In a natural setting, the mean luminance and contrast of the light within a visual neuron's receptive field are constantly changing as the eyes saccade across complex scenes. Adaptive mechanisms modulate filtering properties of the early visual pathway in response to these variations, allowing the system to maintain differential sensitivity to nonstationary stimuli. An adaptive variant of the reverse correlation technique is used to characterize these changes during single trials. Properties of the adaptive reverse correlation algorithm were investigated via simulation. Analysis of data collected from the mammalian visual system demonstrates the ability to continuously track adaptive changes in the encoding scheme. The adaptive estimation approach provides a framework for characterizing the role of adaptation in natural scene viewing.