Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Green, the Woods and the Woodpeckers

A New Leaf

A few weeks ago I wrote about my shock at opening the kitchen shade and looking out the window to see two big hunks of pear tree broken. I said at the time it was likely another bear visit, this time going after the one pear in the tree rather than a seed feeder. I still think it was a bear.

I worried about the pear tree, especially after I did some "pruning" that took off far more than I anticipated. I began to think about what kind of tree I'd get to replace the pear.

Today I went outside to refresh the water cooler and dish. I discovered that once again, Nature provides.

Below shows the growth coming from the snapped ends (once I sawed the broken part off).

New growth from broken pear branches (Margo D. Beller)

A Walk in the Woods

MH and I like to find new places to hike. If we find birds, so much the better. If there's no admission, better still.

So the other day we looked at a map of New York and found the Neversink River Unique Area. It's the word "unique" that interested me. All places are unique to me. However, the "uniqueness" comes from the deep gorge leading from the trail down to the river.

We did not hike that far in. We started uphill along the path from the parking lot among hemlock and pine in an easy grade (maybe not for MH's old knees) until we got to a level part of the path with a clearing. Oaks and maples with the pines. I heard the tittering of black-capped chickadees and titmice but when I saw movement and looked up, I saw something quite different - a male hooded warbler. Moments later, a Philadelphia vireo. A pileated woodpecker called loudly. Black and White warblers chased each other. All told we found five warblers (mourning warbler and ovenbird rounds out the list) in one small area.

This is why I go birding, the element of surprise, of one moment hearing nothing and then suddenly be surrounded by birds. This has happened to me a few times when seeing one bird led to seeing all sorts of "good" birds in a small area. It helps when it's migration, either spring or fall. I suspect the warblers and vireo were using the local knowledge of the local birds to find food.

The only problem was the shooting. Two guys were near the trailhead as we returned, one showing the other how to use a gun. Neither were young. One had the gun, the other a spotting scope, perhaps to make sure the other guy didn't kill anything. The guy with the gun was shooting low into the trees. The sound was loud and scary to me. I made sure they knew we were there as we hiked back to the car and they acknowledged. Eventually they left after other hikers showed up and as we were getting ready to drive off. Maybe we spooked them the way they spooked off the birds.

Hunting and trapping are part of the history of the Unique area, too. 

Woodpeckers With a Sweet Tooth

The law of unintended consequences bit me today.

We have had a lot of rain this summer but in the last week it has not rained much and gotten very hot again. I went outside to check the hummingbird feeder and found it filled with ants that drowned trying to get a drink. I dumped it and took out the cup that, filled with water, acts like a moat to keep them out.
Hummer feeder after downy flew off and before hummingbird arrived. (Margo D. Beller)
I came out today and found a male downy woodpecker on the feeder. I chased him off a couple of times. And then a female downy came to the feeder. I've had to chase her off a few times.

I realized that woodpeckers and hummingbirds have something in common - a long tongue.

So the downys - the smallest of our local woodpeckers - either sat on or perched on the feeder, dipped in their beaks, stuck out their tongues and drank, just like the hummers. It explains why the sugar water levels seemed to suddenly drop very low. I attributed it to the heat.
This would be a better picture if not for the screen but the dark object at the top center is a hummingbird. (Margo D. Beller)

Now I know the downys have a sweet tooth.

We are soon into bird-feeder time and the hummers should be heading south. This feeder will come inside for another year but the seed and suet will sustain the downys and other woodpeckers. I'll worry about a new breed of sugar-sucking woodpeckers next year.