Wood Peckers Return For The Fourth Year
Five years ago something drilled a perfectly round hole in the tree in my front yard. I blocked the hole thinking it was a beetle. No matter what plugged the hole it was drilled through or a new hole appeared.
It was perplexing.
Some time during the summer the truth came to light. Listening to a gardening show I learned it wasn't a beetle, but a bird. A woodpecker. My stomach churned when I realized woodpeckers were making those round holes. What had I done! Those poor adult birds had to work so hard to launch their babies. They must have gotten the babies out for they came back the next year.
No body paid much attention to the birds the second year. We certainly didn't disturb them.
Two years later woodpecker fascination struck. It was apparent the chicks were about to launch. Every one started spending time on the front lawn watching as the little ones peeked out of their nest then duck back in. The mamma was shy and was difficult to see . She would hide in the leafy branches until nobody was around. The neighborhood kids would come and sit silently watching for a glimpse of the birds. This year I sat for hours trying to film the birds for a hub. Success. The babies launched and my front yard was quiet again.
Now after two years of watching these charming little bird you may ask what could possibly require another hub.
We have been in a drought here for nearly three years. The tree my feathered friends like was in poor shape years ago. A botanist friend gave us ideas on caring for the tree and it worked for a long time. The drought is not helping our landscape. What was intended to be a light pruning the limb with the nest broke off , which led to more serious punning. This isn't the first limb we have lost to woodpeckers. For a couple of years before they began nesting the woodpeckers would drill bugs out of this tree.
It was sad to think our friends wouldn't be back.
Several friends have discussed how persistent woodpeckers can be. These friends have nets around their homes in the mountains to keep woodpeckers from drilling holes, can leave winter cabins drafty. Some of our neighbors have placed owl statues on their roofs to scare the woodpeckers away.
O.K., so I didn't think the birds would be back.
Woody And Woodyann Did Come Back
Woody did come back. Last year I thought Woody looked different. This year I know Woody is is different. We don't have one nest we have two. They both have baby birds in them. The nest nearest to the original is barely six feet off the ground. The Woodyann, who nested there, is the original mother. When she first nested there were hardly any leafs on the tree, which was a concern because the hole is so close to the ground. She is pretty with bright red head feathers, petite and shy. Last year the mother was much larger and not nearly as shy. She may be the reason we didn't see the original pair of woodpeckers. That bird found the original nest occupies this year and drilled a new nest high on the tree, Those babies are much younger than nestlings in nest number one.
The reason we know this is? The new nest was very quiet long after we could hear the first chicks. When we first heard the chicks it was almost a hum. Eventually the hum turned into peep, peep, peep. They get very loud when it's dinner time. Dinner time with two nests in the tree gets very loud. At night the peeps don't stop they just become softer and softer. Early morning the must be exhausted because there is silence.
We had a full house for dinner tonight. There was lots of in and out while the birds played hide and seek. Now it is quiet; I sneak out to look at our feathered residents much to my horror there in the crook of the tree is ARCO, the neighbors cat. The babies are safe and so are the parents as long as they are in the nest, but that darn cat was only a paws reach from either parent feeding the babies on the outside of the tree.
These birds are slowly killing my tree, but they are fascinating. The cat annoys my dogs but he's a nice cat otherwise. Cats have been feeding on birds forever. I can't do anything to protect the birds. Let's just hope the woodpecker parents are smarter than the cat.
Why Woody and Woodyann May Be Smarter Than Arco.
Woody and Woodyann are specially equipped to avoid cats. They are fast. They are shy, and they built their home inside a tree. They frequently hang outside of the tree nest to feed the babies, which could be their demise.
Woody and Woodyann are Downy woodpeckers and travel with other small birds. There is a pair of Wood Thrush with a nest above the front door. They are more susceptible to Arco than the woodpeckers. After contemplating what to do about the cat I have decided short of putting a twenty four hour watch on the tree there is little I can do. Nature has its cycles.
Woodpeckers are fascinating. They are uniquely designed to poke holes into trees and houses
- They make holes all year round.
- Some of the holes are designed to hold their winter store of acorns and other food. Some of the holes are for nests.
- The Downy and Acorn Woodpeckers tend to be residential dwellers. Which certainly explains why they live in our tree.
- I suspect we have a pair of Downy's and a pair of Acorn woodpeckers. They look very similar.
- The reason woodpeckers can peck at wood without hurting themselves is they have air pockets n their brains that act as cushions when they hammer.
- Woodpeckers have long narrow tongues that can reach into holes and put insects into their mouths.
- Some Downy woodpeckers migrate south with smaller birds. These woodpecker don't always migrate. Here in northern California there really isn't much need for migrating.
Got Any Better Ideas?
The Story Is Not Done
Writing at my desk determined not to worry about the cat and birds there was a commotion outside the door. A couple of crows were dive bombing the tree. The last time I heard a commotion of this sort my dog had brought a crow into the house. He was a bird dog. It was then the meaning of a murder of crows became clear. So looking out the screen and nearly getting hit by a crow who should I spot. ARCO! Well if that wasn't a wonder. Crows attacking a cat in a tree. The bird book says woodpeckers travel with other birds, but crows?
Its time to do something. I notice a soccer ball near the door. I think," What if I put it in the tree and ARCO climbs the tree. It might scare him or make it too unstable to enable him to stay in the tree".
If a soccer ball was good enough for Tom Hanks in Castaway it may be good enough for Woody and his family. The other woodpecker family doesn't worry me too much. It is high in the tree without a limb for ARCO to stand on. So the story of the woodpecker in tirelesstravelers front yard goes on...
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