Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
Subtle Transitions. It’s early August, and Iowa’s woodlands are hinting of change. The stunning lime colored brilliance of earlier forest greenery has slowly given way to the darker, more subdued hues of late summer. Early season berries are but a memory, while the fruit of late season species are currently transitioning from the green of summer to the red of an impending autumn.
But some of the forest’s most notable changes are measured by sound rather than sight. Just a few weeks ago, the first hints of morning light were greeted by a din of bird song as a diverse array of feathery creatures staked claim to secluded breeding territories. By contrast, daybreak woodlands have now fallen comparatively silent. By now, most birds have raised their broods; youngsters are on their own and adults are going deep into summer molt. There are exceptions to this new found sound of silence. In the woodland where I frequently walk or sit during first light, indigo buntings are still acting as if its early spring rather than late summer. This morning offered a typical example.
While it was still barely light — almost black in fact — a nearby male suddenly began his daily chorus with bold and boisterous enthusiasm. I knew exactly which bird it was. He’s been singing here all summer; usually from one of two perches located about thirty yards apart. In addition to his highly predictable, well established routine, I know its the same bird due to a pattern of lightly colored feathers on his breast. Buntings often raise two — even three broods during a single season, and this particular bird is a definite die hard. But sooner or later even the indigo buntings have to call it quits. Another three weeks, and they’ll begin the daunting 1500-plus-mile nighttime journey leading southward to Yucatan and beyond. By the time the last bunting finally vanishes from our local woodlands; we’ll know that summer has ended and that fall has officially begun.
Born in North Central Iowa, Lowell Washburn has enjoyed a lifelong interest in the out of doors. He began photographing wild birds at age 10, and outdoor photography soon became his passion and eventually a career. Washburn is best known for images that portray migratory waterfowl and other wetland wildlife in their natural habitats. His best photographs are often obtained after spending hours floating amid natural marshlands, half submerged within the dark confines of a floating muskrat house blind.
Upon completing military service as a sergeant with the Fourth Infantry Division in the central highlands of South Vietnam, Washburn returned to Iowa in 1970. His wildlife photos began appearing in Iowa newspapers in 1971 and he began authoring outdoor news columns in 1978. Today, his photos and writing have appeared in over 50 national and international magazines including Outdoor Life, International Wildlife, Field&Stream, Ducks Unlimited, Pointing Dog Journal, the NAFA Journal, and others.
After working as a naturalist for Iowa’s county conservation board system, Washburn was recruited by the Department of Natural Resources in 1984. His primary duties included statewide communication with Iowa newspaper, television, and radio news agencies with a primary goal of increasing the level of public awareness and appreciation for Iowa's natural resources. During his tenure he also served as staff member for the Iowa Conservationist Magazine and for the DNR’s Iowa Outdoors Magazine. Washburn retired from the DNR in 2010.
In addition to wildlife photography, his ongoing outdoor passions include falconry, traditional bow hunting, waterfowling, spending time with hunting dogs of all types, and herpetology.