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Category Archives: Red-bellied Woodpecker

I continue to photograph birds ad my bird feeder. The weather has been too warm to ski so I spend my time photographing birds.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

Common Redpoll

Common Redpoll

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Most of the birds are now off raising their young. The Baltimore and Orchard Orioles were at the feeders in large numbers but they have tailed off. Hopefully they are nesting in the area and will return to the feeders with their young.

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

Orchard Oriole

Orchard Oriole

The Grey Catbirds are nesting around the house in various evergreen trees and shrubs.

Grey-Catbird-15-5-_1164

The Chipping Sparrows are also nesting in the same evergreen trees. It might get crowded.

Chipping-Sparrow-15-5-_1337

The Woodpeckers are some of the most frequent visitors to my feeding stations. Hopefully they will be bringing their young to the feeders in the near future.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Red bellied Woodpecker

Red bellied Woodpecker

The Ruby-throated Humming birds are going through about a gallon of sugar water every few days.

Ruby-throated-Hummingbird-15-5-_0943

Ruby-throated-Hummingbird-15-5-_1418

More bird photos can be found on my website.

My main interest is photographing birds while it’s snowing out but I do shoot at other times. These are a few birds seen at my feeders in the last few weeks.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

A few days ago we had, what was supposed to be, a brief morning snow squall. I had an appointment in town in the morning and was disappointed that I would miss the opportunity to photograph birds. As it turned out the snow squall turned into an all day event giving me an opportunity to get some great winter bird shots.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Northern Cardinal - female

Northern Cardinal – female

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

The past several days there have been a variety of birds at my feeders. For the most part they are the usual suspects. The Pine Siskin’s are a bit rare for my feeders.

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

We have been having lots of snow this winter. Here are some photos taken during a recent snow storm.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

The first week in March we had a significant snow storm. Most of the snow was scheduled to occur during the evening hours but it was delayed a bit and it ended up snowing most of the next day. A nice snowstorm always makes for some great bird photography. I went out the evening before the storm started and made sure all of my bird feeders were filled. The next morning there were large numbers and a great variety of birds at the feeders. I was able to photograph ten different species of birds during the morning.

Northern Cardinal - male

Northern Cardinal – male

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker male

Downy Woodpecker male

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

Common Redpoll female

Common Redpoll female

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

Northern Cardinal female

Northern Cardinal female

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

For a number of years I used a standard wire suet feeder at my bird feeder. While it attracted some birds it did not provide a very interesting prop for photographing the birds. In looking for an alternative feeder my primary goal was to make something that provided an interesting landing spots so I could photograph birds in a more natural setting. I noticed a tip in Birds and Blooms that described how to make a suet feeder using a log. Since I live on an 80 acre farm I have lots of logs around.

More bird photos from the farm can be found on my website.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

The first feeder I made was from a small log I had in my woodpile. It was about 18 inches long and partially rotted. That made it a little lighter to lift up to the feeder. I drilled a bunch of 1.5 and 2 inch holes in it and filled it with some commercial suet that I was using at the time. It seemed to work well and the woodpeckers liked it. One day, after a storm, it fell from the pole it was attached to and split into several pieces.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

I immediately started looking for another log. This time I chose to make one out of a birch tree that had recently been cut down. I cut an 18 inch section out of it and drilled a number of holes in it. The birch worked well during the winter when the white blended in with the snow. However, in the summer it provided too much of a dynamic range when photographed with a dark background of grass and pine trees so I took it down and went looking for another prop.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers

Red-bellied Woodpeckers

This time I found an oak tree, out in the woods, that was partially rotted. I cut a an 18 inch piece out of it and drilled some holes in it. I used this one for a couple of years This past summer when it was really hot out the suet melted and impregnated the log and making it too heavy to lift up to the feeder.

Poplar Log

Poplar Log

Off I went again to find something else. This time I chose a partially rotted poplar tree. I also chose one that was about 3 feet long. I had a couple of reasons for choosing this tree. First it was a softer wood and I realized that Pileated Woodpeckers were attracted to it. I have plenty of Pileated Woodpeckers around destroying my poplar trees but they never show up at my feeder. Second, it had a number of broken limbs sticking out.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

All of my other homemade suet feeds were straight sided logs. It was fine for the woodpeckers but noticed that the non- woodpeckers had problems using the feeder. They had difficulty holding on to the straight sided logs. They would try perching on any little nodule on the log but most of the time they were unsuccessful. I wanted to see if the new feeder with perches for the non woodpeckers would attract more birds to the feeder.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

I have been amazed how much better this new feeder is for attracting birds. Within a few weeks of putting it up a Pileated Woodpecker turned up and has continued to come to the feeder all winter. This feeder has also attracted a variety of birds that never fed at my traditional suet feeder or my earlier straight sided feeders. This has included Northern Cardinals and Grey Catbirds. It has also allowed the Black-capped Chickadee and the Dark-eyed Junco to feed. In the past they tried but really needed a perch to stand on.

Downy Woodpecker and Northern Cardinal

Downy Woodpecker and Northern Cardinal

One of the problems with a homemade log suet feeder if getting the suet into the holes. Several companies make round suet logs which are easy to get into the holes. I just inserted them into the hole I drilled and cut them off with a spackling knife. I thought they were a little pricy. The other problem was that, particularly with the soft wood like Poplar the birds started to drill their own holes and enlarge the holes I made so the logs no longer fit. I started just filling the holes with suet by hand. That proved a little messy since most of the suet is crumbly. It made a mess but as long as I did it outside it wasn’t a problem. However, I started losing too much of it when the weather turned cold. When it reached -15 I decided I wanted to fill the feeder in the house. This really made a mess in the basement with crumbly suet.

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

A few weeks ago I decided to try heating the suet cakes in the microwave. I used a little too much power and the suet became the consistency of wet cement. However, When I took it down to fill the feeder it worked great. I just used a spoon to pour it into the holes. I poked it a little to eliminate air bubbles and with the cold weather the suet hardened like cement.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

What I will be looking for in my next suet feeder will be a soft wood with lots of natural perches for the birds. This seems to create the widest range and the largest number of birds.

More information on my various bird perches can be found in an earlier blog.

 

One of my favorite winter activities in trying to photograph birds in a snowstorm. It can be a challenge because I’m usually dealing with really low light conditions which makes it difficult to get a crisp shot. The other problem is trying to maintain focus with blowing snow and trees blowing around. Never-the-less it is fun to try because a good storm usually brings a variety of birds to the feeding station. Here are a few shots from last weekends storm.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve always had a suet feeder as part of my bird feeding station but it’s only been recently that I’ve started my search for the ultimate feeder.

I started out with the commercial wire feeder filled with suet from the a local butcher shop. My brother-in-law has one of these and it works great for him. Unfortunately what worked for him didn’t work for me. For some reason my birds were a little finicky. I continued with the standard wire suet feeder but switched to using commercial suet blocks. For whatever the reason the birds preferred the commercial suet blocks. They particularly liked the peanut suet. I mainly attracted Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers. The only problem with this arrangement is that it’s no fun to photograph a bird on a wire suet feeder. It just doesn’t have much appeal.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

I decided to switch to a homemade feeder. I burn wood in the winter so I walked out to the woodpile and selected a log that it looked like I could use at the feeding station. I drilled holes all around it. I decided to use the commercial suet mainly peanut flavored. The problem with this type of feeder is that it takes quite a bit of work to keep it in suet since the suet block has to be cut up and the suet forced in the holes. There are some log suet on the market but I preferred forcing it in my hand. The birds seemed to like it and it provided a slightly better prop for photographing birds. Again I usually just attracted Downy, Hairy Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Unfortunately the piece of wood I selected fell off of the feeder and was destroyed.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

My brother-in-law happened to have a nice birch log so I had him drill some hole in it and I used it for the winter month. It worked great and blended in nicely with the snow. However, in the spring, it proved to be too bright a surface to photograph against because it resulted in too high a dynamic range.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

I headed back out to the woods and found a partially rotted branch from a large oak tree. This worked fairly well until the warm summer months. The suet I was using started to get runny and the log became so heavy with suet grease that I had trouble getting it up on the feeder. This feeder had a little knob on it and I noticed some of the other birds trying to land on the knob and get at the suet. Unfortunately they were rarely successful.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

Since the log was loaded with grease I decided to replace it. Late last summer I went looking for something that was a little softer and had some branches sticking out of it. I found part of an old Popular Tree that was partially rotted and also had some bark on it. I was amazed at what a difference this prop made. The rough bark and the branches allowed more birds access to the suet. Now all of the birds that come to the feeder are using it including a Pileated Woodpecker who just loves it and comes just about every day. Unfortunately with the Pileated visiting frequently the suet doesn’t last long and I don’t think the prop will make it much past next spring. With the soft wood the woodpeckers are making additional holes so I started filling those with suet as well.

Northern Cardinal and Downy Woodpecker

Northern Cardinal and Downy Woodpecker