Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Shooting woodpeckers

Great spotted woodpeckers are some of the most striking visitors to my garden and are among my favourites.  They are great subjects for photography and featured in my very first blog post.  There are several possible approaches to getting good pictures.  Sometimes, by good luck or good fieldcraft, a woodpecker will come within range of a medium range lens.  These were taken with a 70-200mm at 200mm.

One approach is to use a very long lens, which I don't have.  Another option is to use a portable hide, as I did for this shot of father and chick with a 70-200mm lens at 70mm.

Sometimes the birds will visit the bird table and pose on a branch at the back, as here.  This is cropped square but otherwise full size with a 300mm lens.

The technique which I favour now is to bring the birds closer to the camera.  I don't usually take conventional feeder shots but can entice the birds to come close to the window by concealing food in a hole drilled in a log.  Here is a piece of ash on the bird table with a 30mm hole containing lard with mixed seed and suet.

And here is the resulting photo taken from the sitting room window at a distance of about 5m using a 300mm lens.

If the log is smaller in diameter I screw a piece of board on the bottom to improve stability.

I use different types of wood and move the bird table to change the background so as to avoid repetition of the same picture.  This is ash

This is dead sycamore

and this is hawthorn.

It is interesting that in many dozens and probably more than a hundred observations I have never seen a female GSW on this type of feeder.  Females are happy on the peanuts or the seed feeders but have never been on the log feeder. They ignore it completely, even if it only half a metre away from the feeder they are on.

It is not surprising that the food does attract other visitors.

It doesn't always go to plan.  Sometimes the woodpecker has his dinner all over his beak, which doesn't make for a great photo.

This one isn't so well positioned because we can see the food.

If you prefer a different viewpoint you can move the feeder, or flip the image.

And if you prefer a portrait crop you can do that too.

One other trick, when the young arrive in the garden in June, is to make the feeders less easily accessible by hanging the peanuts on a long string so that for a few days the parents have to provide the food.

Within a short time. however, the youngsters will have learnt how to get onto the peanuts but will still provide opportunities as they are lining up the jump.

I can still remember the excitement the first time I saw a woodpecker in the garden.  Now they are here many times every day but I never tire of watching them.

1 comment:

  1. Today (12 April 2015) I saw a female GSW on this feeder for the first time. It will be interesting to see if it was a one off visit or if the females use it regularly.