This morning I rose before the sun to go birdwatching on our golf course. As the sun began to light the landscape, I spotted this Red-Bellied Woodpecker looking for insects on the palm trees. As he flew from one palm to the next, the sunlight gave us a good look at his red crown and black and white patterned wings.
The ecosystem of Southwest Florida also supports lots of Pileated Woodpeckers, and we spotted this one on an early morning tour of our golf course. I love this one with its brilliant red crown and interesting profile.
Next up are my newest images of the Great White Egret. Follow this blog for views of sunlit white feathers for the next several days.
While I was leaving Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary at 5pm, I witnessed a dramatic ambush. A Red-Shouldered Hawk swooped into the woods and nearly took out a quick moving Red-Bellied woodpecker. As the hawk flew in and just as quickly flew away, the woodpecker, traumatized by its near-death experience, shrieked and jumped around frantically for several minutes. I recognized the behavior as a way of communicating, “HOLY —-. That hawk almost KILLED me!!!”
I set up my tripod as quickly as I could and made some images of the woodpecker as he momentarily rested on the trunk of this tree. When I got home to examine my photos, I was able to identify the type of bird he was. While the hawk’s behavior is part of Nature’s food chain, I could relate to the anxiety of the little woodpecker. That was one scary experience!
There are many reasons to love the Pileated Woodpecker. First, you notice its brilliant red crown feathers and the red, black and white plumage, which would be a striking way to dress yourself today. Second, you can observe its impressive ability to steady itself vertically way up high in an old tree or utility pole. Then, you may marvel at its ability to hunt for food or carve out a nest by tapping its beak into the wood like a hammer 10 to 20 times per second. How can its head withstand all that impact?
Lastly, you may like the woodpecker for these traits you would admire in a human: it is non-migratory, inhabiting the same territory for its lifetime. It chooses and is loyal to a single mate. It benefits many other bird and mammal species in its environment, as song birds, owls and even raccoons later inhabit the old tree holes that the woodpecker has carved out for its nests.
And here is a mixed blessing. That pileated woodpecker in your backyard may be giving you some free advice: that dead tree needs to come down.