Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mating season?

Adult male Hairy Woodpecker, on Sunday
Just when it looked like we had turned the corner toward spring, today we turned back sharply the other way.

A few days ago our Hairy Woodpeckers had been feeling pretty frisky, flying erratically around the yard and staking out their territories by drumming on our house and gutters. Northern Flickers had moved into the vegetable garden, pecking at the bare earth. The big behemoths of the woodpecker world, Pileated Woodpeckers, were drumming on large, resonant snags in the distance.

Now it appears we'll have a few nights in the 20s with the possibility of four to six inches of snow. Action will center on the suet feeder, where the woodpeckers can build up their energy reserves for the cold conditions.

Even though Hairy Woodpeckers are among the most common birds in our woods I find them uncommonly beautiful and fun to watch. Mating starts early, during the winter, but the real show comes later.

Northern Flickers load up on suet as the snow comes down.
That will be when whole families show up together at the suet feeder for the first time, later this spring. The newborns will be easy to spot by their disoriented, goofy behavior, often sitting dazed for long periods on a post or the lawn, as if not knowing what to do next.

When they finally reach the feeder they will cling and wait for their parents to feed them, beak to beak. It's one of the best shows of the season, right from my window.

Today's reality check.
Even as the woods transform themselves once again to a winter wonderland, the days are growing dramatically longer.  Can spring be far behind?

1 comment:

  1. Wow, looks like we missed a winter for the record books! We were just thinking how it appears the Northeast Monsoon season has ended here in Singapore, which means less rain but also fewer cooling breezes. I suppose we could have a similar last gasp of the season. Great photos, as always. Capturing those hungry Northern Flickers could not have been easy.