Downy Woodpecker, Kennebunk, Maine, USA. This is the male Downy Woodpecker from the pair that frequent our backyard. The Downy’s are, surprisingly, even bolder than the Chickadees. They will come down from the trees even when they have seen me. I know they see me, because they sit on a branch above me and watch me, often hoping to other branches for a better view, for several moments before diving down. 🙂 That little patch of red really stands out in the sun. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.
Yet another shot from the Ash Canyon Bed and Breakfast south of Sierra Vista, Arizona. The Acorn Woodpecker is the archetypal house breaker, hammering on any solid surface, destroyer of aluminum siding and cedar shingles indiscriminately…made famous by the Disney cartoons of Woody the Woodpecker. They are the most common woodpecker in the foothills of Arizona’s Sky Islands.
Sony RX10iii at 600mm equivalent field of view. 1/320th @ ISO 100 @ f4. Processed in Lightroom.
On the first day of 2016 I went to look for the Kennebunk eagles at Roger’s Pond. No show. But while I was there I saw a largish bird fly low and into a dead tree just where the creek joins the river, at the turn of the loop around the pond. A while later I heard a knock. Knock! Pileated Woodpecker! This is only my third photo op in Maine, and I have not seen them much more often than that either. They are around…even around my house…and I hear them occasionally, but a good sighting is rare. Rare enough to make this an auspicious first bird for 2016!
This image is not what you might think at first glance. I used Coolage to assemble two images of the same bird, at different points as it circled the trunk, into a single image. Since Coolage blends edges and the trunk is an ideal object for a blend, it certainly looks like two Pileateds. It is not, trust me. I just wanted to give you two views of the bird. 🙂 And it does make a striking image. Or that is what I think.
Nikon P900 at 2000mm equivalent field of view. 1/250th @ ISO 400 @ f6.5. Processed in Lightroom and assembled in Coolage.
I can not resist posting the Pileated Woodpecker again…this time a panel of three shots showing off the bird in three poses. The panel is actually two shots from the Nikon P900 and one for the Sony HX90V. Not only was this the biggest Pileated Woodpecker I have ever seen…it was the most cooperative…giving me a chance to photograph the bird from several angles and with two cameras as it worked around two trees. Definitely a memorable experience.
Processed in Lightroom and assembled in Coolage.
When I got to Laudholm Farm (Wells National Estuarine Research Center) yesterday, the fog was just rolling in over the top of hill and the farm buildings and I almost turned around and left. I am certainly glad I did not do that. 🙂 I took some lovely foggy landscapes on my way across the bog boardwalk, and from the observation deck just north of the Drakes Island bridge, but the fog had mostly rolled on by the time I neared the crossing where the Pilger Trail meets the road to the beach. I went slow that last 100 yards, as on my last visit, that was where the Immature Red-tailed Hawk was sitting. I stopped on the spot where I had taken the photos and had a good look around. While looking I became aware of a heavy tapping somewhere overhead, and turned to see the largest Pileated Woodpecker I have ever seen working a dead snag something over 40 feet from me. The bird was in the open, flicking large chunks of dead bark and sawdust from the tree, and I only had to move slightly to the right to clear foreground foliage. Amazing! I worked the bird as it worked the tree. At first it had is back completely to me, silhouetted against the trunk…a difficult spot for photography…but eventually it moved around to the side in search of fresh forage. I took pictures and video with both cameras I had with me…everything from head shots to full body portraits. Eventually, while I was actually videoing it, it climbed up and glided over to a tree deeper in the forest, but still in easy sight, and, what is better, landed on the sunlit side of the tree. It stayed there as I moved down the trail for a better angle. I got off another set of images, this one among them. (Nikon P900 at 2000mm equivalent field of view.)
This is all the more exciting to me as the Pileated Woodpecker, photographically, has been my nemesis bird (nemesis bird is what birders call a species that they are always close to seeing but never see). I have seen the Pileated, but not often…so rarely that I can clearly remember each instance…several in Maine, a few in Florida, and a few in Arkansas (including a glimpse of an albino)…but, though I have tried as often as I have seen the bird, I had yet to get any really satisfying images. Until now. The bird at Laudholm Farm provided me with enough good shots to satisfy my Pileated hunger for some time to come. 🙂 Alleluia! There is a special satisfaction when a nemesis bird finally yields.
And the Pileated is such a great bird. They are all large as woodpeckers go…a size bigger then any other North American Woodpecker…almost the same size as Crow…and this one was big as Pileateds go. When it glided silently off through the forest, flashing the white on its wings, it looked absolutely huge. It has, as you can see from the photo, a long neck and a massive bill, and it does real damage to a tree trunk with each blow. And look at the intent in that eye! There is power in its foraging. Bark flies. Bugs can not hide! Such a beautiful bird. Such a privilege to see one…such a wonder to be able to photograph it.
Again, alleluia! For me it was a real “thank you Jesus” moment…a moment when I could not help but be conscious of the love of God the creator…and God’s love specifically for me. Now, I am not blind. I know that for many this world is a hard place to be. I know there is pain here, that people, some much more deserving than I, suffer…and I know, more than that, that I, myself, have caused some of that pain. There is no way that I deserve to be so blessed. In no way have I earned, or could I ever, the privilege of seeing and photographing a Pileated Woodpecker as I saw and photographed it yesterday. No way! And yet, alleluia, there it is…my alleluia bird! Alleluia, hallelujah: God be praised! And I am compelled to say it.
The light that fills me, that illuminates a world of wonder through an eye made generous by the gift of Jesus, is hallelujah. I don’t own it, it is not mine, but it lives in me by faith…a faith that is ever renewed in every encounter. Yesterday it was my alleluia bird…the Pileated Woodpecker.
The female Downy Woodpecker returned to our feeding station almost a week ago, but it was not until yesterday that we saw the male with her. When she is alone, she will sit on the arm that holds the suet or on the suet itself while I stand on the deck 15 feet way. When he is with her, both are off as soon as they see my shadow on the inside of the glass of the deck door. Still, he spent a lot of time in the trees beyond and above the feeding station yesterday, and I was able, thanks to the digitally enhanced reach of the zoom on my OM-D E-M10, to get some decent shots of him foraging. That little red cap on the very back of his head makes him such a jaunty fellow 🙂 (Or that is what I think.)
Camera as above. 75-300mm zoom. 600mm equivalent with 2x digital extender for 1200mm equivalent field of view. Shutter preferred. 1/800th @ ISO 500 @ f6.7. Processed in Snapseed on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014.
My colleague and friend, Rich, is learning to be a better digiscoper this week while we work the Space Coast Birding Festival. We went out to Merritt Island NWR yesterday while waiting for the exhibit hall to open and stopped, on a whim, at the Hammock trails. I didn’t have much hope of seeing many birds, but I wanted to get out of the car and walk. We did catch fleeting glimpses of a Pileated Woodpecker, always a treat as they tend to be shy birds. We have them in Maine, a few, but the only ones I have ever been able to photograph have been in Florida. After our encounter, I was telling Rich how difficult they are to photograph in general, and especially how hard to digiscope. “They just do not sit still long enough. You never get a good shot of them.”
Of course, about then we walked up to two other hikers who pointed out a Pileated working some dead trees about 100 feet back into the forest from the trail. They had been watching it long enough, so they passed it on to us. And of course, it made a liar out of me. It worked a small section of tree trunks for 20 minutes as we watched and photographed. Rich even got the scope on it and got some digiscoped shots. It was in fairly dense cover, so the shots are not great…but, hey, it is a Pileated Woodpecker!
These shots are with the Canon SX50HS, and as you can see, they preset a tricky auto focus problem, which the Canon handled very well. Processed in Snapseed on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014.
Which just goes to show you: never say never.
We do not get Red-headed Woodpecker in Maine. Finding them actively foraging in a small park in Virginia when I visited on yesterday’s mid-winter day was a real treat. Such bright birds! I was doing a small, priavate, one-on-one photo workshop, based around the Canon SX50HS, and the camera certainly comes into its own in shots like this. Hand-held at 1200mm equivalent, the camera catches a very satisfying image of a relatively small bird at a good distance. I am not sure what kind of berries the Red-heads were collecting, but they were very busy birds.
Canon SX50HS. Program with -1/3rd EV exposure compensation and iContrast. ISO 500 @ 1/1000th @ f6.5. As above, 1200mm equivalent field of view. Processed in Snapseed on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014. Cropped slightly for scale and composition.
As much as Magee Marsh is about warblers, warblers, and more warblers…there are other birds along the boardwalk. The Woodcocks were a big hit this year, and there are always a few owls. For a day, a Common Nighthawk challenged the best eyes on the boardwalk, though for at least one day they had about 6 spotting scopes trained on it.
This Northern Flicker of the Yellow-shafted race was making its usual racket. It was easy to see…much harder to photograph…as it was very mobile and very agile. I never did catch the whole bird in the frame. 🙂 I like the “mid-call” pose here. It makes the bird look very alive.
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. -1/3EV exposure compensation. 1800mm equivalent field of view. f6.5 @ 1/1000th @ ISO 800. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
The number of birds using our back deck thicket feeding station has increased dramatically over the past week. Both Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are frequent visitors. When seen together, or in rapid sequence, at least here in New England, there is no mistaking one for the other. The size difference is dramatic. However, when seeing either without the other present or recently seen, it is always a bit tricky. Even the bill size “field mark” can be very hard to distinguish when only one bird is there to look at.
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. 1200mm equivalent field of view. 1) f6.5 @ 1/640th @ ISO 800. 2) f6.5 @ 1/400th @ ISO 800. Processed in Lightroom for intlensity, clarity, and sharpness, with a bit extra because taken through glass.