With spring creeping closer, our year-round avian residents such as cardinals and titmice are already raising their voices. But there’s more than one way to make music, and birds have evolved means for using everything at their disposal to fill our forests with whistles, twitters, and booms – no voice needed. [Read more…] about The Unsung Music of Birds
While my musings about nature generally focus on southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States, there are times when a subject is far too juicy to ignore even if it’s out of this world, like Japanese satellites made from trees. Back home on our little planet, we have a blind, rainbow-hued marine worm which slices fish in half for the joy of it.
This “Bobbitt” worm grows to ten feet long and can paralyze a human with its venom. Also cool but way less terrifying, a rainforest tree on the island of New Caledonia oozes more nickel than the richest mines are able to yield. [Read more…] about Acorn Woodpeckers: Adorable Acorn Adorners
On winter mornings, I often venture outside to photograph the assembly of birds that visit the feeders in my front yard. One of the regular visitors is the diminutive downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), which clings to my peanut feeder, takes a nibble of suet, or forages in the nearby maple trees. Fairly comfortable with a human presence, these birds feature heavily in my photos.
Measuring only six inches in length and weighing less than an ounce, downy woodpeckers are the smallest of North America’s 22 native woodpecker species. They are often confused with the similar-looking hairy woodpecker. Downies are smaller than hairy woodpeckers, however, and rather than the hairy’s spike-like bill, downies sport a smaller, less conspicuous bill. Males possess a red spot on the back of the head, and both sexes have a general black and white appearance. [Read more…] about Downy Woodpeckers in Winter
Whenever I spy a pileated woodpecker traversing the sky, I pause to watch its weird undulating flight. The jerky rise-and-drop movement of this large woodpecker is endearingly gawky – like a mini pterodactyl visiting from the Cretaceous period.
Come winter, after the bears have retreated to their cold weather dens, many backyard bird enthusiasts hang feeders to attract – and nourish – avian visitors. Birds need more than a supplemental food source, however.
Whether they are roosting, feeding, selecting a nest location, or flying from one grove of trees to another, birds rely on vegetative cover, from the ground level to the treetops. Offering natural sources of cover can help birds evade predators and find protection from inclement weather, as well as provide shelter during migration. [Read more…] about Shelter for the Birds: A Primer
Decayed wood crumbled underfoot as I stepped on a mossy log. The ground was almost hidden by a lush, diverse growth of wildflowers and ferns. Brown scapes of wild leeks poked up above mottled leaflets of Virginia waterleaf and heart-shaped leaves of wild ginger. A green canopy of mostly sugar maple and yellow birch towered overhead. As we climbed higher on the mountainside, the trees increased in height and girth. We were in an old-growth forest, a remnant of the forest that blanketed the Northeast before European settlement. The extremely steep slope had likely allowed it to escape the axe and saw before it was protected. [Read more…] about Understanding Our Old Forests
In the spring and summer many species of birds will set up nests in shrubs (catbirds and common yellowthroats) and on tree limbs (robins, orioles, or vireos). Chickadees, nuthatches, or woodpeckers may be nesting in tree cavities. These nests may be hard to spot from the ground. To protect birds, wait until the fall to cut or prune trees and shrubs if possible. Birds such as house wrens, phoebes, and Carolina wrens often get creative and build nests on decks, porches, or sheds. [Read more…] about Help Protect Nesting Birds in Your Field or Yard
One morning early, as I slept in our mountain cabin Mateskared, a woodpecker landed on the cabin’s wood siding. Its profound rapid-fire pecking jerked me out of sound sleep.
Did we have robo-termites?
Not in the Adirondacks. [Read more…] about Ed Zahniser: Woodpecker Wake-up Calls
In the first global test of the idea, scientists have found evidence that some woodpeckers can evolve to look like another species of woodpecker in the same neighborhood. The researchers say that this “plumage mimicry” isn’t a fluke – it happens among pairs of distantly related woodpeckers all over the world. [Read more…] about Some Woodpeckers Imitate a Neighbor’s Plumage
“That’s a downy. No wait, it’s a hairy – definitely a hairy. Well, hang on…maybe it is a downy.” I admit it: I’ve had this happen to me more than once. [Read more…] about Downy or Hairy Woodpecker?