There was an MBB posting of a White-breasted Nuthatch at Arana Gulch by a Santa Cruz Bird Club member. You may be saying that I see them all the time but in Santa Cruz County, CA they are a rare visitor. A little research on eBird (do you eBird?), shows that, on average, across the US there are 1-2 WB Nuthatches per checklist. This was my first for the county and was the first individual for 2014 with the last sighting being in August 2013. As you can see, from the eBird map for the sighting of the White-breasted Nuthatch, they have been fairly common in the Bay Area except in Santa Cruz County.
I saw the posting on Saturday after we returned home from the vet, which was in the Arana Gulch area (missed that). I thought that maybe we would go out the next day but didn't give it a second though until the next morning Jeannine ask if I wanted to go and see if we could find the bird. We packed up the pups and headed out. It’s about 40 minutes to the park from our home in the north end of the San Lorenzo Valley and when we got there I could see 3 birders about a ½ mile from the north entrance of the park.
We headed out hoping that the 3 birders were observing the Nuthatch and when we got to them they were looking at Nuthatches but Pygmys. I walked closer to the Walnut tree and there were many Pygmys and in less than a minute I saw a larger Nuthatch. My first reaction was to call to the others that I thought I saw the White-breasted. I lifted my camera and fired off 9 shots before the bird flew behind one of the larger trunks. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the guy again and the 3 other birders missed him too. I felt bad that I was able to walk up and see the bird right away and the others missed her.
This is a good example of shoot first and look second when it comes to photographing birds. Another tip is to check your exposure as a baseline before you take your first step. It was around 10 am and there was a heavy fog so the lighting was diffuse and low contrast. I captured this photo of the week with my D800 using auto ISO with a cap at 1600. The ISO did max out at 1600 using manual setting f/4.8 and 1/500s shutter speed. The focal length of 500mm was achieved using an f/2.8 300mm lens with a 1.7x teleconverter. I like this photo not for its rarity but I feel I have captured the personality of Nuthatches. They always seem to be just hanging on and they are always in the strangest and interesting positions.
Your comments are welcomed and if you have any questions about the photo or any other questions leave me a message.