Regular readers of my blog will by now realise that to date my photography of Green Woodpeckers has been a continued struggle. There are two main reasons for my lack of success which I attribute to these birds being generally fairly thin on the ground in the north-west, compared to the south of the UK, and also due to their very wary nature. Often if you at look at one sideways from a good distance you will see it departing in undulating flight to the nearest tree. I have achieved better results this year with the species than previously which I view as some progress. However, they are not a species I have been able to specifically target and any photographs have come from chance encounters at a particular site I visit regularly.
Back in August I came across the male bird during an early morning session, hunting around for its ant breakfast in the dew soaked grass. The bird was starting to go through moult so not looking at its pristine best but when it comes to this tricky species any photos are welcome.
My observations of these very wary woodpeckers has taught me two main points that now steer my approach. Firstly the male birds, those with the red 'moustache', seem to be relatively more approachable than the females. Secondly if you can find a bird that is preoccupied feeding then your chance of approaching close is raised slightly above zero.
The main set of photographs from this session came when the bird became distracted whilst looking for ants along the edge of a footpath.
A moment to hold my breath and hope the bird would not fly off as it suddenly became suspicious and adopted an alert posture having heard the camera shutter.
A sigh of relief from me as it then relaxed and continued feeding.
Regardless of how careful a wildlife photographer is in their approach there are always factors beyond your control that can put a bird to flight. In this case a passing Sparrowhawk saw the woodpecker fly up to the refuge of the shady side of a nearby tree.
The bird stayed in this position motionless for a full 5 minutes before deciding it was not about to become a raptor meal and flew across to a small tree where I got my final photograph of the session.
This was probably my most prolonged encounter to date. When our next meeting will occur is difficult to say but hopefully this experience will leave me slightly better prepared. On the other hand the most likely outcome is the woodpecker will have different ideas and I will see the flash of its yellow rump as it disappears into the trees once more with its characteristic laughing calls.