Pileated WoodpeckerFebruary 2005


These aren't among my best bird photos, but the pileated woodpecker is so magnificent that I felt I had to begin somewhere, especially since I'm presently in my woodpecker series.

Peterson refers to it as crow-sized, but particularly in flight the pileated woodpecker looks much larger, courtesy of its wingspan. Thus far it has been very shy: Any sound of approach and it takes off. All the photos are from several hundred feet at a minimum. (Tim Fuller, a good friend of mine, tells me that come spring mating season, the woodpecker should be less sensitive, so we'll see.)

The first time Sue and I came across this woodpecker (in November 2004), it was on a bare tree on the edge of the lake by the golf course, which borders the game land next to Cooper's Pond.
Pileated woodpecker on trunk
We didn't see anything of the pileated woodpecker again until the beginning of December, when we came across it in a forested section of the game land. Although focusing was a hassle, the real problem was getting a clear line of sight past all the various branches.
Pileated woodpecker through forest
By the time I maneuvered into a reasonably clear position, the woodpecker turned its back to me and took off (and flew low so that the branches obscured it once more).
Pileated woodpecker from behind
That was the last sighting until the middle of January when I saw a large bird flying from a long ways away. I zoomed my lens to its longest setting and took several photos. From its wingspan, I thought it was a heron; but in checking Peterson's at home, I realized that it had the characteristic underside of the pileated woodpecker (best seen on the right wing).
Pileated woodpecker in flight
The other day, Sue saw the pileated woodpecker just outside where we live at Cooper's Pond, but it was gone before I could spot it. Tim is probably right (as usual): Spring should be a good time for photos of the pileated woodpecker. Stay tuned.

Photo note: I used a Pentax *istD, with the SMC-A* 300mm for the first photo and the SMC 400-600mm reflex lens for the others.

My Pennsylvania bird list

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