Friday, January 13, 2012


 Ah, those pleasant days are going to continue all winter? Wrong!
 Yesterday, a mild enough rain (mid-40's) took a bad turn late in the day, carried on a howling west wind, driving temperatures into the teens, forcing the rain to turn to snow and chilling me through to the bone. I slept little last night,  winds howling to 40 mph and bands of snow beating against the panes. This morning the windows are frosted, the ground is strangely white and only slowly has the wind begun to abate.
 This leads to hungry birds. One of my first jobs of the day was to pick the suet feeder up from the ground and attach it by its chain to the usual hook on the maple branch. As I watched, a birdhouse gourd came crashing from the same tree, splitting open when it hit the ground, scattering its top, lightweight and empty, like a skull cap, across the yard to the east as though it was running from something; and the bottom, weighed down with a mud-bottomed nest, sat there immobile no matter how hard the wind blew. The top is gone; the bottom is there still.
 I'm used to a huge Red-bellied Woodpecker tentatively arriving at the feeder, hanging back until he feels I am no danger (always near the kitchen window it must seem to him), hanging back until other birds spy him and move politely away. But today's Centurus carolinus is not the usual one; he is too small. Immediately I called him Junior.

 I do not remember this bird from many years ago (though in recent years they have become quite common). I understand their range only goes a few hundred miles north of here (to the mid part of the lower peninsula of Michigan). But this new one to me is smaller than the usual, probably a young bird.

 Also called a "Zebraback" for very obvious reasons in this shot, the bird is an avid insect hunter in warm weather but depends on feeders in the winter when dependably provided. I have heard the larger one very often and I would describe the call as almost a bark, an incessant chuck-chuck-chuck.

 As is his nature, he prefers hammering on bark and he'll take morsels of suet, when he pulls them loose, and peck them against a tree branch. Here 'ol brown eyes' is finishing off just such a treat.
 This young woodpecker has not developed the same fear of me that the older one exhibits. He is skittish, to be sure, but remains on the feeder even when I stand not far inside the window with camera in hand. Or maybe he is just particularly hungry today and has decided to stick it out?

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