perches. While some may find the images to be a little bit on the side of overkill, I feel they truly share the birds' lives through an entire annual cycle.
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, male and female