In late April 2013, life-long birder Lew Scharpf was photographing birds in a park in Auburn, Alabama, a city just west of the Georgia state line, when a male Pileated Woodpecker landed in a nearby tree. It was excavating a nest cavity about 70 feet above the ground. To get good photos, Scharpf knew he’d need his telephoto lens, extender, and tripod.
When he returned a few days later with the equipment, the male was with a female, and both woodpeckers were working on the cavity. Scharpf focused on the birds and was thankful for the rich blue sky behind them. Just as the female lifted her white-lined wings and flew out of the hole, the male perched beside it. He posted his remarkable photo of the scene in our U.S. and Canada Gallery.
Scharpf is a retired research biochemist from Auburn University. A birdwatcher since childhood, he travels frequently to observe and photograph birds. He is involved with local birding groups and was a board member of the Wood Duck Heritage Preserve and Siddique Nature Park, a site on the Alabama Birding Trails. Scharpf has posted photos of Swallow-tailed Kite, Whooping Crane, and other birds in our galleries.
He photographed the Pileateds regularly until two young birds fledged in late May. He says he’ll never forget “the joy of observing the large, colorful, and striking woodpeckers” during their nesting season.
Scharpf used the following equipment to make the photo:
Camera: Nikon D300s
Lens: Nikkor AF-S 300mm f/2.8 with a Nikon TC-20E III 2x teleconverter
Settings: 1/1000s, f/5.6, at 600mm, iso200; shutter exposure, tripod
Light: Natural, no flash
Format: TIFF converted to JPG
Adjustments: Slight cropping and exposure adjustments
A version of this article appeared in the December 2013 issue of BirdWatching magazine.