Red-headed Woodpecker

I didn’t realize how many woodpeckers we have right in my own backyard.  I was actually trying to capture a different one when this specimen came into view.  The one I had seen earlier was a Red-bellied woodpecker but this is the red-headed variety.  The two are similar but the red-bellied one has red on the back of the head only.

All of the woodpeckers seem to be quite fond of suet feeders but they are also easy to scare away.  At first, this one landed on the side of the dogwood tree where my suet feeder hangs but when he spotted me, zipped around the back side.  You can see he peeked around the side in the first image and only hopped out after a while of checking the situation first.

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I call this bird “he” but since the plumage of the male and female of this species are the same, I don’t know which this is.  I’m sure the birds can tell the difference so, I guess that’s all that counts.

Red-headed Woodpecker
Melanerpes erythrocephalus

Roswell, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/9 – 1/100 sec – ISO 800

King of Cades Cove

This is the reason that many people go to Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  It’s the place to go see black bears!  We were lucky enough to see several, including this one who was the cause of many a tourist to go wandering through the meadow.  This is the same spot where I got the coyote who was nearby.

It is always amazing to me that there are so many people who don’t seem to understand what nature is and how dangerous wild animals can be.  There were people who tried to cart little children and even baby strollers out into the field where the coyote and bear were.  One of the Park Rangers was telling us about how often they get questions about when the bears are let out and brought back in for the day.  Some people think nature and Disney World are the same thing.

I’m rather glad that this was not one of the mothers with cubs that are in the park right now.  I saw one with the cubs climbing up and down trees but that was quite a way off.  If there had been a scene like that with clueless people nearby, I can just imagine a mother bear protecting cubs going after some people.  Fortunately, that did not happen on this visit.

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Mama bear waiting for her cub to come down

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/8 – 1/125 sec – ISO 400

North America’s smallest woodpecker

I’m learning quite a lot as I have been working with my new Tamron lens and watching the birds in my back yard.  This is one of the visitors that I have been trying to get a good image of recently.  This is a female Downy Woodpecker (the male has a red patch on the back of the head) that I was watching for a while.  They seem to be quite aware of my presence and often hide by circling around to the back of trees or fly off quickly when they see the slightest motion.

Fortunately for me, they seem to really like suet feeders and though they are easily spooked, they keep coming back.  I watched for a while and could see a pattern of how they usually approached the feeder the same way.  If I set up on the tree that they would land on before going to the feeder, I could catch a few shots before they jumped over there.

The other thing I learned is the mosquitoes will stay off of your arms and legs when you spray but they don’t mind biting you right through your shirt if you don’t spray that also.  Boy am I itchy!  Need to remember that for next time.

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/8 – 1/100 sec – ISO 800

The Stare Down

It is very interesting to see how the creatures of nature react when a person sits out in their environment.  In the case of birds, many of them are easily scared away by the slightest move.  This is frustrating because I want the birds to stay around.  On the other hand, squirrels are happy to stick around forever.  They are hoping that I will go away so they can rummage through the bird feeder.

I was not looking to do squirrel portraits but there he was and since we were just staring at each other, why not?  I guess you can’t argue with nature.  Take what you get and it can turn out to be better than you thought.

Oh, by the way, I won the stare down (kind of).  The squirrel finally gave up and waited until I packed up my tripod and left before he feasted on sunflower seeds.

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/7.1 – 1/125 sec – ISO 200

Pileated Woodpecker

So, we had a long discussion about this bird – is it Pill-e-ated or Pie-lee-ated?  David Akoubian says the Pie version is right but, I’m still not sure.

In any case, we followed this guy down one of the fence lines as he checked all the crevices for insects and tried to avoid a bunch of crazy photographers.  It was wonderful to be able to observe his behavior for more than the few moments that I typically get.  I am treated to seeing these birds in my own yard occasionally but they normally fly off before I get much of a chance to watch.

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One thing that I noticed was that they use their tail feathers for balance.  In this picture and others that I got, you see the tail feathers pointed down for stability.  I guess this is really important when they are pecking away at a tree.  I suppose I would be quickly dizzy from all that head-banging and would be very grateful for some extra support.

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Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Cades Cove, Tennesssee

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/8 – 1/80 sec – ISO 1250
(hand-held)

Indigo Bunting singing

For those of you who do not know David Akoubian one thing I can tell you for sure about him is that he’s a bird nut!  When we went on his Spring in the Smoky Mountains workshop, I was sure that we would be chasing birds and I was not disappointed.

David has an uncanny ability to spot birds and to identify them by their calls.  There were two species that we came across in Cades Cove that David showed a lot of interest in.  One was the Orchard Oriole that I posted an image of earlier.  The other was the Indigo Bunting that you see here.  The male bunting would fly up to a high branch and sing for the females who were gathering nesting material in the fields below.

They are not very big birds and since the day was quite overcast and they were perched up high, it was hard to get a good shot.  I got a few when he came down to look for something to eat but I like the featured shot above where he is in full song best.

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Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/8 – 1/500 sec – ISO 800

Backyard Bird Watching

Since getting my latest toy, the Tamron SP 150-600mm G2, I have been spending more time bird watching.  It really is amazing the sharpness that you can get with this lens and I am loving the close-up views I get of the common birds that I normally see only from a distance.

I need to figure out how to set up more places for the birds to perch in a natural looking area.  I’m finding that I can get some great shots at the feeders but I want more like this one with a natural background.  It’s either that or I need to develop a lot more patience.  It took quite a while for me to capture a few shots with birds in the trees where there was enough light and no leaves blocking the view.  Of course, being what they are, the birds don’t like when I move around so, that’s another challenge.

In any case, I like how this worked out.  This beautiful male cardinal was perched in a dogwood tree in the middle of my yard.  The males usually find a good spot to survey the area around the feeders and keep watch while the female comes down to eat.  I was lucky enough to spot this one on a branch that was not obstructed by other trees.

Good thing I like hanging out in the yard.  Looks like I may be doing this pretty often.

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/6.3 – 1/125 sec – ISO 200