As of late, I have been spending a significant amount of time deep inside of Croatan National Forest. This is an extraordinary place – quite unlike any other national forest I have ever had the pleasure to work in or explore. I am here to capture the story of the longleaf pine savannas through photographs. From the fire that shapes and sculpts these woods and grasslands, to the impenetrable swamps knowns as pocosins, and the denizens of this forest that have evolved to eke out a living here in this strange landscape.
Pine warblers like this one are unique in the world of warblers in that they eat seeds – and lots of them. Sure they will gorge themselves on caterpillars like any self-respecting warbler will, but their preference for pine seeds allows them to stand apart. Because of the ability to consume this super abundant food source across the southeastern part of the United States, they are one of the few species of warblers that do not leave the country. Many northern individuals move south for the winter, but all that means is that they pop up in places such as Croatan National Forest with its dense stands of longleaf pine.
Pine warblers are extremely common in these pine forests, go figure, but they are a species that is not often seen except for in the spring when they can be found foraging around on the ground. Otherwise, they tend to prefer the lofty perches at the top of the canopy where they go about their business far above the rest of us.
It was for this reason that I wanted to capture one of these pine warblers perched in pine needles. Such a composition as this one helps to tell the story of this bird in two ways. . . first, its preference for the canopy. Secondly, this photograph shows this little warbler interacting with longleaf pine – something I would have been hard pressed to create if he was perched on the ground, trunk, or branch.
So despite a long list of species that I am working on here, the pine warblers, though common, are an important part of visually story telling in the longleaf pines of Croatan.