Category Archives: Pileated woodpeckers

Working to Eat


The pileated woodpecker has to work for his meals. This is Woody, who came to check out the old fir stump in my overgrown veggie garden. Notice how his tongue sticks out now and then to help lick up anything  he finds crawling around inside the wood.

After he had his meal, he flew into the forested area around the side of our house to have dessert at one of the other stumps we’ve left there.

I followed him to try to get another photo and was surprised when Junior flew in and landed in a tree quite close to me. You can tell that this is a young bird, maybe a female because of no red malar stripe (moustache). The red on her head is not as brilliant as it will be when she matures.

By the time I recovered from the surprise of her appearance, and refocused the camera, the backyard superintendents woke up from sleeping on the job, and came along barking their fool heads off, scaring the birds away.

I sighed, but couldn’t really reprimand them. After all, they are bird dogs.



The Dinner Table

My garden is a tangled mess this year because I’ve hurt my back and can’t bend down to pull out the weeds. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.) The flowers have been so generous about hiding the weeds until I’m feeling better. They’ve done such a good job that no self-respecting bird would think it was a place for humans only. One of my visitors recognized it immediately as “tamed gone wild” and made himself at home there.  He exuded confidence and a sense of ownership, only knocking once he was already  in the door.

What he knocked on was once a huge fir that stood too close to our house. We had to cut it down many years ago and only a low stump was left. After today, I’m glad, for the first time, that we didn’t try to auger out the stump and get rid of it. Apparently it made a good dinner table for Woody, the pileated woodpecker. The spellchecker insists on calling him a pillaged woodpecker, and it is partly true. He does have a pillaging nature.


“Pillaging? … Me? A bird’s gotta eat!”


“Now, hold on just a minute. I think some of my dinner fell off the table top.”


“Do you think it would be polite to crawl under there to get it? I suppose if it fell on the floor, I should leave it … but it looks so good.”


“Hmm … What to do … what to do???”


“Oh, to heck with it. I think I can get it from up here. I’m gonna go for it.”


Stay tuned for the next installment, coming soon to a computer near you.


P.S.  I have just found out that the male pileated woodpecker has the red malar stripe (moustache), while the female does not have it. So this is definitely MR Woodpecker.

Talent to Spare

Our friend Bruce Glover is a talented man. Not only does he know a lot about the habits of many animals, he can paint and carve their likenesses with such skill that any of his subjects would be flattered if they could see his work. Here, Bruce stands before a display of some of his work on loan to a seniors’ residence.

Bruce Glover

One of Bruce’s favourite birds to carve is the brant goose. Here is a flock of them flying near Goose Spit on Vancouver Island. Notice the various wing positions in this photo and the next one.



Now compare the live birds with carvings that he has made.


This life-size brant has fooled many an admirer whose first inclination is to touch it to see if it’s real. Of course, touching a carving is a no-no, because even the cleanest fingers leave an oily residue that would soon break down the paint. This brant is carved from wood and each feather looks delicate when you look closely. It’s hard to believe it’s not alive.

The little miniature ducks at the brant’s feet don’t belong there. That was my own (silly) addition to the scene.


Bruce also did this flock of Canada geese …



and this one of the pileated woodpecker.



The black brant carved right into this piece of wood was meant to be a sign by our driveway. We didn’t like to leave it out in all kinds of weather though, and it now hangs in the house.001

A very large sign that Bruce has recently made covers the whole table in his shop. The bend in the wood is from the way the trunk grew when the tree was knocked over by a larger tree that fell on it. The small tree continued to grow for many years and had a huge trunk when it was finally knocked down. It makes a unique piece to work with.


The lettering is part of the wood, not pieced on. So is the salmon which is about to eat a smaller fish. A great deal of work went into making this large sign which will hang at the entrance to a fishing charter business. You won’t find another one like it anywhere.032

Have you seen Rebecca Spit?

That Rebecca must be quite a tomboy to have a piece of land named after her spitting abilities. But no, I’m not talking about a girl with a disgusting habit, and this post is not about how far Rebecca can spit.

I’m talking about a landform. I wonder sometimes where these terms come from. A spit of land…. Could it be because the long “tongue” of land is formed by deposits of sand being “spit” up by the waves and deposited on the open, seaward side of it?

Whatever the origin, Rebecca Spit is a park on Quadra Island. To get to Quadra you have to take a ferry from Campbell River on Vancouver Island. At the recent quilting retreat on Quadra, my friend and I took a short drive to the 2-km.-long spit and walked the trail in this park. The water you see on the left of the photo is the sheltered side. In the summer it must be a beautiful place to swim.041

Here is a better look at the beach on the sheltered side of the spit.


As we continued down the trail, the spit became narrow and it was possible to see the water on both sides at once. The open water of the north end of the Strait of Georgia was much rougher than that of sheltered lagoon.


The forest facing the open water on my right  had taken a beating. Where were all the branches and greenery? No sign of fire damage, but many  branches were gone and tree trunks were broken off. Could extra high tides have drowned the trees and soaked their feet in very salty water? That might have killed the trees which then dried out and were at the mercy of the strong winter winds. Trunks and branches would have broken in the wind. I’m not sure what happened here but the trees right near the beach on the exposed side of the spit were damaged and different from the rest.


The end of the spit is a pretty place to stop for a few photos. Boaters must have local knowledge or a good map to avoid getting lost in the maze of small islands that dot this coastline.


On our way back to the car,  we see a warm glow of late afternoon sunlight on the trunks of the trees, living and dead.055

And in case you think dead trees are useless, just ask any woodpecker.

pileated woodpecker


The Pileated Woodpecker Family

I feel a migraine coming on when I watch these beautiful birds drilling into the rotten wood, their beaks vibrating like mini jack hammers, but I’m very thankful for the woodpeckers, who eat of a lot of the insects we might otherwise be overrun with. They eat ants! So they’re welcome here any time. They also eat larvae of tree beetles that work at destroying our forests. Woodpeckers are very good for the well-being of our ecology.

It was hard to get a photo that wasn’t blurry. Their heads moved so quickly. This family of three was so busy they didn’t even notice me standing nearby taking pictures. If only I could have gotten them to stand still for a few seconds for a photo shoot. Can you see the third woodpecker above the red head of the one on the left?


This part of my backyard has several old rotten stumps and broken off trees that we’ve left as they are, mainly because it makes great woodpecker habitat.



That’s the mother with her head in the stump and the “baby” on the right, wondering what to do. I know he’s the baby because I saw the mother feeding him a bug just moments later. Maybe she found something in that stump.??????????

I always thought pileated woodpeckers were what Woody Woodpecker was modeled after, but apparently Woody is designed for the acorn woodpecker. I looked up the acorn woodpecker and can’t see the resemblance to Woody. To me he looks more like the pileated woodpecker, mainly because of the tuft of red hair (feathers) on his head.



While the mother flew to a nearby tree, Junior worked over a broken off tree. The whole time he was chipping at the punky wood, he made muted bird-grunting noises that sounded a bit like, “Ehh … aaaa … ehh … ehh….”??????????????????????????????051Father, in the meantime, was taking on the big job of breaking apart the decaying  fir stump nearby, while keeping an eye on Junior. You might see a blurry glimpse of Dad behind the stump. Notice the small piece of log on the right of the stump next to the grass clippings.????????????????????Moments later, the small log to the right of the stump has company. As I watched, and took photos, a big chunk of bark fell down. Compare the two pictures, taken only seconds apart and you’ll see the progress the father was making with his chipping at the wood. All around the front of the stump too, are chips of wood dropped there by the woodpeckers’ efforts to get at the bugs inside the stump.

My yard is not manicured but the birds seem to like it that way. If I cleaned up their mess and removed the old rotten stumps they probably wouldn’t come back and I love to see them when they visit me.

Blowing and Snowing

I’m caving in. I tried to put off winter, but I find that now I have no choice but to allow it in. Like an unwelcome guest, it pushed its way into our town. It has blown over my resistance and snowed me under. I didn’t go out this year and  take pictures of the blizzard but will post a view of one from a couple of years ago. I assure you the photo depicts  exactly the same weather that we had a couple of days ago when our first snowfall of the winter blew in, uninvited.

Our neighbours' rig is still there, a bit late going south.

Our neighbours’ rig is still there, a bit late going south.

Our Christmas lights are up, but who would be foolish enough to be out in this weather to go look at them. I didn’t even want to go out to plug them in.

Who will plug in the lights, and why?

Who will plug in the lights, and why?

One good thing about living on the west coast is that our snow usually doesn’t last very long. Soon it’s an icy mess, and a day or two after that, we’re back to the rain. Meanwhile, we need to clean up the damage that the howling wind did to snow-laden branches. After the storm, we inspected the driveway and found that pieces of  the old pin cherry tree finally came down.

We had to clean up the mess our tree made in the neighbours’ yard, as well as deal with our own mess and fragile fence. The pin cherry was rotten and has been for years. These trees don’t last very long compared to the maple to the right of it, for example.


As we cut and cleaned, a pileated woodpecker flew out of the woods, scolding us for taking away his dining room. We try to leave stumps of trees that fell long ago to attract and feed the flickers and pileated woodpeckers that live in the area, but the pin cherry had become a hazard. We only removed the parts that had already fallen but felt guilty taking even that much.

The tree was dead on its feet and ready to keel over any time. It was well advanced in decay as you can see from the three mushrooms that are growing in it. I’ve circled them so you can see where they are. You can click to make the pictures bigger.

Find the three mushrooms inside the black circles.

Find the three mushrooms inside the black circles.

Gives a whole new meaning to "mushroom picking."

Gives a whole new meaning to “mushroom picking.”

Much more mess to deal with later.

Much more mess to deal with later.

We had a good afternoon’s work to do clearing the driveway, and there is a lot more to do to clean up this tangle of dry limbs. Getting the tree dismantled is a little bit like the game of Pick Up Sticks, except it’s up in the air. You try to choose a branch to cut away without having all the rest of them crash down on you on the ladder.

We may have the natural solution to the problem coming up. Tonight it’s supposed to blow quite hard, so maybe we’ll be spared the job of cutting the rest of the branches down and tomorrow we can play Pick Up Sticks on the ground.