Earlier this afternoon, Bob and I went into the woods to check out the spring growth. The leaves were slowly coming out and flowers were blossoming everywhere. On top of that, migratory birds have been flying through in massive waves. As Bob (my father) and I were talking about the dramatic and quick change from winter to spring, something caught my eye. I saw a vivid red bird sitting atop a stump, I simply and casually said, “check out that Cardinal!” Bob and I both stopped. We looked at each other and glared at the bird. A few moments passed by and we both simultaneously said, “wait….that’s a Scarlet Tanager!!” We stood watching the bird for a good five minutes in pure silence. After studying the Scarlet Tanager, Bob and I decided get our photography gear together and attempt to get some shots of the elusive Scarlet Tanager.
30 minutes passed by quickly as we set up our cameras and lenses. Bob used his Canon 1D Mark IV with a 600mm lens with flash. I used my Canon 7D with a 300mm lens (with 2x extender) and flash. We were set for anything. As soon as we triple checked out gear, we hit the trail. As we walked, Bob pulled out his iPhone and opened the iBird Midwest application. This application would later assist us in calling the Scarlet Tanager closer. About 10 minutes after we started walking, our trip was done. We firmly planted out tripod legs into the side of a large foothill infested with maple trees. Within a few minutes of getting our gear situated, Bob started to call for the elusive Tanager. We saw it flutter about almost instantly out of curiosity. However, it was flying throughout the treetops 30 feet above us, essentially making any type of shot impossible. However, Bob actually managed to get one shot of the Tanager when it briefly flew to a low hanging branch.
Meanwhile, as Bob was calling the Scarlet Tanager into our view, I noticed something extremely odd. Literally 25 feet in front of us was a dead Maple. Near the top of this Maple was a perfectly round hole that was unbelievable fresh. It was almost as if a bird just left. No sooner did a male Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker show up. It flew directly to the opening and went into the tree without hesitation. I was ecstatic and completely forgot about the Scarlet Tanager. I told Bob that Sapsuckers were literally constructing a nest as we speak directly in front of our eyes. Bob quickly placed his iPhone into his pocket and we focused on the construction of the nest. The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker entered and exited about every 10 minutes. Bob and I after getting our exposure settings adjusted, took around 200 pictures. Below are a few of the images we captured.
Above all, this experience proved that a photographer must always expect the unexpected. Bob and I went into the shoot prepared to capture images of a Scarlet Tanager and ended up shooting mainly the construction of a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker nest. We have plans to go back to this area to capture images of both the Scarlet Tanager and the Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers.