Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘woodpecker’

During a frosty early morning February foray into Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I spotted this handsome male Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) with fluffed-up feathers. Undeterred by the wind and the cold, he was feverishly moving up and around this tree trunk, pecking along the way in search of a tasty tidbit for breakfast.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

When it comes to woodpeckers, I often hear them before I see them. Sometimes it is a gentle tapping sound, but at other times it sounds as loud as a jackhammer.

I spotted this little Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) on Wednesday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. He was slowly making his way up the tree in a spiral pattern, stopping periodically to probe for insects. I tried to track him as he moved in and out of view and was happy to capture a few relatively unobstructed shots.

Normally, it is best to capture a subject when its eyes are looking more or less in your direction. I, however, are more attracted to the first photo below in which the little woodpecker is looking away and slightly up. Perhaps he had seen or heard something that caught his attention, but I like to think that he was taking a break in order to daydream. Perhaps he too was longing for Paris.

Woodpeckers are industrious by nature, though, so after his short pause, he was back to work, slamming his head against the unforgiving wood. It is what woodpeckers do—hopefully that does not sound like your job.

Downy woodpecker

downy woodpecker

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Downy Woodpeckers (Dryobates pubescens) are the smallest woodpeckers in North America.  They more than make up for their lack of size, however, with their inexhaustible energy. Their constant motion makes them fun to watch, but a challenge to photograph.

I spotted this male Downy Woodpecker earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. How do I know that it is a male? The males of this species have a little patch of red on the back of their heads and in each of these photos you get a small peek at the red on the head.

 

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

If you talk to your dentist, you’ll certainly be told that cavities are bad, but your perspective might change if you were a bird. I am not sure if this Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) was checking out potential nesting sites yesterday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge or merely looking for insects, but it sure did give this tree cavity a careful examination.

There was definitely no need to fill this cavity.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

The red on the back of the head of this Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) seemed to be a perfect match for the colorful fall foliage this past Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Autumn is my favorite season of the year and the weather on the day that I took this shot was almost perfect—even the woodpecker seems to be smiling.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

When the lighting was as dim as it was Saturday morning at Huntley Meadows Park, it felt like I was shooting in black and white. Fortunately there was a bit of color in the head and eyes of the little male Downy Woodpecker that I spotted high in the trees, framed wonderfully by the surrounding branches.

Downy Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Every creature enjoys a brief moment at the top, even this humble little Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park. After working diligently at the lower levels of the tree, the woodpecker climbed to the top to enjoy the scenery and to rest for a short while.

All too quickly it was time to go back to work for this tireless and energetic little bird.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Sometimes I have this feeling that the birds and other creatures that I photograph are playing games with me. On Monday this Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) seemed to be playing peek-a-boo with me at Huntley Meadows Park. It was hiding at the top of a broken-off tree and at irregular intervals would show its face for just a split second and then immediately pull it back.

As I look at the woodpecker’s head I can see streaks of brown, rather than the solid red of an adult, suggesting that this may be a juvenile redhead—maybe that’s why it likes to play games.

Red-headed Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

This energetic little Downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) seemed to be defying gravity on Monday as it leaned over backwards and pecked away at a small tree growing out of the water at Huntley Meadows Park.

Downy Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

On a cool and blustery morning at Huntley Meadows Park, it seemed like most of the birds were in sheltered locations yesterday, protected from the biting wind. I did manage, though, to spot a Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) busily at work high in the trees and was able to get shots from a number of different angles as the woodpecker moved about.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Perhaps the coolest bird that I managed to spot during my recent walk through part of the Donau-Auen National Park in Vienna, Austria  was a Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius).  The woodpecker was pecking away at a log on the ground, which allowed me to capture some relatively close shots of this large woodpecker.

I had never seen a woodpecker like this one, but it was not hard to find an identification on-line, give the size and coloration of the bird. According to Wilkipedia, the Black Woodpecker is “closely related to and shares the same ecological niche in Europe as the Pileated Woodpecker of North America.”

Black Woodpecker

Black Woodpecker

Black Woodpecker

Black Woodpecker

Black Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Its body was in the shadows, so I couldn’t see its belly, but I am pretty confident that this beautiful bird that I saw on Friday at Huntley Meadows Park is a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius), a species of woodpecker that I rarely see.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Facebook reminded me earlier today that exactly two years ago I posted a photo of a Red-headed Woodpecker and as soon as I saw it, I realized that it is an almost perfect companion to the photo that I posted yesterday.  Yesterday’s image showed the flight feathers of a Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) from underneath and the earlier image shows them from above.

Here is the posting in its entirety from December 1, 2013:

I suspect that I may qualify as a stalker, because I spent over thirty minutes on Friday sitting on a fallen tree, observing every movement of a juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) high in the oak trees.

The small branches and the shadows made it almost impossible to get a clear shot of the little bird, but they did not keep me from trying. I was really fortunate to get this shot of the woodpecker as it took off from one of its perches with an acorn in its mouth and gave me a glimpse of its beautifully-patterned wings. As I understand it, when the Red-Headed Woodpecker becomes an adult, its wings will be pure black and white, so I am glad that I was able to get the shot of the black dots.

After I posted this photo, I noticed that there is a least one acorn jammed into a crack in the bark just above the top edge of the bird’s tail, mostly likely a snack that it has cached for future consumption.

woodpecker_flying_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Redheads tend to be stunning, rare, and elusive and the Red-headed Woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) at Huntley Meadows Park are no exception to that general rule. These relatively uncommon woodpeckers tend to spend their time high up in tall trees and it’s tough to even spot them. I was therefore thrilled on Monday when I caught a glimpse from a distance of this beautiful woodpecker and managed to capture a photo of it.

Red-headed Woodpecker

The photo shows the distinctive colors and pattern of the Red-headed Woodpecker pretty well. From a technical perspective, I’m happy that I was able to document the presence of this bird. From an artistic perspective, I’m a bit less satisfied with the shot. I hope that the Red-headed Woodpeckers hang around for the winter and that I can get some better shots.

The shots of the Red-headed Woodpecker were my final shots of the day. Interestingly enough, my first shots of the day were also of a woodpecker, a Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), a common species in my area. The woods were dark and full of shadows, but the sunlight was falling on one tree, illuminating an energetic little Downy Woodpecker.

Downy Woodpecker

I was able to get a sharper shot of this woodpecker and to manage the background better, producing an image that I actually like more than my shot of the Red-headed Woodpecker. I love the way that the areas of darkness and light provide a kind of natural vignette that draws the viewers’ eyes to the subject.

I realize that it often is tough for me to evaluate my own photos objectively, in part because I have trouble separating the emotions of the experience of shooting from the actual images themselves. It is exciting to see new or uncommon species and to get any kind of shot that I can use to help share those emotions with others.

In most cases, I have to use words to explain why a particular shot is meaningful to me. As I move forward in photography, I’d like to be able to eventually produce images more often that stand on their own artistically and technically, without any need for explanations.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

After a gray, rainy day like today, I need a visual pick-me-up and energetic Downy Woodpeckers (Picoides pubescens) never fail to raise my spirits. I spotted this little beauty at Huntley Meadows Park this past weekend.

Downy Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Bird identification should be easier.  Once again I have photographed a bird and I am not sure of its identity. I am confident that it is a woodpecker, but beyond that, doubts begin to creep in and none of the pictures in my identification guide really match the bird in my photos.

The woodpecker is a lot bigger than the Downy Woodpeckers that I frequently see, but smaller than the Pileated Woodpeckers that I see less often. The black-and-white pattern on its back seems different from any that I have seen before. In some of the photos, I detect a little bit of red just above the bill, especially in the last image.

So what is it? Well, if I were to hazard a guess, I’d say it might be an immature Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius).

I’d welcome assistance from more experienced birders in identifying my mystery woodpecker.

Yellow-bellied SapsuckerYellow-bellied SapsuckerYellow-bellied Sapsucker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Do woodpeckers ever make noise just for fun? Usually when I hear a Pileated Woodpecker at work, it sounds like a jackhammer as the bird drives its bill deep into the tree, but earlier this week I hear a more resonant, drumming sound coming from a hollow tree.

I spotted the Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) just before it spotted me and I was able to snap only a couple of photos before it flew away. As I looked at the tree afterwards, it was easy to see that it had essentially served as a musical instrument for the bird, allowing the woodpecker to send its rhythmic music out a long distance.

What was not clear, however, was whether the actions had been related to searching for insects, because it sure didn’t look like the long dead tree housed any insects.

Was the woodpecker sending messages? The message I received was that I should hurry to that spot for a great photos opportunity.

Pileated Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

In the distance I could hear the sound of a woodpecker busily at work. It took a little while for me to finally spot the woodpecker, but eventually I caught sight of him and watched him as he pecked away.

I was happy to be able to identify the bird as a Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), a fairly common species in my marshland park. I was surprised, however, to note that the woodpecker was excavating a cavity that was already large enough to contain its entire head.

I know that Red-bellied Woodpeckers make their nests in cavities and wonder if this might be an early stage of building a nest. Could the bird merely be building a storage area for food? I have lots of questions and multiple possible explanations for what I saw but don’t really have any answers. I think that I remember where I saw the woodpecker and may try to find the tree again and check to see if I can tell whether the woodpecker has worked more to enlarge the cavity in the tree.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday, I was walking through the woods when I noticed pieces of bark falling through the air. I assumed that this activity was caused by hyperactive squirrels and was shocked when I looked up to see a Pileated Woodpecker high in the trees.

Pileated Woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) are really loud when they are foraging for food and their forceful drumming often sounds like a jackhammer. This woodpecker, however, seemed to be in stealth mode and he was removing sections of bark by putting his bill underneath the bark and twisting his head a little.

There were quite a few branches between me and the woodpecker, so it was interesting challenge trying to find a visual  tunnel that would permit me to photograph him without too many obstructions. As anyone who photographs birds knows well, focusing was also an issue and I ended up with some photos of a blurry woodpecker, but beautifully in-focus branches. I was pretty happy, though, that I managed to get a a couple of relatively clear shots.

The woodpecker was undoubtedly searching for something to eat. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a Pileated Woodpecker’s primary food is carpenter ants, supplemented by other ants, woodboring beetle larvae, termites, and other insects such as flies, spruce budworm, caterpillars, cockroaches, and grasshoppers.

I have no idea what delicacy this woodpecker was seeking, but in the second photo it looks like he might have found some tasty little snack. Bon appétit!

Pileated WoodpeckerPileated Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Normally I see woodpeckers high in the trees, but some of my fellow photographers spotted this Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) pecking about on the ground below a tree and pointed it out to me. The woodpecker appeared to be collecting acorns and then hopped upward onto the tree carrying an acorn in its bill.

Red-bellied WoodpeckerRed-bellied Woodpecker

Initially I was perplexed, because I tend to think of woodpeckers driving their bills into trees in search of insects, not transporting acorns. Then I remembered back to last winter, when I observed some Red-headed Woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) at my local marshland park stockpiling acorns in the hollow of a tree. Is it possible that Red-bellied Woodpeckers do the same thing?

Red-bellied Woodpecker

I checked out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, my favorite website for information about birds, and it confirmed that Red-bellied Woodpeckers “also use cracks in trees and fence posts to store food for later in the year, a habit it shares with other woodpeckers in its genus.”

Red-bellied Woodpecker

It might be my imagination, but if you look closely at the final shot below, you can see what the outlines of what appear to be several acorns just a bit below the woodpecker’s bill. It’s a mystery to me how the woodpecker remembers where it has stockpiled food and how it keeps other birds from stealing it, but I have to assume that the woodpecker knows what it is doing.

The recent cold weather reminds me that winter is almost here and this bird seems to be preparing for those tougher times to come.

Red-bellied5_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I admire the boundless energy of Downy Woodpeckers (Picoides pubescens). This weekend I watched as this male Downy Woodpecker climbed higher and higher in a tree, pecking along the way, until he ran out of branches.

He turned his body and looked up at a nearby tree and paused, which gave me a chance to get this shot of his downy white abdomen. There is a kind of tension in his position that I really like, as he clutches the branch and focuses intently on his next destination.

Downy Woodpecker

This second shot, which was taken before the first one, shows the Downy Woodpecker in a more conventional pose. He was inching his way up to the end of the branch and I was wondering what he would do next.

One thing that learned from this mini-shoot is that it is tough to hold a lens this heavy overhead for an extended period of time. I haven’t weighed the camera/lens combination, but the lens alone weights 4.3 pounds (1.95 kg).

I may have to start lifting weights to build up my arm and shoulder muscles

Downy Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday I spotted a male Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) on an exposed branch in a tree across a small field of cattails. In the past, I would not have even attempted to take a shot because of the distance, but I recently bought a Tamron 150-600mm zoom lens and suddenly this little bird was more or less within reach. This was my first day out with my new lens and it was fun testing out its capabilities (and I’ll do a few more postings showing what the lens was able to get in different situations).

Downy Woodpeckers seem to have an amazing amount of energy and are in almost constant motion. As I watched, the little woodpecker pecked his way to the end of the branch and then stopped. He seemed to be confused and stared straight ahead at first,  Unsatisfied, he looked down and then up. Suddenly he lifted off almost straight up and I was fortunate to capture him with his wings extended.

Who knew that Downy Woodpeckers had such an impressive wingspan?

Downy Woodpecker

Liftoff

Downy Woodpecker

Looking ahead

Downy Woodpecker

Looking down

Downy Woodpecker

Looking up

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

Read Full Post »

I don’t know where they have been hiding, but for several months this summer I hadn’t seen a single woodpecker at my local marsh. Consequently, I was really happy when I sighted this Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) right in front of me this past weekend. Downy Woodpeckers are small, but they make up for what they lack in size with an amazing amount of energy—they never seem to stand still.

downy_fall_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Do woodpeckers smile?

Earlier this month, I spent some time observing a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) at work, high in a tree at my local marshland park. The woodpecker would peck away for a while and then stop for a break.  As the big bird turned his head to one side or to the other, it seemed to me that its face would light up in a self-satisfied smile.

What do you think, is the woodpecker smiling or is it just my imagination, running away with me? (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist the temptations to throw in a line from a song.)

pileated4_march_blogpileated1_march_blogpileated2_march_blogpileated3_march_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

All winter long I have been trying to get a clear shot of a Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) at my local marshland park. I have seen them from time to time, high in the trees in the shadows, and have even managed to get some photos of them, but I had never really gotten a good look at the red head.

This past weekend I came across one pecking away on the ground, permitting me at last to get some photos that highlight its beautiful coloration. These shots were taken from a pretty good distance away, but I think you would all agree—this redhead is stunning.

red2_feb_blogred1_feb_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

I love to watch energetic little Downy Woodpeckers (Picoides pubescens) at work, like this one that I observed last week in my own neighborhood.

Most of the time these little powerhouses are in constant motion or are obscured by branches, so it’s difficult to get a clear shot of them. This one, however, was in a location where I could get an unobstructed photograph and the woodpecker even cooperated by lifting its head for a moment (though it did appear to be a little irritated at the interruption).

As soon as I was done with the brief photo shoot, the woodpecker went back to work, pounding away at the wood in search of some tasty morsels of food.

downy_neighbor_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

It’s nice to be back home from my recent overseas trip and to have the chance to go out in the wild for some photos. Urban shooting is ok, but somehow I feel more comfortable chasing after wildlife.

Yesterday I spotted this Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) high in the trees at Huntley Meadows Park, the local marsh that is my favorite spot for wildlife shooting. I’ve been trying for quite a while to get some good shots of this spectacular woodpecker and they are getting better, though they are not quite there yet.

These two shots are part of a series that I took as the woodpecker moved its head from side to side as well as up and down, chiseling out a hole in the tree. I was amazed to see how far back the woodpecker pulled its head before each stroke and the powerful force with which it struck—it was enough to give me a headache.

I’m still hoping that I will find a Pileated Woodpecker a bit lower in a tree (or working on a fallen log) in a location that will permit me to get some better shots, but I am content that I was able to get these shots when I caught sight of this woodpecker yesterday.

pileated2_jan_blogpileated1_jan_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

Like most Downy Woodpeckers, this little male woodpecker started spiraling his way up the tree as soon as he landed on it. Then to my surprise, he worked his way back down the tree and stopped at eye level, where he stayed long enough for me to take a number of shots and even make a few adjustments in between the shots.

I really like Downy Woodpeckers (Picoides pubescens). Their high energy and acrobatic activities are a constant source of interest for me as I watch them at work in the trees and in the cattails. I’ve usually had a tough time, though,  getting an uncluttered shot of a Downy Woodpecker.

I took this shot in an area where there were mostly young trees, which made it easier for me to isolate the woodpecker as he moved about and to slowly move closer and fill the frame with the little bird. The area was shaded, so I ended up using my pop-up flash to add a little fill light. I opened up the aperture as wide as I could, which had the effect of blurring out the background.

I ended up with a portrait-like shot of the Downy Woodpecker that I really like. Click on the image to see it in higher resolution.

downy_Jan1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

Do you have a list of subjects that you really want to photograph? I do and ever since I caught sight of a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) through the window of the visitor center of my local marshland park, I have been possessed with an overwhelming desire to photograph one. That first time, the woodpecker was hanging from a suet feeder usually used by nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers and I was impressed by its size and its beauty.

Last month, a year after the initial sighting, I finally got a photo of one and featured it in a posting My First Pileated. The photo was a little blurry and the bird was partially obscured by branches, but it was clearly a Pileated Woodpecker. This past Saturday, I came upon another one as I was walking through the woods. Not surprisingly, I heard the woodpecker before I caught sight of it high in the trees, barely visible.

The dry leaves crackled loudly as I tried to get closer to the woodpecker and it flew to other trees several times during this protracted process. I had heard from others that Pileated Woodpeckers sometimes work on fallen logs, but this one never left the higher reaches of the trees. Eventually it flew out of sight.

I ended up with a slightly better photograph of a Pileated Woodpecker, but am confident that I can do much better this winter as I continue to stalk “big game,” which for me includes this woodpecker, hawks, and maybe even an owl.

pileated_dec_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I suspect that I may qualify as a stalker, because I spent over thirty minutes on Friday sitting on a fallen tree, observing every movement of a juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) high in the oak trees.

The small branches and the shadows made it almost impossible to get a clear shot of the little bird, but they did not keep me from trying. I was really fortunate to get this shot of the woodpecker as it took off from one of its perches with an acorn in its mouth and gave me a glimpse of its beautifully-patterned wings. As I understand it, when the Red-Headed Woodpecker becomes an adult, its wings will be pure black and white, so I am glad that I was able to get the shot of the black dots.

After I posted this photo, I noticed that there is a least one acorn jammed into a crack in the bark just above the top edge of the bird’s tail, mostly likely a snack that it has cached for future consumption.

woodpecker_flying_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Why was this Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) pecking so feverishly at the top of this broken tree? It certainly did not look like a good spot to find insects.

A few seconds later, I got an answer to my unspoken question, when the woodpecker pulled an acorn out with its beak (at least that’s what I think it is). After a bit of research on the internet, I learned that these woodpeckers eat plant materials, like acorns, as well as insects and that they sometimes use cracks in trees to store food for use at a later time.

red_bellied1-blogred_bellied2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »