Colour in our lives

Whenever one of these rather large Woodpeckers lands close by, or flies over, their size is what usually surprises me. We have been graced with the presence of a male Pileated Woodpecker for the last few days. I’m hoping he is going to stay and have high hopes as I see a rather large new nest cavity being excavated in a fabulous large dead tree very close by. “What does Pileated mean?” I asked Mike, he’s my go-to Buddha for all questions;) “I dunno!” was the reply, so off to the dictionary. “Did you know?”. It means crested…makes sense, especially when you see him/ and or a her head on! In French, I think I like it better, Pic Grand, or Large Peak, or is that beak? I like that, in Spanish Pájaro carpintero, Carpenter bird:)

I can’t help but hear the Woody Woodpecker voice in my head whenever I see one of these guys! Listen hear if you are not familiar with it: Woody.

According to Wikipedia, the inspiration for the character came during the producer’s honeymoon with his wife, Grace, in California in 1941. A noisy Acorn Woodpecker outside their cabin kept the couple awake at night, and when a heavy rain started, they learned that the bird had bored holes in their cabin’s roof. As both Walter and Gracie told Dallas attorney Rod Phelps during a visit, Walter wanted to shoot the bird, but Gracie suggested that her husband make a cartoon about the bird, and thus Woody was born. Woody shares many characteristics in common with the Pileated Woodpecker in terms of both physical appearance as well as his characteristic laugh, which resembles the call of the pileated woodpecker…..That’s all Folks!

Check out their actual calls: here! These are non-migratory birds. They range all over North America from Central California to British Columbia, all across Canada and the Northern States to the East coast, down to Florida and into Eastern Texas.

Map is from Cornell Lab-All about birds, my go to ID and information site.

We had a pair here this Summer with one youngster, maybe this is him!

The yellow feathers around his beak are beautiful! Groot said that dagger he had on his face was impressive and he’d look from afar, but didn’t actually want to get very close thank you…smart cat:) This fellow seems to be very very fond of the suet block I put out. I make them, rendering pork fat in the slow cooker in the outside entrance (it can be quite odiferous!) then adding peanut butter and safflower/and or sunflower seeds. He says it is very tasty, along with the dozen or more Hairy’s and Downy Woodpeckers we have about, as well as our lady Red-Bellied and the mob of Blue Jays;)

We had a fabulous burst of sunshine this morning, welcome light in an otherwise gloomy week, tonight the snow is supposed to start and not stop until Sunday. I can’t complain, my thinned Mexican blood was expecting a January from hell, -30° Celsius, howling winds…but no…last few days have been above zero, practically unheard of here where the average temperature in January is -10°…a sign of our times? or are the weather Gods being generous and breaking us in slowly…we still have February! Ha…we’ll see!

Some new visitors to our feeders have been a flock of Common Redpolls, now these birds do Winter! About the size of a small finch their bright red poll and streaky red chest (males) make them a standout in the white snow.

These small birds can withstand temperatures to -65°, they tunnel into the snow to stay warm during the night. Tunnels may be more than a foot long and 4 inches under the insulating snow. They breed around the world in the lands that ring the Arctic Ocean and can eat 42% of their body mass a day! They would need it in those temperatures! and they are SMART! Animal behaviorists commonly test an animal’s intelligence by seeing if it can pull in a string to get at a hanging piece of food. Common Redpolls pass this test with no trouble. They are a delight to have around in such large numbers, I’ll miss them when they head North! They seem to interact quite amicably with the Goldfinches and Black-capped Chickadees as well.

It seems the Redpolls are wanderers like us! A few banding records have shown that some Common Redpolls are incredibly wide ranging. Among them, a bird banded in Michigan was recovered in Siberia; others in Alaska have been recovered in the eastern U.S., and a redpoll banded in Belgium was found 2 years later in China. Although I think I’ll stick to below the 49th parallel in Winter!

It hasn’t been much of a landscape photography time for me, the gray skies, they can be beautiful, but a certain melancholy sets in, must kick myself and get out to photograph something other than birds! This morning it was foggy, mists rising with the above zero temperatures. Last week the deer dashed across the lake on the ice and snow and some rather foolhardy snowmobilers as well, there are open spots now in front, like portholes, the deer walk around them, I stick close to the shore, if it breaks, I can hit bottom, not about to wander out there where it is deep! I’d like to continue exploring this amazing planet of ours:) We’ll be digging out tomorrow no doubt, the forecast is for up to 25cm, almost 10″ of snow, may it be light and fluffy:) (my South Westerly and Mexican friends are now rolling with laughter holding their bellies, shoveling? what’s that? I can hardly wait for the comments…)

Saludos y abrazos amigos, stay warm and watch those backs shoveling tomorrow my local friends!

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