Posted by: PMGDD | January 27, 2012

Black-backed Woodpecker – Jim Saunders

Jim Saunders reports:
     I was on my woodlot in Redmondville this afternoon packing some trails with my four-wheeler before the storm.   I stopped to listen for some sounds of bird activity and I heard a light, irregular tapping.  I was hoping it would be a Black-backed but it moved before I could get a shot.  This area was good habitat because there were many dead trees still standing as well as lying horizontally.
     It had only flown a short distance as I could easily hear it tapping again.  I started toward the sound with my backpack which contained my tripod.  However there was a lot of noise made by the pack catching on branches.  I decided to proceed without the back-pack and take my chance with a hand-held shot.  There was still a lot of noise because of the hard icy top on the snow.
     Progress toward the unknown bird was slow because I tried to keep the racket down to a dull roar.  As I came out into an opening I saw a beautiful male Black-backed.  As you can imagine I was quite excited and wondering if it would stay long enough for me to get a good shot.
     With the white background, the camera when on automatic, adjusts for it and the subject is underexposed.   So when I got off  the 4-wheeler, I had put the camera on manual and the focus on manual.  I tested it by taking a picture to see how much I had to adjust the exposure.  Also I have learned that branches which sometimes aren’t noticed, can interfere with the automatic focus even when it is set to focus on a subject as indicated by a single red dot.  Consequently I end up in panic mode because I have to find the focus switch, switch it to manual and then adjust the focus .  This is another problem because I can’t remember which way I should turn it to get the subject in focus and time marches on.  I had pre-focussed (new word??) at a distance of about 15 feet.   A tree was used for support.   I got three shots, two of which I was happy with.
     After awhile it struck me that it would have been better to have the support tree on the right with my right hand and wrist against it.   Having it on the left meant I had two hands shaking because I hand to press my left forearm against the tree to keep my left hand free to adjust the focus.  Not a bad day – got a half-decent photo and learned a lot.



  1. What an exciting shot ….. I can imagine the anxiety …. good exposure, good depth of focus.

    • Thank you Peter. Considering all the noise that the 4-wheeler and I had made, he didn’t appear to be bothered too much. Horizontal trees are much better for getting photos.
      The next opportunity I have, I’ll put the camera on the tripod before stalking him. He was certainly cooperative. He stayed on the downed tree for approximately two minutes.

  2. Jim, you might look into getting a mono-pod. It would be easier to handle
    and does a good job.

  3. Great shot,the yellow really sticks out

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