Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pileated Woodpecker

While I was taking pictures of the skunk cabbage at the edge of the wetland one day last week, a pileated woodpecker noticed me and started making a show of hopping up the trunk of a nearby tree.

Pretty soon all was quiet when the bird flew from the tree and disappeared.  But I had that eerie feeling that I was being watched,  Sure enough, what I first thought was the pointy stub of a branch on the side of a tree was actually the woodpecker peeking out of a hole.  I couldn't believe how lucky I was to stumble across this surprise -

That vertical gash on the right side of the trunk is the entrance to a cavity in the tree.  The combination of the low light of approaching dusk and my feeling that I needed to take a quick picture and back off meant I ended up with a disappointingly blurry shot of the opening.

I beat a hasty retreat because I really didn't want to disturb this bird, especially if it has eggs in that hollow.  As I left, the woodpecker flew out of its hole to keep an eye on me.

I discovered a very surprising fact about pileated woodpeckers on the National Audobon webpage devoted to them -

This species requires late successional stages of forest for habitat, as well as younger forests that have scattered, large, dead trees for food, nesting, and roosting. In younger forests they requires larger areas: 3,904 acres of virgin forest supports 3-6 pairs of Pileated Woodpeckers, while the same area of secondary forest will support just one pair. They also require larger trees with dead centers for roosting, where the bird excavates only the entrance hole.

Can it really be that each pair of woodpeckers requires that much territory?  I saw a similar statement on a website  Pilleated Woodpecker Central  - 

Territory size varies between 1000 and 4000 acres.  They will defend their territory year-round.

According to the second website, predators of the Pileated Woodpecker include the Red-tailed Hawk (a pair of which used to annually lay eggs in a large nest located in a neighboring tree), Barred Owls (which we have been hearing at night recently), weasels, and squirrels, among other animals.  These are just the predators mentioned that I know are sharing this same corner of the wetland.  

And these woodpeckers are monogamous.  As in they remain with the same mate for life, not just for a mating season.  That is cool.

Right after my chance discovery, our friend Jeff shared some beautiful pictures of a pileated woodpecker that visited his bird feeder located about two miles upstream from us.  Jeff gave me the go-ahead to share his photos here.

photo courtesy of Jeff S.

Photo courtesy of Jeff S.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hello Spring 2013

Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis)

Has it really been almost a year since posting on here?  Time to get back in the groove.  Suddenly watching the flora and fauna come alive around here has inspired me to get my blogging act together.

Just as a brief reminder - I started this blog in April of 2009 when Adopt A Stream lead a project to restore a native growth buffer along the banks of Little Swamp Creek where it travels through our yard.  Students from the Leaf School at Edmonds Community College helped plant and mulch the buffer here in two phases and helped install large woody debris in a couple places along the stream bank.  This work took place between April 2009 and April 2010. Adopt A Stream and The Leaf School also completed an additional restoration project in our neighbor's yard where the stream continues behind our property.  The plants in our yard are doing fabulously, with only a few becoming victims to varying degrees of deer and beaver.

Back to what is happening now.  Indian plum is one of the first native plants that we see blooming along Little Swamp Creek, but it's not the only native plant currently blooming here.  Skunk Cabbage is also popping up like mad.  I hadn't smelled it yet, but I sure saw a lot of blossoms in the wetland behind our fence.

Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus)

Little Swamp Creek in Swamp Creek Wetland #3

Another view of Little Swamp Creek in Wetland #3

A few spots of bright pink Salmonberry blossoms suddenly appeared along the stream,

which prompted me to share the signs of spring showing up in the native plantings along our little stretch of Little Swamp Creek.

Wild rose (maybe Nootka but not sure)

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis)

Twinberry (Lonicera involucrata)

This chokeberry is one of the first plants that we planted next to the stream. That was back in 2000.  It is now sporting a beautiful collection of lichens. 

This little nettle start and mushroom were part of the plant community on and around a huge, old tree stump that was left behind after this area was logged years and years ago.  There are several old stumps like this in the woods around us.

Red-flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum)

I didn't realize how readily the Red-flowering Currants will multiply by establishing a new plant with root growth off of a branch that remains in contact with the ground.  Here's an example in our yard -

I took a picture of this willow next to the stream on one day, and the next day it was chopped down by a beaver.  More on the beaver issue in a future blog post...