Featured Photographer: Matt Levanowitz – Searching for a Connecticut

Nemesis Bird would like to welcome guest bird photographer, Matt Levanowitz. After selling his hunting gear and using the money to by a camera, Matt quickly fell under the spell of central PA’s birdlife and has been birding and photographing birds for over 2 years now. Check out more of Matt’s photos on his Flickr site. Below is a story about one of Matt’s recent bird-photographing outings, enjoy!

My alarm went off, and as I turned it off I realized it was later than it should have been. “Darn it!…I must have hit snooze again…now I’m late!” I jump out of bed, get dressed, let the dog out, make my wife her pot of coffee, grab my camera gear, and jump in the truck! Then…I jump out of the truck to let the dog back in the house! (ooops!) You can laugh, but this is how the first 20 minutes of my morning went…all for the love of birds! So now I’m in the truck racing the sun to Montour Preserve. I pull into the parking lot, and slowly walk down to the trail around the lake, and see two Great Egrets feeding along the edge of the water. The sunlight is about half way down the trees from the top, and is making a beautiful reflection in the water. The egrets are slowly working out further from the waters edge and were going to be in this amazingly colored water in a matter of minutes. I sneak behind a tree on the other side from them, and snap a few pictures. They look ok, but the great shots are to come in a few seconds. I look down at my camera to check my settings and adjust things for the perfect shots. As I’m looking at my camera, I hear off to the left on the other side where the egrets are…running shoes hitting the small stones on the trail at a rapid pace. I glance to the egrets who have already heard the joggers coming their way. Their body language made my heart sink…I knew this beautiful scene was over! A few loud “croaks”, and they were in the air…gone…”ugh!” The joggers made their way to me and smiled  and said “good morning” as they ran past. “Is it a good morning?” I ask myself…”sure it is!”

Great Egret by Matt Levanowitz

“Ok…no big deal…it’s a beautiful morning!” I tell my self. I start off up the trail alongside the lake to look for this so called “elusive, great find!, life bird we all want”, Connecticut Warbler. This is a great spot, and I tell myself that this is the morning I’m going to find one! I’m in full camouflage, and moving about as fast as the water in the lake…real slow! I’m scanning low in the thickets and small trees, for any movement! Then I see it…a quick flash of feathers jumping towards the ground about 10 yards away! I decide to pissshhhh it off…”pisshh-pisssssshhh”….nothing! No more movement…no more sounds! For a few minutes I think this bird has vanished, but after what seemed like forever, this bird is moving towards the end of this thicket. I sneak to the end of the brush as I see feathers coming up from the ground to some branches in the open. My camera snaps to my eye…I push the shutter half way down and get a fast sharp focus, and “PRESTO!”…I’m now the proud owner of a very fine shot of an elusive….Common Yellowthroat! Guess what all my birding friends…I did this 3 more times on this morning! I stalked two more Common Yellowthroats, and one Gray Catbird! “Is it a good morning?” I ask myself…”sure it is!”

Common Yellowthroat by Matt Levanowitz

I try really hard to improve my photography, and become a better birder! But this day….I get discouraged…snap some pictures of Yellow-rumped Warblers (the only warblers that want to get their pictures taken the way I want to take them) up close, and a few more “butter-butt’s” up higher in the trees as I’m walking back to my truck. I drive home disgusted, and load some mediocre pictures on to my laptop…guess what!?!? The mediocre “butter-butt’s” are actually a Bay-breasted Warbler, a Cape May Warbler, and Blackburnian Warbler! Lesson learned! Don’t get discouraged and frustrated if things don’t go the way you think they should. I have to remember to enjoy these wonderful times when I’m surrounded by Mother Nature.

Cape May Warbler by Matt Levanowitz

Blackpoll Warbler by Matt Levanowitz

Bay-breasted Warbler by Matt Levanowitz

Thanks for letting me tell this story…it really happened last Sunday morning. I love telling stories, and getting people to laugh or smile! I also really enjoy bird-watching and bird photography! I’ve really only been serious about both for about 2 years now. I have so much to learn about photography, and even more to learn about these beautiful birds that are now my passion! I try very hard to capture these birds in beautiful ways. Even a common bird can make an amazing shot if it’s done properly. I fail at this a lot more than I am successful! I tell everyone I talk to that birdwatchers are the nicest, genuine, down to earth people, I have ever met! Getting advice and help from these new friends makes this adventure I’m on a lot more enjoyable. Now all I need to do is relax, not get discouraged, and keep an open mind, and ear so I can learn, and keep snapping those pictures!

Now, does anyone know where I can find a Connecticut Warbler???