While we were waiting for the “elusive” Great Gray Owls in Eastern Oregon, we decided to take in the Owl’s habitat and photograph the surroundings. In one of the areas where the Forest Service had set up platforms for the Owls to nest, we found a few snags that were housing some Pygmy Nuthatches.
A cavity nesting bird, they like to use abandoned woodpecker holes and other cavities to raise their young. Feeding all the hungry mouths is a 2 parent effort. The male and females were constantly darting in to the nest with bugs they gleaned from nearby trees, and when exiting carrying out the young’s fecal sacs. This could happen up to a few times per minute.
After a few minutes you will notice a pattern. Insects are more active when it is warm. So when the sun comes out, the parent activity of coming and going from the nest picked up. This also made ideal light for photography. So when you had good light, you had good photography. Now wasn’t that convenient?
Not having the owls to photograph, this gave me the opportunity to improve my skills, work on gesture, and figure out the best position to capture the activity. I decided I wanted a side perspective to the cavity. Being directly in front would either give me a black hole of the backside of the bird. Neither were interesting. From the side, I could try to get a flight shot (boy these guys are fast), or capture some great biology of the parents working together.
You needed a fast shutter and long glass to capture this activity. The Pygmy Nuthatch is only the size of your thumb. Getting close and isolating the subject, I used the Nikon D5 with the Nikkor 800mm with Nikkor TC-14E III teleconverter. And so you know, I get all my gear from B&H Photo which has taken care of me well over the years.