A Sideways Glance
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I spent last year trying to get good photographs of a Hairy Woodpecker. I have been more fortunate this year and have shown more than one on this site. It took time for me to learn if I was close enough for a good shot, predict a pause in the frenetic head-banging of the birds and be otherwise prepared to get a good sharp shot. It has been worth it and the skill has helped me overall with other animals.
Small birds generally do not sit around when seen; they are easily flushed from their perches or from whatever they are doing. It’s one reason why bird photographers use long lenses. A key feature of nature photography is trying not to appear as a threat or annoy your subject. While a very expensive long lens gets you up close from a distance, they can be a pain to lug around and set up.
With shorter lenses there are a number of things you can do, including approaching quietly using foliage as a blind etc. The most important thing is to be ready with a very high shutter speed to avoid shake and be ready to take the picture the instant you have a clear shot. You and your camera make noise and may flush the bird, so you may have just one good shot.
Movement and noise more than anything startle small birds.
Birds that are preoccupied or already moving fast in a tree like woodpeckers and nuthatches may appear easier to shoot but their movements are incredibly rapid, time your shots for their pauses.