Sunday, November 18, 2012

Oatka Creek Park • November 18

Pileated Woodpecker. It was a sunny morning at Oatka today. As I walked down the dirt road from the parking lot to the woods, I heard the nearby "hammer and chisel work" of this Pileated Woodpecker. This turned into a great photo op! It would be a fairly quiet morning otherwise. Note the brown iris. (More on that below.)

Pileated Woodpecker. A professional wildlife photographer once said if the eyes are clear and sharp in a picture, then it will be perceived as a "good" picture, regardless of whatever else might be wrong with the shot. Here there are a lot of branches in the way, though the eye is clear, sharp, and unobscured. "Good" picture, or "bad" picture? You decide.

Pileated Woodpecker. Pileateds frequency turn their heads fully 90 degrees to the left and to the right while excavating food. Here you can see that the red stops at the forehead and the forehead, itself, is brown. This is a female.

Pileated Woodpecker. Again, the iris is brown. This is probably a first year female, i.e., it hatched back in early spring, probably March. Why am I not entirely sure? Because it is a female: Cornell's Birds of North America says that young males and females will both have brown irises, and that in the males and *some* females they will turn golden or yellow with maturity. It has not been established that the iris color changes in *all* females. Another possible clue is that the black feathers are slightly brownish, indicative of a younger bird, instead of the pure black of an adult. *However* this was in the early morning golden sunlight, which makes everything look warmer. Still, I tried to white balance the image so that the whites were truly white, so any remaining brown in the black feathers may be real.

Pileated Woodpecker. A nice pose! The brown of the forehead and the brownish cast of the black feathers is not very different.

Pileated Woodpecker. And a nice head shot to end the encounter!

Downy Woodpecker. This woodpecker perching on the shadow side of the tree is no fluke. Birds usually make it a distinct point to stay on the shadow sides of the tree whenever possible (making them less visible to predators). When they work to the sunny sides, it is usually a quick dash unless they find something particularly tantalizing.