Downy Woodpecker (and a personal horror story for Halloween)

The Downy Woodpecker is North America’s smallest woodpecker and even though they’re widespread and common on this continent I’ve had very little luck catching them out in the open in a setting I like.


downy woodpecker 0736 ron dudley

 1/800, f/5.6, ISO 640, Canon 7D, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

This male was no exception.  He gave me only a few furtive clear looks as he foraged for insects yesterday morning at Farmington Bay. He was mostly buried deep in the shade among the branches and leaves and only occasionally did a little dappled light land on him.

I usually prefer my subjects to appear sharp and crisp in my images but Downy Woodpeckers are known for the soft appearance of their plumage (thus their name) and that certainly shows here.  I particularly like the setting of this image because for me it has an Oriental feel that I don’t often achieve.


On another unrelated note, today is Halloween so in the spirit of the occasion I can’t resist relating a potential horror story that really spooked me last night.  Today (or possibly tomorrow) UPS is scheduled to deliver a new camera (Canon 7D Mark ll) that I’m very excited about.  But last night I made the mistake of watching a news story (with video clip) on CBS regarding the recent abuse a UPS driver heaped upon a $12,000 piece of sensitive scientific equipment when he wasn’t allowed to complete the delivery.   I could just imagine something similar happening to my new camera.  In this case there was an obvious security camera in place – who knows what really goes on in the back of those trucks where there’s true anonymity…

It didn’t help when my friend and incredibly talented nature photographer Melissa Groo made the following comment regarding that news story when I posted it on Facebook.

  • “Recently, when sending some equipment into Canon repair via UPS, I asked if we should mark the box fragile. The woman who works there said–she admitted to me–that she thinks that the drivers actually handle boxes marked fragile more roughly, just to be contrary. That was slightly terrifying.” 

Last night I literally had nightmares about my camera being delivered in pieces.  Hopefully my UPS driver won’t have a bad day today…




Close Encounter With A Long-tailed Weasel

I had a brief but interesting encounter with a Long-tailed Weasel yesterday morning at Farmington Bay.  The little mustelid ran across the road in front of my pickup and buried itself in the brush and rocks but on the long shot that it would reappear I stopped anyway.  And reappear it did, right under my nose.


long-tailed weasel 0641 ron dudley

 1/3200, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited or set up

At first it was in the shade of my pickup but eventually I got off a few shots as it leaned against a rock in the sun and checked me out.  It was too close for my 500mm plus teleconverter and I didn’t have time to remove my tc.  In the excitement I didn’t even think to grab my other camera with the attached 100-400mm zoom lens attached.  I blame that on buck fever…



long-tailed weasel 0644 ron dudley

  1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited or set up

It gave me one more slightly different pose and then it was gone.



long-tailed weasel 0628 ron dudley

  1/500,  f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited or set up

But I thought this earlier look at the weasel was interesting too, despite the fact that it was still in the shade of my pickup.  I enjoy the intimacy of this shot with the direct stare from those bulging eyes and the good look at the very long and sensitive “whiskers”.



long-tailed weasel 0628b ron dudley
An extreme crop of the same image reveals three things I thought were interesting:

  • How extremely narrow my depth of field was with the weasel this close at 700mm (500mm x 1,4 tc).  Only an ellipse-shaped area around the eyes is sharp – sharpness falls off very fast in front of and behind the eyes.
  • Based on this image, weasels have a bare patch of skin between the eyes and the nose that I was unaware of.  The patch in front of the right eye is largely covered by a matted piece of debris but the “bald” patch in front of the left eye can be easily seen here.
  • My pickup is reflected in the inside corner of each eye.


I find weasels to be extremely elusive subjects so even though the images I’ve presented here leave a lot to be desired I was still happy to get them.