Pileated Woodpeckers: Kennebunk, Maine, USA — I have seen more Pileated Woodpeckers this year than I have seen, all totaled, in the 10 years previously. As I noted yesterday, the female in this composite lives across the road from us in a patch of remnant forest along a stream, and I caught the male at Roger’s Pond Park, across the river from us, maybe 3/4 of a mile from our house, as the Pileated flies…so probably not a pair…but still an interesting comparison. (And, in fact, doing a bit of research here, Pileated territories can be up to 200 acres, and with the fragmented forest here in town, these two might still be a pair.) Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos and assembled in FrameMagic. Male ISO 100 @ f4 @ 1/1000th +1 EV, and Female ISO 125 @ f4 @ 1/500th.
Pileated Woodpecker (female): Kennebunk, Maine, USA — yes this is one of those “same woodpecker on both sides of the tree” shots. I was set up to record my Sunday Morning Flute Meditation in front of our living room windows, when I saw movement across the street in front of our house. I know there is a female Pileated Woodpecker that hangs out in the woods back in there, and who visits our yard on rare occasions, and there she was, working a dead tree behind the fire hydrant. So, of course, I left the recording setup, grabbed my camera and a jacket and hat, and went out to see how close I could get. 🙂 These shots, two different shots assembled in Pixomatic to look like one, were taken from our mailbox. I had early morning sun at my back…and the light was so warm and intense that I lost all detail in the red crests, but still…you have to go for every Pileated…just because you do. 🙂 Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Pixomatic, Polarr, and Apple Photos. ISO 160 (left) and 125 (right) @ f4 @ 1/500th.
Pileated Woodpecker: Kennebunk, Maine, USA — This is only the third time we have had a Pileated Woodpecker in our yard in the 25 plus years we have lived here on Brown Street. There used to be a pair that nested in the little patch of woods inside the loop of Mousam Ridge just off Brown Street where we could hear them, but they have been gone for many years now. And I have only seen 4 others in Maine…two at Laudholm Farms (Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve), and two random sightings along the roads of southern Maine. I was, then, surprised to see one fly into back corner of the neighbor’s yard, into the trees behind my backyard photo blind, just as it was getting dark, and in the rain, two days ago. I went out but could not get a photo. Then yesterday, about 10 AM, I noticed movement at the base of dead pine that has been trying to fall over since we have lived here. It is hung up in a big maple and just leans there rotting away. Binocular time. It was indeed the Pileated Woodpecker. I went out and over the next hour or more worked my way around the bird, a female, eventually to within 15 feet, as it dug grubs from the decaying wood…excavating a huge cavity on either side of the trunk to the point where it is just about cut through. It flew off a few times when I was not cautious enough, but quickly returned to its work. I must have taken a thousand exposures…and I do not exaggerate. Such a treat! I left it there and went inside to get some lunch before heading out on my trike to check on the trilliums at the Rachel Carson headquarters (which was on my list of things to do on Monday, before the Pileated visitation). When I left, going on one o’clock, it was still there working away. 🙂 It was not there, when I tried to show it to Carol later in the day, but it returned just as it was getting dark again and she got to see it. We will see what today brings…but it is raining…and, really, I have enough photos to last me a while…unless, of course, the male shows up. Then I will be out in a flash with my camera, rain or no! One thing these photos can not capture is the SIZE of the bird. It is big! The size of a crow. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Apple Photos. ISO 500 to 800 @ f4 @ 1/500th.
Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers (Hairy on top): Kennebunk, Maine, USA — The size difference between Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers seems to be particularly pronounced here in Maine, and perhaps in New England in general. It is not that our Downys are small…it is that our Hairys are huge. This set of shots of male Hairys and Downys, taken from the same position in my blind with the same lens, on the same suet cage, show the difference well, and draw attention especially to the beaks. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Seen side by side like this, there is no mistaking the difference. Seen one at a time, and in less “controlled” conditions, it can still be a challenge. 🙂 Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos. Assembled in FrameMagic. ISO 125 @ f4 @ 1/500th.
Hairy Woodpecker: Kennebunk, Maine, USA — to accompany yesterday’s shot of a large male Hairy Woodpecker…they come in jumbo size in southern Maine…here is his mate at the same feeder…though from a slightly better angle. The female is, if anything, a bit larger than the male. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos. ISO 125 @ f4 @ 1/500th.
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.