For years now, I thought about posting a photo like this on April Fool’s Day. Finally I got around to actually doing it. April Fools! Here’s the story.

The original idea was to post a photo of what looked like ivory billed woodpeckers at my feeder, and then to accompany it with a clueless comment like, “What are these and how do I get rid of them, they are hogging all my suet”

Here’s the original photo of my bird feeder in my back yard.


I surfed the web looking for some suitable pictures that I could superimpose onto a photo of my bird feeder.

Finally I found this photo…

ivory billed woodpeckers by Laura G Young


…taken by Laura Young of Ft Collins, CO at a Museum in Denver, in a post on her blog. I contacted her asking for permission to use the photo and explained what I was up to. She not only granted permission but also provided some really good pointers on realism after I sent her my first attempt. Turns out Laura is an accomplished wildlife artist and illustrator.

Here is my 1st attempt. I used Gimp, an open source photo editor, which you can download for free at I switched the birds because it seemed more natural, resized them so they seemed to fit on the feeder, opened the beak of one of the birds, and sent the photo off to Laura for comment.

IbwofeederLaura came back with some really good input on how large woodpeckers tend to hang on to feeders at ungainly angles, and other ways to increase the realism. So here is my 2nd attempt with some of Laura’s advice incorporated: tilting the birds at more of an angle, adding a head blur and a wing blur and adjusting some of the colors:

Ibwofeeder2 We agreed the head blur was way too much so I toned that down in the 3rd attempt:



Then Laura got the idea of using a filter that darkened and blurred things a bit…giving it a nice crypto look. (Remember all the dark blurry pictures of Bigfoot and Nessie?)

I added the filtered version as a layer and did a few more tweaks for the final version which I then posted to my unsuspecting friends and fellow members on the New Hope Audubon Society facebook page:





For a caption I put:

“Our Pileateds hit the suet early this morning. Poor cowbirds and squirrels will go hungry again today I guess.”

So what do we take away from all of this? Well, I hope people get a laugh out of it. In all seriousness, its not lost on me how regrettable it is that ivory woodpecker sightings are such a remote possibility they’ve become the stuff of April Fool’s jokes. Sadly this magnificent bird may never been seen again.

However it is not too late for many other bird, plant and animal species if we do our part. Some simple actions you can take that will make a big difference:

  • Plant Native plants and wildflowers in your yard. Your yard is a shared habitat that literally thousands of living things depend on. You can make a beautiful wildlife friendly space that nurtures you and the plants and animals who share the land with you.
  • Be vocal about the need to preserve nature’s capabilities. A plot of forest provides air quality, water quality, erosion control and other services that are worth far more than the market price of the lumber or the land. Take a few minutes to read A Wealthy World.
  • Join a conservation group like the Audubon Society. Here at our local chapter, the New Hope Audubon Society, we have great times going hiking, building trails, sharing photos, and learning and working together.