the woodpecker and the blackbird

I’m still working through the thousands of images from the 3-day bird photography workshop I attended in Alamo, Texas a couple of weeks ago, and found this series of interactions between a Golden-fronted Woodpecker and a Red-winged Blackbird.  No one can say those blackbirds aren’t feisty, pesky, and challenging.

Red-winged Blackbird vs Golden-fronted Woodpecker

the initial face-off — innocent bystander in the background looks on

Red-winged Blackbird vs Golden-fronted Woodpecker

the initial attack, blackbird pecks at woodpecker

Red-winged Blackbird vs Golden-fronted Woodpecker

woodpecker retaliates, but the blackbird won’t back down

Red-winged Blackbird vs Golden-fronted Woodpecker

trying the overhead threat approach

Red-winged Blackbird vs Golden-fronted Woodpecker

okay, maybe it works better from this angle instead

Red-winged Blackbird vs Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Success! Annoy the woodpecker enough and it finally leaves

Setting up the pose

If there is one thing I’ve learned from the Alan Murphy workshop in Alamo, Texas, it’s to make sure you have the right set up before you bring birds in to photograph.  Providing the right food is just the final step.

Altamira Oriole

An Altamira Oriole landed exactly where it was supposed to, on a bare portion of the mesquite, next to the grape.

First, find suitable staging perches from which the bird will fly a short distance to the food.  That ensures that you will get some good flight shots out and/or back.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

A Golden-fronted Woodpecker popped his head up on the side of the stump feeder which had been decorated with flowers and greenery.

Second, decorate the source of the food so it doesn’t look like a feeder.  Alan gets quite creative with his decorations so that the colors blend well with both the background and add some splashes of color to the photo.

Great Kiskadee

A Great Kiskadee landed exactly where we had pre-focused, on the brightly colored berries that contrast nicely with the green leaves of the citrus orchard behind it.

Make sure the feeder set up has a nice backdrop 30-50 feet away, so that you will get a smooth background with a telephoto shot.  Then, of course, you have to have a place to sit with your camera on a tripod that is at the same level as the feeder and the staging perch, so you are not shooting down on the birds.  Blinds are ideal, although a little chilly for us to sit in during the winter in Minnesota.  Raising the feeder perch and staging perch to window height works too.

And voila, wonderful photos that hardly need editing!  In fact, the only editing I did on these photos was some very minor cropping.

Birds in flight

I’m currently in Alamo, Texas attending a bird photography workshop run by Alan Murphy, and learning how to set up for taking photos of small birds in flight. Today’s challenge — learn how to pre-focus the camera in the place you expect the birds to be. Sometimes it worked, but most of the time, I captured an empty perch.

Great Kiskadee vs Red-winged Blackbird

Great Kiskadee vs Red-winged Blackbird

Green Jays

Green Jays

Golden-fronted Woodpecker vs Cardinal

Golden-fronted Woodpecker vs Cardinal

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker vs Blackbird