I’ve posted before about trying to photograph green woodpeckers. As far as I can figure, they are just about the most cautious and shy bird I know of. Be anywhere in their vicinity and they will be aware of you and will often, in trees, even hide behind branches. Their comfort zone before they become disturbed is possibly in excess of 50m. That makes them just plain dam hard to photograph. It gets even worse because while you can predict the behaviour of some species and set up a blind and wait, I just can’t work out where the ‘greenies’ are going to land and forage. I know they will end up somewhere in a 400m by 200m area of a field some time of most days but getting this right to within 10m so I can photograph them is near impossible. I suspect they may be susceptible to baiting but I’m generally against this plus, I’m not even certain what will work as they dig for their food (it’s fascinating to watch them foraging by burrowing their bills into the ground).
But, on the plus side, I’ll generally see one or two, sometimes more greenies on my walk round the local fields that back onto woodland. Last Sunday while dog walking I got luckier and saw three birds bob off with their undulating flight away from us. We (dog and I) hung around on the edge of the field for a bit when one flew out of a nearby oak and back to about 30m into the field and began foraging. I managed to sneak up on it behind some brushwood at the field edge and gradually through that to a point where I could watch it and get some pictures. (Dog meanwhile decided to ignore me and chew a stick.) I got to within perhaps about 20m eventually. That’s about as close as I’ve ever got to one of these birds in an open field. Had the dog not been about I’d have been prone and crawling through wet grass and mud but there was no point in that because he would have got interested and come over to find out what I was up to.
While I’ve learnt to take the camera when dog walking so I can be opportunistic it’s not the ideal approach. Anyone else regularly dog walk with a DSLR, 500mm lens and monopod? It’s not exactly a normal ‘walkabout’ combination.
I’m getting closer… but still no cigar yet. Nevertheless, I though I’d share where I have got to. Funny thing is, this photo does show just how well camouflaged these birds are. The bird here is actually taking a moment to have a look round. The vast majority of the time, they are crouched down body parallel to and almost tucked into the ground as they hunt for grubs. Not easy to see and most people just completely miss them until they are spooked and fly off. I usually need binoculars to spot them at any distance in what often looks like an empty field.