One day during our recent stay at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, I grabbed my camera and medium-range zoom lens, intending to walk around our campground and take some photos of the mountain scenery. As luck would have it, during that walk I encountered the only really interesting (to me) bird I saw during our park visit—and I didn’t have my telephoto lens with me! I eventually overcame my disappointment enough to take a few shots anyway.
My first view of the Phainopepla was really not photo-worthy. It was amidst the leaves of a tree and too far away for my lens to pick up much detail. I shot it anyway, and this highly cropped image is the result.
However, the Phainopepla was gracious enough to fly to a barren tree that was a bit closer. It was still rather far away for my lens, but at least the lighting was better. The resulting photo still needed cropping, but had enough resolution to be able to show a small seed in the beak of the bird.
The Phainopepla is interesting to me for two reasons. First, our home is far away from all seasonal ranges of this bird, so seeing it is a rare treat. Second, the most common bird in our backyard at home is the Northern Cardinal, and someone has described the Phainopepla as “a Northern Cardinal in mourning.” That seems accurate to me.
The location from which these photos were taken is shown on the map below. Zoom in for more detail.