Perfectly Timed Photo Shows Singing Blackbird Creating Vortex Rings with His Breath

Red-Winged Blackbird Photo

This year, amateur bird photographer Kathrin Swoboda achieved a career-changing shot. Like many photographs of birds, her portrait of a blackbird stars a perched, singing subject. What sets this photograph apart from others, however, is that viewers can actually see his song—an element expertly captured by the strategic photographer.

Early on March 17, 2019, Swoboda set out toward Huntley Meadows Park, an island in Virginia favored by nature photographers for its  wildlife-friendly wetlands. Here, she hoped to photograph the male red-wing blackbird, a robin-sized species of bird known for its crimson shoulder markings and distinctive throaty song. “Specifically,” Swoboda tells My Modern Met, “I wanted to photograph their breath, which when expelled would condense in the cold air.”

Fortunately, Swoboda found a suitable subject: a “quite vociferous” blackbird. As he vigorously called out for a potential mate, the bird began “forming smoke rings with his spring song.” Due to both the chilly early morning temperatures and her strategic use of the morning sun as backlighting, Swoboda was able to capture this phenomenon in a pair of stunning photographs, with one even earning Swoboda the grand prize of this year's Audubon Photography Awards.

While Swoboda's portraits of the red-wing blackbird are now her most well-known works, this species is not the only bird she enjoys photographing. You can explore an aviary of exceptional photographs on her website.

One chilly spring morning, amateur bird photographer Kathrin Swoboda captured shots of a red-winged blackbird “forming smoke rings with his Spring song.”

Bird and Vortex Rings

Kathrin Swoboda: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Flickr

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Kathrin Swoboda.

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Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. An art historian living in Paris, Kelly was born and raised in San Francisco and holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.
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