The Pileated Woodpecker (Revisted)

For those of you who stayed tuned since my last post, I’ve revisited the secret location of the great Pileated Woodpecker. Closely resembling the likely extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker, but smaller with a black bill, they are most common in the southeast, but found in the northeast and across Canada.  They feed mostly on carpenter ants that they find in dead trees.

As you may recall, he (you can tell it’s a male because the red covers his full crown) was driven off by this guy, Bubba the Squirrel.

When I returned to the site on the following Friday, the Pileated was again driven off by Bubba, this time with the help of two of his friends–Bootsy and Kicksy. It seems to me that this giant woodpecker could have easily dispatch these squirrels with his powerful bill.  In any event, closer examination of the tree suggested that the dead spline on which he was drilling was a source of food, rather than the beginnings of a nest.  The tree’s spline did not look substantial enough to house these woodpeckers, nor did we ever see two, which you would expect in the case of nest-building.

I returned a third time this past week. My wife and I were no sooner set-up that the bird landed at the same exact position on the spline! How thoughtful. This photo shoot was almost like doing studio work. I took the shots and when I was done–he flew off, this time without any hassle from Bubba and his friends. Here is the Pileated in full regalia.

I told one of our Rochester birders about how easy it is to approach these birds on some occasions, and how difficult on others.  He said that if they have a good feeding spot they are pretty tolerant of people. But if they are drilling as a means to establish territory during the mating and breeding season, they quickly fly off when approached, due partly to the fact that they have to get to the next point in their perimeter to announce their presence.

If you have any stories to share about observing Pileateds I’d love to hear them.

Return of Spring

Yes, the flying Vs are back, this time headed North, more or less. We were recently out at Braddock Bay, Lake Ontario when I took this photo. We’ve been out a number of times, but the bird scene had been mostly limited to the usual winter suspects. There are, however, a number of Red-Wing Blackbirds that have returned to stake out their territories.

Meanwhile, every year we witness the attempt of House Finches to build a nest at the top of the column of our front porch and this year was no different They inevitably fail (how do they ever reproduce?)! They are then followed by the Robins who seem to have no problem at all building their nest–even though they appear to be far too large, given the available space. We’ve concluded that Robins are simply smarter at nest-building.

We’re anxiously awaiting the onslaught of the Warbler crowd, due into our area by the end of April, more or less. We’re on high alert! Last, but not least, we heard a Pileated Woodpecker drilling in the same location on two successive week-ends. The second time around, we decided to bushwhack our way to the sound of the drilling, stopping periodically, hoping to find the bird’s location. We suspected there were two birds drilling a hole for a nest, which can take up to several weeks. Sure enough, I found her/him. As I raised the camera with my 100-400mm lens, the bird flew off. We moved in closer, and low and behold, the bird returned–only to be driven off by a squirrel! We set the camera on a tripod and waited for nearly an hour–but no return. Meanwhile, the squirrel remained on guard. We weren’t sure if it was lying low because of us or trying to prevent the bird from returning.

If this hole is indeed for a nest, we figure the bird will be back. I plan to return early Friday morning to find out. If so, and not commandeered by the squirrel, we expect to go there regularly for what I hope to be some great Pileated shots, and perhaps the fledging of their young later this season.

Of course, just as true of fishermen, I won’t divulge this location since I want the exclusive on this hopefully developing story.

Stay tuned!

Bufflehead Duck, In the early 20th century shooting had reduced Bufflehead population numbers significantly, but between 1955 and 1992 surveys indicate that numbers more than doubled, despite large year-to-year fluctuations.

Unlike Mallards, these birds are more wary of humans, so don’t expect to get too close. According to Cornell’s All About Birds http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/bufflehead/lifehistory/ac#at_consv :

  • The Bufflehead nests almost exclusively in holes excavated by Northern Flickers and, on occasion, by Pileated Woodpeckers.
  • Unlike most ducks, the Bufflehead is mostly monogamous, often remaining with the same mate for several years.
  • The Bufflehead lays eggs more slowly than most other ducks, commonly with intervals of two or three days between eggs.

The takeoff sequence was shot at Braddock Bay, which is a major stop-over on the eastern inland migration flyway. It is located on the south shore of Lake Ontario. Upon reaching this area, most birds will continue northward by circling the Ontario shoreline in an easterly or westerly direction since there are few updrafts over the lake, resulting in the expenditure of more energy.

1/500@f/11, ISO 250, EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM +1.4x III, 560 mm, Canon EOS 60D

 

On which paper to print

Until now, I’ve been using Epson papers. These include their Ultra Premium Matte, Premium Semi-Gloss, and Ultra Premium Luster. The Matte finish seems to be good for high quality black and whites, while the Luster provides good detail and color rendition for bird photographs. The slightly rough surface does not show fingerprints. The Semi-Gloss is a mid-range paper at somewhat lower cost. Overall, I can say that I’m generally satisfied with all.

Still, there are so many other papers and surfaces out there worth trying. I went to one of our few remaining local photo stores and asked them about different papers and their quality.  He said that once you focus on the quality papers, the best one to use is based on how it will be presented (e.g., framed under glass or exposed and more prone to handling, etc.) and what kind of aesthetic look you want.

Okay, so this information was good to know, but I still could not decide with which paper to experiment. Well what do you know?  Several vendors have variety packs; the salesman suggested I try MOAB, by Legion Paper. It contains 13 pairs of stock including rags, fiber, velvet, canvass, and metallic — all for $16 in 8.5 X 11. I’ll let you know what I think as I print with this stock

Two weeks from the day . . .

Canon returned my 100m-400m lens this past Friday, which it repaired under its warranty, shipping it via standard overnight delivery–all at no cost to me.  I sent the lens to them via ground on the Friday two weeks prior. It turned out that the image stabilization was not working properly.  They repaired the unit, and checked and cleaned the rest of its inners. I’ve had a chance to use it and it now seems to be working fine.  Bravo Canon!

Image destabilization

It seems I’ve run into a problem with the 100–400mm lens that I purchased this past June.  The image in the viewfinder began jumping around when I pressed the shutter button half-way—often this would continue even after shutter release.  I contacted Canon’s customer service. Based on my description of the problem they suspected the image stabilization had failed.  I sent the lens to their service center and they accepted the lens under warranty. I hope to have it back in about another week.  I’ll let you know how the process went, as well as how the lens works when I get it back into the field.

It’s taken some time

I haven’t quite understood why Lightroom will let you use FTP to send images directly to other sites, but not their own Photoshop on-line gallery. At long last, Photoshop.com recently announced that it has a plug-in available that will do just that–all in one step. Now, instead of having to export from Lightroom, then go Photoshop.com to perform the upload, then relabel the photos as I did in Lightroom, these can all be done automatically with the Lightroom Publish Plug-in.

I had the same problem getting my images from Lightroom to this blog at WordPress.com. Voila! Now there’s LR/Blog (http://www.photographers-toolbox.com/products/lrblog.php). Now I can just export from my images from the Lightroom Library to WordPress.com. In fact, I have the option to include a post at the same time. These two Plug-ins increase my production workflow significantly.

At this point I’ve established my two photography web sites–at WordPress and Photoshop (and more or less understand them)–and I now have the basic equipment I need for my photography.

I’ll begin posting to my blog on a weekly basis on Fridays by 5PM. Most of the topics from this point forward will focus on my field trips, and background about my subjects.