Several days ago I bought a new 300mm telephoto lens. I've been eager to try it out, and December 21st was just the day to do so. I traveled out to a few local parks, including the newer Mary Virginia Crites-Hannan Park right outside of Circleville in Pickaway County. Although a smaller park, there's a decent patch of second-growth forest and a nice prairie they planted about four or five years ago. It's a really birdy park too, which brings me to the subject of this post. There were at least two Downy Woodpeckers in the small area I explored and I was able to get a few photos of them.
here. In Ohio, when you come across a Downy/Hairy woodpecker, it's much more likely to be a Downy. Hairy's are not rare by any means though.
Woodpeckers are well-adapted to their bark-clinging lifestyles. If you look at the photo above, you can see a Downy's large feet with large, curved claws; this helps with clinging to bark. Woodpeckers are also a bit different from other terrestrial birds. Most terrestrial birds have feet with three toes facing forward and one toe facing backward; this arrangement is known as anisodactyl feet. Essentially all woodpeckers have zygodactyl feet, which is where two toes face forward and two face backward. This arrangement also helps woodpeckers cling to bark better. Woodpeckers also use their tail to brace themselves as they cling to bark. If you look at the previous photo, you can see this in use; the tail is pushed down against the branch in order to help stabilize the woodpecker. A woodpecker's tail is made up of very stiff feathers, and these feathers are attached to large muscles which allow for a range of fine muscle control. If you've ever seen a woodpecker climb up a tree, you've probably noticed that it climbs in short, jerky bursts instead of one fluid motion. Woodpeckers actually climb by using their feet and tail. A woodpecker will lean close to the bark, which takes pressure off the tail, and then push straight up with their legs. They will then swing their legs up quickly and grab the bark once more before bringing their tail down to stabilize everything. They will repeat this method to ascend a tree, which gives them their jerky climbing appearance.
I haven't had many bird-related posts on this blog, but that has started to change in the past month. I'm a bird-guy first and foremost, but I haven't been able to get any decent photos with the lenses that I had. With my new 300mm lens, I should have more opportunities to get some photos, and hopefully that means more bird posts, so keep on the lookout!