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on Oct 17, 2013 in Wildlife Photography

New Buddy in the Yard

Red-brstd Sapsucker 0634

“It’s so cool, he’s still here and drilling” read the text I received from Sharon while still in the Tetons. All of the Aspens on our property have gone bare with fall except one. Our biggest Aspen still has green leaves and that’s the only reason I can figure we have a new buddy in the yard. This immature Red-breasted Sapsucker has been in the yard for over a week now, never really leaving what we now assume he feels is his tree. The sapsucker get their name from their drilling “wells” in living trees so the sap pools and runs out. They drink this nectar and eat the insects that are attracted to the sap. Hummers love these natural feeders as well, but ours have all headed south. You can see our buddies progress as he rings the trunk. Does it kill the tree? Surprisingly, no. He’s a really cool little dude, you can walk right up to the tree and look up and watch him, he doesn’t flush.

Red-brstd Sapsucker 0542

On the photographic side, sapsuckers and woodpeckers can be a challenge since they are often high in the tree. In this particular case, if I were trying to photograph him from the ground, I wouldn’t do it. The angle up is just too much for a nice angle. But I am able to shoot across to our buddy from our 2nd story deck. With the D4 / 800AFS with its TC-25E at 1000mm I could get the image size you see. The key here is the use of flash. Using the Wimberley F-9 Flash Bracket for Head Version II to hold the SB-910 (powered by Nikon SD-9 with a Better Beamer (shortened SC-29 connecting it all), I shot. When our buddy was on the right of the trunk, it was much easier to meld the flash and ambient light. When he was on the left of the trunk, the use of flash is much more apparent. Why is that? The mind’s eye sees the brightness on the back of the sapsucker and expects a shadow. The combination of the light of the flash and the bounce off the trunk, fine tuning flash exposure for the left side of the trunk took longer than our buddy gave me. On the right side, it was a simple click. The whole time, I’m using CS e4 which permits me to set the ambient light exposure compensation and flash exposure compensation independently and that is critical for my style of shooting. While you’re reading this, I’m back out on the deck with our buddy. I have a small window each morning to shoot as the sun rises and leaves the trunk. mtc