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« September 2006 | | November 2006 »

October 15, 2006

Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is our largest woodpecker with its flaming red crest and distinctive black and white head bands. They dig deep into rotten wood to feed on carpenter ants and other insects. My friend Anthony and I while walking through a city park spotted the characteristic rectangular holes the Pileated leaves in old wood. The Red-Breasted Sapsucker for comparison leaves lines of evenly spaced rows of small holes in the trees. Soon we heard the Pileated's loud cry and spotted it flying thorough the tree canopy. Always a thrilling bird for us to see. If left alone they will take up habitat in parks and around the edges of large cities. They prefer mature forests like the old growth Douglas firs forests here in the northwest and are also found in southern swamps. The Pileated became rare in eastern North America with the clearing of the forests and the advance of civilization but their numbers are increasing. We don't have as many as I used to see here in the northwest due to the continual clear cutting but as long as some old trees and snags are left uncut for feeding and nest sites they will survive. Here at home in the heart of logging country we always have a nesting pair in the spring. Their loud drumming on the old hollow tree across the logging road is a wonder to hear.

The fall season rains began this morning which make the reds and golds of the vine maples stand out in lovely contrast to the rain dark greens. Looking out the window behind this computer I see several Stellar Jays poking in the wet grass, the first large group of Varigated Thrushs also foraging in the lawn and a scattering of Oregon Juncos. I am especially happy to see the Varigated Thrush who will be here for the winter. My neighbors call them Alaska Robins. Every day and every season is a wonderful season for birding. Grab the rain parka and your boots and head outdoors. If I can not tempt you outside, grab a cup of coffee and pull up a chair nest to a window. In addition to the Jays, Thrushes and Juncos on this rainey morning I see a couple of Black Cap Chickadees, some Song Sparrows and a Towhee from my window.

October 12, 2006

Fall Is Here

Our nighttime temperatures have dropped below freezing here at home although it will be another month before the temperatures in Portland OR will be comprable. I am always enchanted by the clouds of Cedar Waxwings talking and feeding in the tops of the trees. This afternoon I watched a group of a dozen or so feeding on seeds in the locust trees. The Stellar Jays have picked the flowers heads clean of our sunflower plants. It has been fun to watch the sunflower heads bending over with the weight of the Stellar Jays. The jays so blue with contrasting black heads hang upside down picking away at the sunflower kernals until they are bulging with seeds. Then they fly off to deposit the seeds for later use in the winter. A flock of Sandhill Cranes flew overhead last night when I was out looking at the Milky Way. I tried to spot them against the background of stars but was unable to see them. Their haunting gurgle like sounds traversed the night sky. Walking back to the house I startled six deer feeding on the fallen apples under one of our apple trees. The word "startled" is a bit of an exaggration on my part. I should have said the deer looked up and stepped to the other side of the tree to continue munching apples.

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