Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Acorn woodpecker, Point Reyes National Seashore

The Bear Valley Visitor's Center in Point Reyes National Seashore is a great place to look for birds. Quail are almost always hanging around, there's a great blue heron that likes to hunt for gophers in the area, and in addition to many other birds in the trees, there is a family unit of acorn woodpeckers that maintain some granary trees right in the middle of the picnic area. Whenever the light is still reasonable on my way out of the park I'll stop by and check out these colorful birds.

Acorn Woodpecker in Bear Valley - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Much to my delight on this trip, instead of having to crane my neck to watch the birds up high in the trees, this woodpecker was pecking away at eye level on the tree. It was so focused on chipping apart the bark, and apparently digging out insects from inside, that I was able to get quite close without disturbing it.

Acorn Woodpecker - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography>

The vertical frames are cropped from horizontal images, which isn't something I like to do on a regular basis. Unfortunately, I made the worst mistake a nature photographer can do before approaching the woodpecker -- I decided to leave my bag in the car, which held all of my extra memory cards. I almost always have an extra card in my jacket pocket, to make sure that this never happens. But on this day I made the mistake. So I fired away horizontally to get some establishing shots, and then just as I was getting ready to go vertical, I realized that I was out of "film". Very frustrated with myself for that one, since my long lens caught the attention of other visitors to the park, and after I walked away from the woodpecker to get another memory card, they proceeded to photograph it with their point and shoot -- which required getting way too close, and the bird flew off. Oh well, just another lesson of why you should always have an extra memory card in an accessible pocket and not in your bag (or in the car!).

Very interested woodpecker - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

This last shot was a bit of an experiment, as I tried to capture the motion of the bird as it pounded away at the bark. I'm not always a big fan of blurred images, but this characteristic motion almost works for me.

Woodpecker in motion - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

Visit my Bear Valley Visitor's Center Gallery.

Submitted to the World Bird Wednesday blog meme -- follow the link to check out this week's posts!


  1. Great captures Pat!! Blurring with woodpeckers is a problem. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  2. I checked out all of your Point Reyes photos, Pat. Lovely sets of shots. I am looking forward to more fun excursions there. Fun shots of the woodpeckers.

  3. What a beautiful Woodpecker! And that tree looks like a feeding place to woodpeckers.

  4. Cool shots. I love how they use their tail as a third leg...

  5. I can sympathize Pat. I've been there. The same holds true for a spare battery.

  6. Great shots. It is always good to get something when you luck into a rare sight.

  7. Fantastic post and photos Pat! I've done the same thing, leaving the extra CF cards somewhere just out of reach and even left them at home. I use a camo cover for my long lens and slip a spare card in the cover so I never find myself without a card.

  8. Oh Pat, he is adorable....I love the speed shot, too (he's a blur).

  9. I've never seen this woodpecker before. He's really unusual looking to me. Beady eyes. Carol

  10. Close is right, your stealth is great, any closer and the birds in your lens. Amazing detail Pat! I think the worse mistake is the one I'm making at the time. The list of things that can go wrong is long and wide, but the one mistake you don't want to make is not going out at all!

  11. Wow, fantastic set of photos, and I love the effect in the last one!

  12. OH boy been there on the left behind Camera CHIP--hate that but you have some excellent shots..LOVE that WHITE eye came out perfectly! The BLUR really does show the speed at which these guys can drum up a meal!

  13. Great photos of the Woodpecker

  14. Great sighting and photos. I just love this woodie, the eyes are cool.

  15. Oh my gosh! I think you captured enough great photos! I'd be happy! this is an awesome bird! I love the one with it's head upside down . . .

  16. Thanks, Gary! They do move quick, especially as they peck away at the bark!

    Thanks, Jen! I'm glad you enjoyed my Point Reyes galleries -- I'll be looking forward to your posts about what you see there!

    Thanks, dreamfalcon! That is one of their "granary trees". A family unit will control a few trees in an area (sometimes telephone poles too) and they'll cover the entire thing in holes like that. Then they pack acorns into the holes to save them for later. A fascinating bird for sure!

    Thanks, Mike! I agree -- that's really cool about woodpeckers.

    Thanks, Jim! Definitely true for batteries as well. In some ways, at least you can delete shots off of the card (time consuming, but doable) but if the power is gone, you're sunk!

    Thanks, Bill! I was definitely excited to see this bird just 5 or 6 feet of the ground, the first time I've ever witnessed one that low.

    Thanks, holdingmoments -- I'm glad you enjoyed them!

    Thanks, Carol B.! They are a really cute species!

    Thanks, Carol M.! They are somewhat unique with their yellow face and splash of red on the head.

    Thanks, Springman! And very astute comment -- I'd rather make mistakes in the field than not be out there!

    Thanks, Andrew!

    Thanks, Joo! I'm glad you like the motion one. I'm still undecided on it.

    Thanks, Adventuresinpointingandshooting!

    Thanks, Sondra! They sure do move quick when they're poundng away!

    Thanks, Mick!

    Thanks, Eileen!

    Thanks, Barb! I'm pleased with these, but I do wish I had some vertical shots that weren't cropped so much.

  17. You got some great shots of this busy little Woodpecker!

  18. Your shots are so close and crisp that you can really see him 'hugging' that tree and holding on. :)
    Excellent shots!
    I even like the blurry head shot.

  19. Thanks, Carletta! It is interesting to see how they spread out their feet to hang on like that!

  20. Marvelous images, Pat. Strange looking bird, looks like a clown with his black mask. Glad you got these shots. They made me smile this morning.