At the Grey Nuns Spruce Woodlot we came across this paper birch tree that the Black-capped Chickadees seemed to take a particular fondness to. A handful of chickadees were busy clinging to the bark and working away with their beaks on the bark. It looked like they were looking for something on the bark and in the cervices. Occasionally a chickadee would tap at the bark like a woodpecker. I assume they were looking for food. Chickadees are known to store, or “cache,” food such as seeds. Perhaps this tree was their cache location. Either way, it was an entertaining sight.
In the Whitemud Ravine one often comes across ravens around the orange pipeline that crosses the creek close to the Snow Valley end. Last spring the several raven couples even tried to build stick nests on the pipeline. None of them seemed to be successful, however. The other day I caught a raven sitting on the catwalk railing above the pipeline. Is it staking a territory? Is its choice of vantage point just a matter of a good view? Who knows why the ravens enjoy the pipeline.
What is black and white and red all over? Both Hairy an Downy Woodpeckers unfortunately. I like this picture because it nicely shows the feature that distinguished the Hairy Woodpecker from the almost identical Downy Woodpecker. The bill in the Hairy Woodpecker is chisel-like and nearly the same length as the head. In contrast the bill in the Downy Woodpecker is dainty and noticeably shorter relative to the width of the head. Its not, however, always easy to see the bill as it usually is facing the tree trunk, that is why I like this picture.
On our walk along the Whitemud Creek we came across a Red Squirrel that seemed to be just resting on a tree branch. Our presence did not bother it. Even when I slowly walked up to only about 5 feet away it did not budge. It did not seem to be afraid or worried, it just sort of was in a restful position and was eyeing us with equanimity. Squirrels along the trail are used to people so many of them are completely desensitize to human presence.
The forest was filled with excited buzzing trills. It was a familiar sound, yet I could not put my finger on who was making it. Fleeting fast shadows passed between the tree tops overhead. I was still stumped. I had it on the tip of my tongue…, until my teenager triumphantly declared “Look, Bohemian Waxwings”. Indeed, there must have been a few dozen Bohemian Waxwings gorging themselves in on berries in a tree on the bank of the creek. One can never grow tired of waxwings, Bohemian nor Cedar Waxwings. Just as stunningly beautiful they are charismatic and gregarious chatter boxes that love to eat berries and the occasional good intoxication. In these times of “social distancing”, Bohemian Waxwings represent the complete opposite behavior. You will never find a waxwing on its own and typically you will hear them long before you see them. Nothing a like beautiful bird to brighten up ones day in these gloomy and anxious times.
So finally we have reached the end of the official winter season. Spring has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, at least astronomically speaking. While the landscape remain snow covered and the creeks and rivers frozen over the forest is changing. You can hear and see the changes. There is more bird song carrying through the forest, the Great Horned Owls are nesting, and today we saw our first Canada Geese flyby in many months. We had finished our walk along the Whitemud Creek and were heading back to our vehicle. As we were crossing the parking lot, out of nowhere, three Canada geese swooped in. Circled overhead, almost as if they were looking for a place to land, and then decided not to land and disappeared over the tree tops.
Yesterday’s post was about an audacious and carefree Black-backed Woodpecker. Well, today’s post is about the damage he caused. The picture shows the “trail of destruction” he left behind. On our way back the woodpecker was gone but the handiwork of his activity was clearly visible. The woodpecker’s strategy seems to have been to focus on peeling the bark off the pine tree and then “dig” deeper at promising locations under the bark. This seems like a pretty effective strategy for a smaller woodpecker. Larger woodpeckers, such as the Pileated Woodpecker, typically seems to focus more on digging deeper into the tree, which makes sense considering their substantially larger size.
We had just spotted two glorious Pileated Woodpeckers having a feast in a stand of old growth trees. As we continued walking down the trail we met another birder. As good birding citizens we shared birding intel. We told him about the Pileated Woodpeckers and he informed us that there was a Black-backed Woodpecker just off the trail just around the bend in the trail.Sure enough. The little fella was hard to miss. At a tree trunk, right off the trail, at face height there it was – a male Black-backed Woodpecker. With its black back and yellow head patch it was unmistakable. It was busy feeling the bark off the tree in big chunks, clearly with its mind set on finding a morsel to eat. This was clearly a woodpecker on a mission and it was not the least bothered by the five gawking humans standing just a few meters away. The careless attitude of woodpecker never ceases to amaze me. A defining characteristics of most woodpeckers I have encountered in these neck of the woods is their complete absence of shyness. They really just could not care less about a human standing mere feet away checking them out.
Last weekend we went by the Great Horned Owl nesting site in the Whitemud Ravine. Since the beginning of March the female has been in her cavity every day with the male perching high up in a nearby pine tree. This time, however, there was not sight of the female in the cavity. It is unlikely that the female would leave her tree, particularly during the day. A quick scan of the nearby trees revealed that the male was sitting in the same spot where I saw him the previous week. It is even more unlikely that the male would be there if the female would have left the nest. I concluded that the female indeed must have been in the nest, but quite likely was hunkered down inside the cavity making it impossible to see her from the outside. Based on our experience from last year nesting it appears that the cavity is quite deep as it was able to accommodate the large female and two sizable chicks.
It is not often one is catches a chickadee just chilling. They always seem to be on the move, never stopping, never resting and never perching long enough for you to aim your camera, focus and get a good picture. Today it was my lucky day though as I encountered this fluffy little fellow just chilling on a branch. Maybe it had had its fill of sunflower seeds and then found this sunny spot where it just contently perched and watched the world go by.