Ladder-backed Woodpecker in Woodlands

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We’ve returned from a brief and rather hectic few days on the East Coast.

Let’s kick things off with this image of a male Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

Ladder-backed Woodpeckers are a relatively common species in the southwestern United States. I think of them as being mainly desert dwellers because they seem to like mesquite and palo verde trees in arid areas. However, they have a broader range than “just” the desert. I encountered this one in fairly dense woodlands near the banks of a creek.

I often hear these woodpeckers long before I see them. They forage by pounding relentlessly on tree limbs and trunks, looking for small invertebrates. What first alerts me to one’s presence is a steady “tap-tap” noise as it hammers away. Frequently, it will punctuate its hammering with sharp one-note calls.

Attempting to photograph a Ladder-backed Woodpecker can sometimes be an almost comically frustrating experience. The bird will tolerate a human standing within a few meters, but invariably goes to the opposite side of the tree from where the observer stands. That behavior often results in my circling a tree with the woodpecker always just seconds ahead of me. It’s rather rare that one poses in the open.

Image made with a Canon R5, Canon EF 400mm f4 DO II lens+Canon EF 1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 3200, f5.6 @ 1/1600, -1/3 stop exposure compensation.

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