As I’ve written many times, this forest is woodpecker heaven. The excavations woodpeckers carry out out on both living and dead trees benefit other cavity nesting birds, Grey squirrels, Flying squirrels, and more. But one species, the Pileated, is a true ecosystem engineer, dismantling entire stumps in its search for Carpenter ants.
Last week I watched this male bird with its impressive chisel bill digging for ants in a living tree. He was easy to find, the sound of his vigorous attack carried a long way. Already the cavity was taking on the oblong shape typical of Pileated excavations. The pace was fast, chips were flying, and the only time I could get a non blurry pic was when he raised his head to scan the surroundings. No matter how intent on digging, he paused briefly every thirty seconds or so, likely making sure a hawk was not lurking nearby.
In contrast, Eastern blueirds often don’t announce their presence, or at least not so loudly. In winter, an occasional soft “cheery-we” call note is the only notice that they’re about.
On a recent cold, drab day with fine snow drifting down, I looked up from my invasive plant puttering and glimpsed a flash of blue. There they were, the first band of the winter, moving quietly through the forest. Though birds of open country in nesting season, bluebirds seem to like woodlands for winter foraging. Like Robins, bluebirds are true thrushes, and their feeding behavior reflects this.
Flitting from one low limb to another, or perching on the dead stumps of Bush honeysuckle, they constantly scan the forest floor. Then a quick drop, some rummaging about in the leaf litter for invertebrate tidbits, and back to a perch.
Pretty soon spring weather will send the bluebirds to their nesting grounds. But the Pileated, and other resident woodpeckers will be even more visible and audible, as they begin drumming loudly for mates and territory. Nothing stays the same.