The Northern Saw-whet Owl

These little fellows are transient in our area during March and April as they migrate to Southern Canada.  We have been looking for these birds starting last year in the small conifers in “Owl Woods” located in

Saw-whet Owl
Saw-whet Owl

the Braddock Bay area. Everyone seemed to have reported seeing them, except us. This year we made a more determined effort, carefully examining all the small conifers–no luck.  However, things changed last Wednesday when we  received “tip offs” from people coming off the trails as to where the two birds were.  Even with this knowledge it took some time to find them in their separate trees where they were sitting slightly above eye level.  One had its eyes almost closed, seemingly not put off by us, the other with eyes wide open.  They sat nearly motionless, allowing as many photos as we wished–some with fill-in flash.

Most owls sit motionless during the day and will let you approach, providing you don’t go into or up the tree. They blend in miraculously well, but once you find them they seem so obvious. You can find more photos at my on-line gallery http://stephenfieldingimages.slickpic.com/ .

Two Week Follow-up on the Pileated Holes

I visited the Pileated Woodpecker tree again this past Sunday. Although there were no birds spotted, there is now a third hole located at the 2 o’clock position relative to the hole on the right side of the tree shown in the photograph in my March 2 post. As we come into April I’m going to have to spend some time camped near the tree with my camera mounted on a tripod to record any comings and goings once the birds begin nesting (if indeed that’s why the holes are being drilled).

One Week Follow-up on the Pileated Holes


It was yet another low overcast day with a light snow falling. I went to see if there was any Pileated activity around the holes being drilled last week. We listened before approaching. No drilling, no calling. We walked into the woods towards the tree. The photo, above, shows a close-up of the two holes. The second hole is located at the 1:00 position to the facing hole. I also panned the area to show the setting of this tree. You can see this video at: http://sli.so/11463722QI . There is lots of deadwood in the area and most of the ground area is flooded (swampy)–just what woodpeckers love.

I’ll swing by next week to see if there is any activity.

Pileateds Getting Ready for Spring Breeding

Just a brief post to say that we found two Pileated Woodpeckers drilling on a tree not too far from the edge of a field. One flew off shortly after we stopped to watch them. The other continued working on another hole–to what is likely to be their nest. Pileateds often have two or more exits to their nests. I moved to a second location for a shot of the hole that the bird in the first photo had been working on. These are new holes going deep into the tree so it is clear they are not just feeding. Pileateds nest only one season in the same nest. After that, other residents move in.

I’ll have regular reports as I visit this location on a weekly basis, perhaps even some video of the future fledglings. Stay tuned!

The Red Crossbills

Red Crossbill (male)
Red Crossbill (male)

We went on an automobile caravan field trip with fellow members of the Rochester Birding Association in mid-January (each with a hand-held two-way radio). It was one of those winter overcast days so common here on the Great Lakes. These trips are always a bit frustrating for us bird photographers because the true birders are happy to spot with binoculars and high-power spotting scopes.  In contrast, I’m limited to my 100-400mm auto-focus lens, which extends to 560mm with the 1.4X tele-converter (without auto-focusing). The result is I get far fewer bird opportunities.

Red Crossbill (female)
Red Crossbill (female)

As we drove down a farm road someone spotted a flock of birds high in the trees so we all pulled over.  Shortly afterwards one person announced that it was a group of Red Crossbills feeding, with a few Pine Siskins mingling among them. Female Crossbills have no red, instead consisting mostly of olive-green. Found mostly across southern Canada Red Crossbills fan out to the Northwest Territories and into Alaska.  They wander irregularly, depending on the availability of cone crops. What we saw was an irruption into the northern U.S.; sometimes they fly to the deep south. Their population has been stable over the past several decades.

Since cloudy skies reflect more light than blue-skies I over-exposed by +2/3 to minimize silhouetting. The settings for the shot below are: 1/500 sec. @ f / 11, ISO 500.

Red Crossbill with Pine Siskin
Red Crossbill with Pine Siskins