Boyscouts Would Make Good Bird Photographers

Their motto is “Be prepared.”

pileated woodpecker
This is the Pileated Woodpecker – about 15 inches tall. Woody Woodpecker was modeled after this magnificent bird.

One of the most important tips I could give any beginner or would-be digital SLR photographer is to always be ready. Always have your camera with settings that will allow a quick photo when the opportunity arises.

Wondering why I am giving this advice right now? I was hoping you would ask 🙂

This past weekend was a monumental one in my life as a photographer. I captured the picture of my dreams!

It’s the Pileated Woodpecker pictured here.

And here’s how I got this amazing bird picture:

I have been getting ready for this photo for almost 7 years. Oh, it’s not like I have been consciously thinking about and preparing every day for that long. Nope, it’s just that I have done my due diligence to lure birds to my camera with purpose and diligence.

bird photography- downy woodpecker
My feeder has given me many great shots of birds that look very natural.

I started with a bird feeder years ago. Then I got this idea that if I had a bird feeder that looked like a bird’s natural habitat, the images I got would be so much better. I found an branch on one of the trees in my yard, and I did some tree surgery, cutting it off at just the right spot so I could fashion some holes for bird food that had branches near them for the birds to perch on.

The project took me several hours, and I actually had to start over after botching it the first time. But in the end, I had a “natural” bird feeder.

I have taken many a bird photograph over the past 6+ years from the comfort of my back deck and my kitchen window.

It was a great day when I realized I did not have to go out in the cold for these pictures. I could take them through the kitchen window. The birds didn’t like me on the deck, but they could care less if I am inside looking out. Sometimes they come right up to the window and pose, or at least they look as if they are posing.

I usually keep my camera loaded and nearby.. like a boyscout, I am ready.

However, when the pileated woodpecker showed up on my suet feeder, I was so excited I froze. I could not bring myself to move and reach for the camera. It was there for only a few seconds before it flew off into the distant trees.

I was only a little disappointed that I did not get that picture. The feeder was not positioned well for a good shot. So I took the time to reload the feeder and reposition it so that I could get the best shot possible.

Then I waited… for two days.

I was able to get a pretty good shot of the pileated woodpecker in the tree next to my kitchen window.
I was able to get a pretty good shot of the pileated woodpecker in the tree next to my kitchen window.

Sunday morning, my patience paid off. The woodpecker flew in from the west and I calmly picked up my camera. It already had my most powerful lens, a Sigma 18-250mm zoom lens, attached with the lens cap off.

I snapped off several good shots, and then, instead of flying into the distant trees, the bird flew up into the tree next to the house, and I was able to get another shot of it there. This one was not quite as sharp as I would like, but it is definitely a more natural looking photo.

So, the “Tip of the Day” is: Be Prepared.