Monday, April 19, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
Posted by Bill of the Birds at 9:06 AM
Let's take a short break from our Guyana adventure and enjoy a bird species that's closer to home—at least for those of us in North America.
Two weeks ago I was walking in the old orchard on our farm and I heard the tell-tale sounds of a woodpecker excavating a nest cavity. I followed the sound until I was reasonably sure I knew which large, dead tree was going to be the nest site. However, the tree (a dead yellow poplar trunk) had at least a dozen large holes in it, several of which looked relatively new.
Two days later Julie and I heard the wood-chopping sound while checking the bluebird boxes in the orchard. She immediately thought "pileated" but I wasn't so sure since we have four other woodpecker species that nest on our place. We walked to the trunk and suddenly the head of a male pileated woodpecker poked out of one of the larger holes on the southwest side of the trunk. Not wanting to spook the bird from his work, we slowly backed away and left him in peace.
The following day I went out to scope the site from a distance, but before I could even set up, the male and his mate began drumming and calling to one another. The male swooped into the nest tree, glared at me for a minute, then swooped off into the woods. Now I was really paranoid that I was going to frighten the pileateds into abandoning the nest, which I assumed was still being excavated.
Later that afternoon I went out and listened for the tapping. I heard none and could see no activity in or around the nest hole. This was my chance. I ran back to the garage and grabbed my portable photo blind. Back out to the orchard I ran. I had the thing set up in three minutes. Unzipping the peephole facing the nest I saw that my activity had not gone undetected. The male was there in the nest glaring at me. Very calmly I stepped back out of the blind, zipped it closed and strolled away nonchalantly. The male resumed his excavation a few minutes later, the impacts of his bill sounding like someone using a hatched to split kindling.
I knew I wanted to digiscope the scene but not at the expense of disturbing the birds. Clearly there was no way to get in and out of the blind unnoticed. I decided to try anyway. I went back at 3:00 pm, knowing I had a bit more than an our before I'd have to go pick the kids up at the school bus stop. I carried my Leica digiscoping rig out to the blind and slipped inside. The sound of my footfalls, or perhaps the zippers on the blind, were enough to alert the nest occupant to my presence. When I opened the blind's peephole, there was the female looking out the hole directly at me.
I set up the scope, got good focus, dropped the Leica D-Lux 4 camera and adapter over the eyepiece and shot a dozen frames. The female resumed her work, bringing bill-fulls of chips and sawdust to the opening and dumping them out.
Then I flipped it over to video and got this:
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