The Woodpecker Wars of 2010

23 04 2010

Here is a recap of last Saturday:

Mrs. Downy Woodpecker: Oh sweetie, I just love our new place! Our hard work has finally paid off. I can’t wait to move in and start a new family. Let’s get frisky up here on top of the roof and start making babies.

(Mr. Downy obliges.)

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Red Bellied Woodpecker: Wow, this yard is very posh. It has an All You Can Eat Asian Palm Nut Buffet. I think I’ll hang out for a while.

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Bluejay: Wow, this place is great! It has a birdbath in my favorite color!

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Bluejay: Um…a little privacy, please!

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Red Bellied Woodpecker: Hey, What’s this? A luxury condo and move-in ready. All I need to do is enlarge the doorway a bit. Good thing I didn’t waste my time building one of my own.

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Red Bellied Woodpecker: Hey you little pipsqueaks, I’m taking over this place. Go get yourselves another.

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Great Crested Flycatcher: Hmmm, I wonder about this place. The perching is nice, and it has a spa, but the woodpecker neighbors are almost as bad as mockingbirds. I think I’ll look for quieter digs.

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Mr. Downy Woodpecker: Take that you evil home invader!

Red Bellied Woodpecker: Ouch! You’re pretty tough for a little guy. But I’m not leaving!

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An epic battle ensues.

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Feathers fly and little woodpeckers strive to defend their abode. The Red Bellied Woodpecker is unflappable.

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A stupid human interferes with the natural order and tries to chase away the big invader by squirting with the hose. The Red Bellied Woodpecker returns again and again. The Downy Woodpeckers pant with exhaustion but refuse to relinquish their home.

The next morning, the nest is abandoned. No baby woodpeckers in our yard this season. The meddling humans lose!

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A Good Snag and our New Neighbors

10 04 2010

It was to be either one very, very looooonng post or a series of smaller ones all in a row. I chose to break it up, so that you can skip past any (or all) that don’t interest you.

We moved to this lot because it had some nice trees and lots of shade. Then something began happening to the hickory trees throughout the park. We had one in the front. It was the base for my first gardening attempt (the fern bed). Well, it died right away. AJ and I went round and round about that dead tree. I wanted to save it for the critters, he wanted to chop it down before it toppled over and smashed the RV. We had hit a snag about a snag. Fortunately, as we are usually prone to do, we arrived at a compromise.

AJ cut the tree back, leaving most of the stump, but not enough to pose danger to any structures. It isn’t very attractive, so we planted a large wild bromeliad in its crook and hung a bird feeder on one arm and wind chimes on the other. As the tree has gradually decayed, it has developed a nice patina of lichens on the trunk and sprouted a spectacular crop of shelf mushrooms. I especially love the mushrooms because the lizards use them for basking and the squirrels use them as a staircase. I believe that the old tree has never been more full of life than after its death.

Doomsayer that he is, AJ frequently comments upon the increasing instability of the rotting snag. “One of these days that think is going to fall over. It’s already so loose that you could push it down.” Then he threatens to cut it down. I resist and point out that the poor woodpeckers depend upon these dead trees for their food; and that there are so few already, because everyone cuts them down. Sure enough, the woodpeckers began to take notice and often visited for a meal. They are so shy and skittish that they could see us inside and would flit off if we moved around.

Imagine my surprise when I noticed a pair of Downy Woodpeckers carving a perfect circle right on the branch closest to the window.  As the days passed and the hole got deeper they became more bold. Eventually they got so brave as to keep working even if we went outside and walked around. This only confirms for me the scarcity of suitable nesting sites.

Meet our new neighbors who live in the snag next door. Can’t wait for the babies to arrive!