Red-naped Sapsuckers – Changing Of The Guard

Yesterday morning I photographed a pair of Red-naped Sapsuckers as they attended to familial duties at their nest cavity in the Uinta Mountains. Shooting conditions were very difficult due to constantly changing light and the high contrast between the almost white aspen bark and the blacks of the birds but I did get some images I like.

 

red-naped sapsucker 5147 ron dudley

1/3200, f/5, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

They spent much of their time hauling sap-dipped ants to their offspring and removing wood chips and fecal sacs from inside the cavity. Often when one parent arrived at the nest entrance the other one was already inside the cavity so that bird would have to leave before the arriving adult could enter.

That’s what’s happening here – the male (I believe) with a few wood chips in his bill is making his exit while the female waits at the entrance with a beak full of ants for the chicks. These exits are explosively fast so I was lucky…

 

 

red-naped sapsucker 5148 ron dudley

1/3200, f/5, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

to have not clipped any body parts in the next image in the burst. The female’s eye is half closed but I still have a catch light in the eye to partially make up for it.

This nest cavity was a lucky find. I won’t photograph nesting birds if my presence disrupts their normal behavior in any way but this nest tree is within a couple of feet of a busy paved road and these sapsuckers are oblivious to the fairly steady stream of traffic including large noisy trucks. They have become completely acclimated to all the human hubbub and they simply ignored the presence of my pickup (as per usual I was shooting from inside my truck and using a super-telephoto lens).

One of the reasons I enjoy photographing birds in challenging conditions like this is that I learn so much about the capabilities and limitations of my gear and my own photography skills.

And believe me, I learned a lot yesterday.

Ron

Golden Eagle In Flight

Many of my posts feature my photographic successes but some of them are about my challenges. This is one of the latter.

I’ve struggled more getting images I like of Golden Eagles than I have with any other species. For me they’ve been extremely elusive and on those rare occasions when I do find one in my crosshairs something always seems to go wrong.

Note: I’ve posted two images of this bird in the past but these two are new to my blog.

 

golden eagle 7867 ron dudley

1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

My most recent chance with the species came early this month in Montana’s Centennial Valley when this one took off from a tree in front of me in morning light. I was able to get a nice head turn with eye contact and I like the good look at that golden nape.

 

 

golden eagle 7868 ron dudley

1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

The next image in the burst shows off that huge 6.5′ wingspan. Even with the wings held close to a horizontal position I have acceptable detail underneath the bird and there’s light in the eye and on those yellow feet.

The downside is that both images could be a tad sharper and I’d prefer to have a background other than homogenous blue sky so I still have my work cut out for me with Golden Eagles.

But I am making progress.

Ron