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Black-backed Woodpecker - Picoides arcticus - Pic à dos noir | by Paul B Jones
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Black-backed Woodpecker - Picoides arcticus - Pic à dos noir

The Timmins 9 fire burnt its way through 530 square kilometres of northern Ontario in the spring, summer and fall of 2012. By the winter of 2014 life was pouring back into the area, notably in the form of Black-backed and American Three-toed Woodpeckers. These boreal forest species thrive among the dead trees left behind by burns, feeding on the abundant insect larvae in the decaying wood.


The challenge to photograph these woodpeckers was not their shyness. As with many other northern birds they are ridiculously tame, we made a point of touching the trees they were working in just to say we did. The problems we had to overcome included cold, wind, falling snow and deep snow on the ground. Even though the birds were close to the road we still needed snowshoes to reach them. Without them we floundered up to our waists in the heavy drifts; with them we could proceed slowly through burnt forest, tracking down the woodpeckers' steady tapping.


One thing I notice with photography is that it reveals details I had missed as a pure bird watcher. The partially hidden white tuft behind the eye of the Black-backed Woodpecker was not something I fully appreciated until this photography expedition. And while I generally realized that the Black-backed was a bigger bird than the Three-toed, the significant difference in bill size between the two was again not apparent until now. For a comparison take a look at the next photo in my photostream.


Taken with monopod mounted Canon EOS-1D Mark IV and EF 800mm f/5.6 L IS USM lens at 0.003 second (1/320), f/5.6, ISO Speed 1600 with +1/3 EV and Image Stabilization on. I probably could have suppressed the background noise a bit more when I processed the picture in Lightroom but I was worried about losing more detail in the bird itself.


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Taken on March 11, 2014