Up a Tree
The best way to see eye to eye with a Red-cockaded Woodpecker (RCW) biologist is up in a tree. The endangered birds make their homes in living longleaf pine trees, which the biologists have to climb in breeding season in order to retrieve and band the nestlings.
My wife Emily has been working with RCW's for over five years now. Her hard work and that of her co-workers has really paid off, for in that short time the RCW family groups at her site have increased by over 25%. I've wanted to get up in a tree to photograph her at eye level for a couple years. Last week we finally made plans to teach me to climb and put me in a nearby tree while she retrieved chicks for a banding. So today, after giving me a lesson on a practice tree, we went out to one of the woodpecker clusters and I had my wish. I may look happy in the photo, but this was a lot harder than I expected it to be, mostly because I really tired my legs out by having poor form.
The photos I took while up in the tree are not my favorite, but now that I have gotten an idea of how this works I want to plan out some more areal shoots in the future.
After retrieving the two nestlings in the cavaty, Emily made a series of measurements on each one and gave them metal and plastic bands on their legs for later identification.