wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Birds at Vernon Lake

We parked our trailer and unloaded the skiff to have it ready for use at the edge of Vernon Lake.

The campsite was visited by many birds. Here are only a few of them. Many stayed hidden though they sang their hearts out all day.

This is a hairy woodpecker. I thought at first it was a downy, which looks very similar, but the hairy woodpecker has a much heavier and longer beak than the downy.

One of the birds I heard a lot, was Swainson’s thrush. I love the song he sings, “You’re pretty, you’re pretty, oh really.” But he is very elusive and I couldn’t get a photo of him.

He’s a very plain version of an immature robin but without any hint of black or red. If you click on this link you’ll see a photo on the bird site: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Swainsons_Thrush/id

Next to visit, was a Steller’s jay, but I almost mistook him for something else. He is a bit pale and scruffy, and this has me wondering if it is an immature bird.

Below, we have the red-breasted sapsucker, probably the very one I took pictures of for a previous post. He was hanging around the campsite the whole time we were there.

And no wonder! He has already made quite an investment in this tree, sipping sap and nabbing insects.

But do you see what I see? Circling the tree just below the chipped bark is a nasty looking petrified snake. I think he’s guarding the dinner table for the sapsucker.

You won’t see me trying to get near him. He looks mean. Is that blood on his lips?


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Woodpecker Line-up

Woodpeckers seem to like our area. Maybe the attraction is all the rotten wood of broken limbs and stumps left behind from wind damage or logging. It all provides a smorgasbord of insects for them. Sometimes these pileated woodpeckers  really get into their work, hammering at the wood, and the chips just fly off the decaying trees, exposing insects who were enjoying a nice decaying breakfast only to become breakfast themselves.

Red-shafted flickers basically do the same thing, but they don’t have the long beaks the pileated woodpeckers have, so you won’t see the chips flung quite as far afield. Flickers are happy enough to drill holes and do small-time chipping of wood, all in an effort to expose insects. Of course, if there’s a suet block around, they’ll take the lazy way out. It’s like having pizza delivered once in a while instead of cooking from scratch.

The sapsuckers don’t care about rotten wood so much. They like to peck holes into healthy trees (frequently being responsible for the eventual demise of the tree) and wait for the sap to fill the holes with the sweet liquid they love. Insects are attracted to the sap and often become dessert for the sapsuckers. The insects are also taken to the young when it’s nesting time.

 

The woodpeckers in my line-up are getting smaller. I’ve tried to line them up from biggest to smallest. This one is the downy woodpecker, another suet eater, but he likes bugs he finds in wood too. One thing I’ve learned about the downy is that they have a very loud voice for such a small bird. I once stood below a downy’s nest. The young birds stuck their heads out of the hole in the tall tree snag and shrieked so loudly I had to cover my ears. It wasn’t that they were afraid of me and they were screaming for their mother. They were just screeching at her to hurry up and bring more food. The only time they stopped was when they had a full mouth. At least they had “some” good manners and didn’t talk with their mouth full.

And then there was Harry the hairy woodpecker. He was most elusive. I was coming along a small road from a lake where we’d been trout fishing, and Harry flitted from tree to tree, keeping away from my camera. Once he stopped for a rest I zoomed in and got the only shot I could. I didn’t see if he had any red on top of his head, but in many other respects (except for the longer beak) he looked very much like a downy. He was much quieter though.

So there’s the line-up of the possible perpetrators of wood damage around here. Please be sure he’s the right one before you accuse an innocent woodpecker of the damage to your yard. I’ll try for fingerprints (or maybe beak prints would be more useful) next time for a more positive I.D.

PS   Be on guard if your house has wood siding. They’d be happy to check it out for insects like the pest control guys do, except the woodpeckers don’t fix any holes they leave behind.


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Hairy Harry

Hairy or downy? They look very much alike, so I had to investigate to find out the difference. This, I think, is a hairy woodpecker. He has a longer, heavier bill than the downy. That is the main identifying feature.

This fellow was picking at tree trunks and branches by the side of the bumpy dirt road to the lake where the Captain and I fished for trout a few days ago. With little traffic, the nearby woods are quiet, and a hairy woodpecker could forage for food relatively undisturbed.

He is known to check out holes made by sapsuckers and to drink the sap that has filled the tiny wells in those holes. Of course he does his own excavating to look for insects under the bark of trees. He also likes a change once in a while and will eat fruit, berries, and nuts.

I’d say he has a well-rounded diet.

***

Harry flits from tree to tree

Trying hard to hide from me.

Maybe he is camera shy,

Though I can’t imagine why.

Maybe he’s just playing games,

Teasing when I call him names.

I don’t think his name is Harry,

I want snaps but he won’t tarry.

O’er his shoulder, gives a call,

“Show is over, that is all.

If my name you  can’t get right,

I will simply leave,  take flight.”

 

And that is just what he did.