ImageSpotlight: Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker.  Canon 7D | ef 500/4.5 @ f7.1 | ISO 400

Red-bellied Woodpecker. Canon 7D | ef 500/4.5 @ f7.1 | ISO 400

I have been living in the state of Georgia for about 1 year and have enjoyed seeing these birds on my property. However, they have remained elusive around my home. This past June my family and I visited Key West, Florida and since we were driving there I took all my camera gear. I anticipated some nice landscapes/scenics, but the last thing I thought I would photograph is a red-bellied woodpecker. One afternoon we decided to visit a local beach with some good friends that were vacationing with us. After setting down the ice chests and other gear that you carry along on a beach outing, I noticed several red-bellied woodpeckers flying around the area and one landed in a tree a few feet over from us. While everyone was anxious to hit the water, I was anxious to go back to the car and get my camera gear.

How I got the shot

I wish I had photographed the area with a  wide angle lens so you could visualize the various trees (shadows/highlights), vehicles, picnic tables, and people that I had to contend with. As many trees as were present, there would be no image with nice golden light on the bird so I needed a cloud to diffuse the sun, giving me nice even light from foreground to background. With respect to the background, I wanted it smooth and clean so that the bird would pop out of the image. One challenge I faced was luring the bird to the tree I had selected. I had not anticipated doing any woodpecker photography on this day so I had no peanut butter or suet to try and attract them with. What did I have as potential bait? You guessed it…. cheeze-its. 🙂  Given their fragile texture, I now had to choose a tree with a slight lean so that I could cram the snacks in the bark and have them stay. Fortunately, I had the right tree with the right background and now in my favor some clouds were rolling in. I baited the tree, sat, and waited wondering whether my cheese-its would really work. After about 5 minutes, I opened my iBird Pro application on my iPhone and played the bird’s call. Almost immediately, I had several red-bellied woodpeckers in the trees around me. In no time at all, one spotted my bait on the tree and the result is the image shared here.

Like I said, it was the last image I thought I would capture in Key West, Florida, but it is one I was very happy to bring back to Georgia. Until next time, good light and keep shooting. — KEVIN

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