Monday, July 1, 2013

Pic of the Day

Pygmy Nuthatch 
Pygmy Nuthatch 
Pygmy Nuthatch  

Pygmy Nuthatch, Sitta pygmaea:  Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado:

     At only 4 ¼ inches long the pygmy nuthatch is the smallest of the nuthatch clan and a bird I was hoping to photograph while in Rocky Mountain National Park this spring.  One of the locations I had seen the bird in the past, was along the drive to the Moraine Valley campground.  This year I returned to Moraine Valley and spent some time looking for the nuthatches.  
     It only took about five minutes to find a nuthatch after scoping the surrounding ponderosa pines.  The bird I saw through my binoculars had a grub in its beak and flew to a dead ponderosa pine snag.  In a flash I was heading up the hill toward the nest tree.  When I arrived I found the nest only fifteen feet off the ground.  With camera at the ready I sat on a nearby rock and let the birds get accustomed to my presence.  Upset with my presence at first, both the male and female continued to bring grubs to their young.  After watching the birds for a while I was able to determine their favorite perches, this allowed me to approach the birds and get the images I wanted.
     Pygmy nuthatches are social birds and often a nesting pair has helpers; offspring from previous nesting seasons help raise the young.  At this nest I saw only the two adults.  If there were helpers, for the pair I was photographing, they did not show themselves that morning.   Pygmy nuthatches also roost in groups.  There are records of up to 100 nuthatches roosting in a single cavity.  No records exist of pygmy nuthatches roosting alone.
     Pygmy nuthatches eat insects and seeds.  The pair I saw was busily gleaning insects from the trunks of pines, and pine needle clusters at the end of the branches.  While foraging the birds seldom stood still.  The photos I took were of birds constantly on the move.  They were always hopping and climbing from limb to limb, and it was difficult to keep the nuthatches in my camera frame.  Photographing pygmy nuthatches was a real challenge, but one I enjoyed immensely!

Nikon D800, Nikkor 500mm f4

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