There was a lot of movement in the swamp this afternoon so I went out to see what was stirring. I didn’t call up anything more exciting than the first Tree Sparrow I’d seen in a while, so when I heard serious rapping in the willow, I went to check it out.
This male Pileated Woodpecker explored up and down the trunk, looking for a weak spot. He would tilt his head — was he listening for insects tunnelling, or looking into the holes he already excavated? Small chips flew, but he didn’t make much headway. Despite the losses it suffers in every blizzard or ice storm, the willow must be solid inside.
Giving up on the willow, he looked for easier pickings in the dead trees. Keeping the water level high in the swamp for years has created a grove of prime woodpecker-feeding habitat. In the time I watched him, he was joined by Hairy, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, often several in the same tree. Now chips and chunks went flying!
He was quite fearless. I moved to within 15 feet of him for this photo, and if we hadn’t been separated by the brushpile, I probably could have gotten closer. All his attention was focused on the hole he was creating. I could see his long thin tongue flash out.
We watched him for nearly an hour before he flew off. Pileateds, like White-tailed Deer and Wild Turkeys, are creatures who have rebounded as the farmlands of the Northeast in the 1800s have grown back to forest. Their population has increased steadily for over 100 years.
I filmed him working away:
Apologies for the sidewaysness — I’m new to this and can’t find a way to correct the orientation.
Nuthatch says, Hey! I’m photogenic too!