Monday, January 25, 2016

Bird feeder phenology?

The chickadees, nuthatches and gold finches at the feeders are pretty nonchalant about movement inside the house. Not so the woodpeckers, especially the Pileated. I haven't any idea why woodpeckers are so much more twitchy than smaller (song) birds. If any of you can point to even a clue, please send a comment and I'll see what I can track down and share it here. Even if it weren't for the occasional appearance at the suet feeders, we could tell we have Pileated woodpeckers as neighbors by the rectangular holes in dead trees on our property.

Pileated woodpecker holes
Pileated woodpecker holes
Photo by J. Harrington

Pileated woodpecker at suet feeder
Pileated woodpecker at suet feeder
Photo by J. Harrington

Seeing this guy is a Winter treat. We don't put out suet feeders in the Summer, and I've yet to see a Pileated feeding on sunflower seeds, unlike the downy and hairy woodpeckers that show up from time to time in the warmer months. I know that, underneath the snow cover, there's lots of Winter activity that isn't readily visible. Signs of that are all around beneath the feeders, where moles and shrews and voles or whatevers are popping up through the snow to eat leftovers and droppings. That said, if it weren't for the birds at the feeders, gray Winter days would feel and look even more bleak and lifeless than they do. That kind of thinking probably means it's time to start planning for Valentine's Day. Maybe I'll get lucky and see some cupids at the feeders this year!

To Do


By Derek Sheffield
You’ve planted and weeded and wheelbarrowed,
           now tapping a pencil, trying to remember
the next thing—what was it?—when a shape
           drops from the sky, shudders and stops
at a tree—red blotch—whack, whack.
           A creature big enough on this slow spring day
to make you mutter, Ho-
           meric, exactly like the popeyed codger
in the John Wayne flick when he sees
           how the bride and groom have broken
their bed. A big, wild woodpecker. Imagine
           how it would feel to glimpse, like this,
an ivory-billed, that one they say
           (if that’s what they saw) is the last,
epic of the land, boomerang to be
           and not. But could it be
this one will make it for real?
           Make it beyond lit screens,
this pileated inkling now hopping into brisk beats
           of loopy flight. And now almost
in your grasp, the day’s next thing,
           when a rattled, rising shriek riddles the air.
Again. And again you’re just beginning:
           a nest of electric light, a boy
waiting for the bus and laughing
           at the cartoon bird laughing like crazy.


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