02.24.19: Nuthatch on feeder

White-breasted Nuthatch perched on feeder, Blendon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK ARCHIVES

Technical information

Date/time:
Jan. 23, 2015,
10:21 a.m.

Location
40°4'23.899" N 82°52'5.52" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Camera: 
Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Lens: 
Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 

Aperture: 
f/5.6

Shutter: 
1/1000th second

ISO: 
5000

I have a number of photos of White-breasted Nuthatches in my files, but this one is a bit different. The reason: The bird is upright.

Most of my other nuthatch photos show the bird facing down, clinging to the bark of a tree.

Nuthatches spend their day climbing up and down the trunks of trees looking for insects hiding in the bark. When facing down, they will often “pose” — positioning their head and body at a 90-degree angle to the tree trunk — to get a good look at their surroundings.

That's the perfect time to get a photo of a nuthatch.

When I see a nuthatch moving down a tree trunk I quickly focus on the bird and track it, waiting for it to look around. The preparation and anticipation allow me to get photographs showing the typical behavior of nuthatches.

But this photo required a different kind of preparation.

I was shooting in a local park on a cold winter morning, using a viewing shelter beside a pond as a blind to avoid disturbing birds. A small window in the side of the shelter overlooked a busy feeder, so I positioned myself at that window to get some photos of birds as the queued up on nearby tree branches waiting for a spot to open at the feeder.

I had photographed a number of birds on the branches— primarily Northern Cardinals, titmice and chickadees — when I noticed that a nuthatch was avoiding the wait and flying directly to the feeder. So I focused on the edge of the feeder and waited. After a few minutes the nuthatch returned and I had my shot.

The nuthatch in this photo is a female. Females often have a gray cap rather than the common black cap.

The nuthatch gets its name from its unusual feeding technique. The birds jam acorns and other large nuts into tree bark, then whack them with their sharp bill. That hatches the seed from inside the nut. 

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.