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Downy on a Birch

Downy on a Birch
Photo Information
Copyright: John Plumb (JPlumb) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 618 W: 158 N: 896] (2904)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2007-12-26
Categories: Birds
Camera: Nikon D200, NIKKOR AF-S 18-200mm F3.5-5.6 ED DX VR, Optex 77mm Circular Polariser
Exposure: f/13.0, 1/60 seconds
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2008-02-04 18:07
Viewed: 3823
Points: 36
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
This is a female (no red on the head) Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) on a Paper Birch Tree (Betula papyrifera). I’m basing the bird ID on relative size (6” vs larger 9” Hairy Woodpecker, and length of beak, the Downy beak is shorter than the Hairy’s beak which is the length of its head.

There have been a lot of posts so far on the Downy Woodpecker. It is a very well liked bird on this site, so I’m going to talk a little about the Paper Birch Tree. You will often see this tree as the landing pad for many of the birds seen on this site from Canada and the northern United States, including: the Jays, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Redpolls, Finches, Grosbeaks, Cardinals, Woodpeckers, Sparrows, Owls, Hawks, (did I miss any), etc. It is a very common medium sized deciduous tree reaching 20 m with older trees having trunks up to 80cm in diameter.

The trees are unique because of their bark, which you can see in this shot. The bark is white, and peels off naturally (or un-naturally) in paper thin strips. (Note: if you peel it off by hand you can weaken the tree if you remove too much). It’s a perpetual shedding process winter and summer, with new bark constantly replenishing the old. You can see in the shot just under the woodpecker where a sheet has peeled off, and more is getting ready to peel off. It has been used, primarily by Native Americans as a writing material, and the waterproof bark was used for the outer coating of “Birch Bark” Canoes.

Because of its abundance it provides a great secondary source of food for moose or white tailed deer, and the seedlings provide a source of food for the Horseshoe Hare, Porcupines will feed on the inner bark, and mice and birds will eat the seeds.

It is a very popular tree. People will plant this in their yards for its appearance. The wood can be used for hardwood furniture, it burns well, and the bark itself makes an excellent fire starter (better than gas / petrol). If I’m out and see this in the bush, (on the ground), I will always pick some up for future use. It will even work damp.

It is the provincial tree of Saskatchewan and the state tree of New Hampshire.

What’s important to us of course, in photography it provides an ideal base or natural backdrop for our nature shots.

Much of this from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper_Birch
Bird ID from: Stokes, Donald and Lillian (1996), Stokes Field Guide to Birds – Eastern Region, Little, Brown and Company, Boston

Workflow for this shot was as follows:
The shoot – shot in Raw with Jpeg reference (170mm f13 1/60)
NEF file adjusted for exposure and shadow, and vignetting
Adjusted levels for black and white points
Adjusted curves for contrast
Burned and Dodged with overlay layer (5% opacity black and white brush)
Added saturation layer +15 to master
Saved as a tiff
For this post, resized, selected on the sky and reduced noise, inversed the selection, created a new layer, sharpened with USM and 30-70% opacity black brush), framed and saved as a jpeg

rousettus, xTauruSx, rcrick, CeltickRanger, mlines, marhowie, Elanor, timonejoon, pierrefonds, jusninasirun, Adanac has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To xTauruSx: BalanceJPlumb 1 02-05 14:26
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Critiques [Translate]

Hello John
Wonderful shot! TFS. Regards, Deniz

Hi John,
this Woodpecker is different species I have known up to now, but all species of the family Picidae somewhat similar. You capture it from inresting view, but very nice (POV). focus, composition also very nice. good notes. TFS, well done

hello john,
nice capture of the woodpecker, i liked the pov and the composition, the details of the bark looks beautiful,
tfs & regards

  • Great 
  • Mana Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1772 W: 36 N: 5597] (18598)
  • [2008-02-04 18:44]

Hi John,
I will be back later with a proper critique. Sorry friend.

Hi John,
Lovely capture of this female Downy Woodpecker, excellent POV creating a nice angle, superb detail in the tree trunk, and nicely framed, Cheers Rick :)

hello John

superb shot with a grat POV and i love that in the vertical framing
the tree is framed in diagonally way, excellent détails of the image, TFS


  • Great 
  • Jamesp Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
  • [2008-02-04 22:29]

Hi John

The angle here is unusual (in a good way) - it sort of makes the viewer feel like another bird lower down. Good detail on the woodpecker.


  • Great 
  • mlines Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 556 W: 26 N: 668] (3116)
  • [2008-02-04 22:34]

Hi John, This is double happiness, appropriate for Chinese New Year this week. I like the paper birch and the bird you captured on it suits it well. Almost the same colouring. Good POV and notes. TFS. Murray.

Interesting POV/composition John, showing both the birch and woodpecker with nice detail. Very different, I like it :)

  • Great 
  • Elanor (50)
  • [2008-02-05 6:02]

Great photo! Very nice POV! The bird is perfectly sharp!

Hi John,
SUperbe composition les couleurs du pic se marient très bien avec l'écorce de l'arbre, beaux détails.

Hi John

it is funny; i feel like the tree doping and the bird stiking to it:))
Nice composition. you did very nice editing as well. perfect.
well done


Hi John,

A nice image of the downy woodpecker on the birch tree, the bird position on the photo give an advantage to birch tree. The point of view is showing the details and colors of the bird and of the tree. The photo is clear and precise. Well done, have a nice day.


Hello John,

This is a beautiful bigger perspective of this woodpecker. I wider shot like this is rather important for people like me who live in a different environment than yours. I like the sharpness of the bird and the tree contrasting well with the blue sky. Very well done and best regards.


p/s: Thanks for the PS tip. :-)

  • Great 
  • Adanac Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1273 W: 1 N: 6188] (21378)
  • [2008-02-06 18:20]

Hello John,
Outstanding composition, wonderful camera work, this is a pleasure to look at John, thanks.

  • Great 
  • arfer Gold Star Critiquer [C: 2731 W: 0 N: 0] (0)
  • [2008-02-09 20:01]

Hello John

A very interesting POV.
The birch cuts a nice diagonal through the frame.
Very good focus on the woodpecker,it's plumage shows well.
Great job.


  • Great 
  • EOSF1 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1393 W: 119 N: 5267] (23955)
  • [2008-02-10 3:59]

Hello John, great image of the Pecker, the composition is clever with the diagonal tree, very sharp and great exposure, thanks!


Hello John,
I like to see the bird in this fine pose, blue sky background and sitting on the white birch!
Good focus on the little featherball, otherwise I notice the fine details in the birch...
Pablo -

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