Monday, January 29, 2018

Know This Guy When You Hear Him!


We were drawing near the woods in a marshy area, and I heard that sound (borrowing here from Audubon's Sibley Guide to Birds): kuk kuk keekeekeekeekeekeekuk kuk! I used to listen to that sound at 11 o'clock practically every morning when we lived in the mountains of western Virginia, but hadn't heard it much in coastal Carolina the past decade.

Sure enough, it was an old friend, The Pileated Woodpecker. This is one of the most magnificent birds (in my experience anyway) -- certainly, it is by far the largest of the woodpeckers.  The way it announces itself is unforgettable, and it lives up to its own hype. Flaming red crest, very long tail, wide-winged -- absolutely spectacular.

It is the Muhammad Ali of feathered friends -- boldly announcing "I am the greatest!" and then living up to that claim, which makes it all good. I got to observe the guy at work on a tree for a few minutes.

It is exciting to think that this beautiful creature may be making this patch of woods home, at least for now. The mature forest with lots of dead trees still standing is home to a lot of bluebirds, as I noted in a Jan. 15 blogpost. Well, Pileated Woodpeckers also love this kind of environment. According to my Compact Guide to South Carolina Birds: "A pair of {Pileated} woodpeckers will spend up to six weeks excavating a large nest cavity in a dead or decaying tree. Wood ducks, kestrels, owls and even flying squirrels frequently nest in abandoned Pileated Woodpecker cavities."

All of this increases my excitement that the worldwide Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) will begin Friday, February 16 and run through Monday, the 19th. You can participate by just watching your backyard feeders; however, you can go afield, too, and do what I call birdwalking. Walk the dawg for a couple of miles and ID and count the birds as you go. Then report in online when you get home.

I will write more about the GBBC over the next few weeks. I am psyched for it now, having encountered the Pileated Woodpeckers and numerous Bluebirds -- not to mention a whole flock of Robins this morning.

                                                © Robert Gray Holland  (2018)

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