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on Jan 2, 2012 in Wildlife Photography

We’ve Got Nothin but Dirt!

We have a whole lot of bird feeders on our property. They serve a couple of purposes, one of them being bringing in species that otherwise wouldn’t stick around long enough to get any glass on them. One popular food source we put out is commercial suet. It brings in all sorts of birds, most being nuthatches and woodpeckers. Red-shafted Flicker are real common at our feeders though you rarely seem them about in the forest. We love these guys, especially in the spring when the males go to attracting mates. The males attract a mate by drumming on choice branches and trunks, those that are hollow and resonate really loudly. Well the males that visit our feeders have found that the aluminum chimneys on our homes make a really loud should when they drum on them. Our neighbors don’t take kindly to them, but it makes me laugh. I normally don’t photograph the birds directly on the feeder but rather perches beside them. I really focus on this during the winter and in the spring when the birds are in their finest. But here’s the problem…

We’ve got nothin but dirt! We have not one stitch of snow on our property where we should have a minimum of ten vertical feet. This presents a whole bunch of problems but for my photography, two kind of big ones. The first being with no snow cover, there is a ton of food available for critters. There is no need to gather at our feeders for food when the critters can range near and far for food. At the same time, photos like this one above of a Flicker waiting its turn for the suet with the snow falling during a break in a storm aren’t possible. It’s so bad, I don’t even have my 600mm set up by my desk (where it was when I took these two photos) because there ain’t no snow! Can you say bummer in the sierra?

Can you see the difference between the two Flickers? One is a male and the other a female. On our property, the females are really scarce so whenever they appear, I try to make clicks. The bottom photo is the female, you can tell by the lack of the red mustache. If you look at the bottom of the perch or her breast, you’ll notice lots of white light. That’s not flash fill, that’s natural fill…snow! That’s the other reason why I’m bummed right now because even if I had birds, without the snow I would have to work harder because I would need flash fill. As it is though, we’ve got nothin but dirt!

In the Bag
600f4VR AFS
TC-17e II
Gitzo 5561SGT w/ Wimberley Head
Lexar 32GB 600x cards
with snow most definitely not in the bag!