Red-billed Oxpeckers only occur where there are animal hosts for the species of insects – mostly ticks – that the birds eat. In this photo the host is a buffalo bull.
We were sitting watching a few old buffalo bulls, also known as “Dagga Boys” which means “wallowing in the mud”, that were grazing in the distance. They were heading towards us. I stopped the vehicle in the shade and waited for them.
After a few minutes, they were less than fifteen meters away from us. That’s when we had a really clear view of the Red-billed Oxpeckers who were busy cleaning the buffalo from ticks.
The one bird finished its meal and went towards the boss (buffalo helmet/horns) where it started cleaning its beak. The moment the buffalo turned away from us, I saw the perfect picture! The light was just right and I was playing around with my camera prior to taking the photo so my settings were right for the shot.
Camera – Canon 600D
Lens and Focal Length – Sigma 150 – 600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS
Settings used to capture this image
ISO 640 – A low ISO for this shot as there was good light on the Oxpecker and the boss of the buffalo.
Aperture f/6.3 – A low f stop as I wanted only the oxpecker and the boss in focus and having a bokeh in the background.
Shutter 1/400 sec – The buffalo was standing still at the time so I could get away with an average shutter speed.
Editing used on this image
I did put in some vignetting so the sides could darken a little bit and then pushed up whites and dropped blacks, which gave it some contrast.