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Posts Tagged ‘Dryocopus pileatus’

Yesterday I featured a Downy Woodpecker, the smallest woodpecker in our area. Today I want to present a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), which is by far the largest woodpecker in this region, with a length of 16 to 19 inches (41 to 48 cm) and a weight of 9 to 12 ounces (155 to 340 grams). I doubt that I will ever spot one of these woodpeckers hanging from a seedpod, like yesterday’s Downy.

Quite often I hear the drumming sound of a Pileated Woodpecker long before I see, a sound that sometimes seems as loud as a jackhammer. When I heard that sound on Monday I scanned the trees and finally caught a glimpse of this female Pileated Woodpecker pecking away at a distant tree. I was happy to capture this profile shot that provides a pretty good look at her face and her bright red crest.

 

Pileated Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was a little surprised and quite happy this past weekend to spot a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) poking about on the ground at Occoquan Regional Park. Most of the time I have to settle for high-angle shots when I am lucky enough to spot one of these giant woodpeckers. I have been told that these woodpeckers regularly probe fallen trees, but this was a first for me.

After I inadvertently spooked the woodpecker, it flew to a nearby tree. The light was coming from the side and the front when I took the second shot and it made the woodpecker red crest look like it was on fire. Somehow it seemed appropriate, given that most redheads I have known have tended to be quite fiery.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Pileated Woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) are so large and loud that it is hard to miss them when they are around. I often hear them from a distance, pecking away at a tree with a volume that seems to match that of a jackhammer, or I catch a glimpse of their bright red heads, but generally they are high in the trees, partially hidden from view behind a tangle of branches.

I spotted a Pileated Woodpecker in flight last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and was able to follow it to the tree where it landed. Moving as slowly and stealthily as I could, I tried to find a visual tunnel that would provide an unobstructed view of the the woodpecker. I was mostly successful in doing so and was able a couple of images of the woodpecker at work. I never realized how to determine the gender of these birds, but one of my friends pointed out to me that the red whisker stripes on this bird’s face indicates that this is a male.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Although the temperature was 20 degrees (minus 7 degrees C) and the wind was blowing yesterday afternoon, I got fooled into thinking the bright sunshine would warm me up a bit. Most of the creatures at the marsh were absent from view, probably trying to keep warm in sheltered locations.

I was excited, therefore, when I head the unmistakable sound of a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) at work nearby as I was walking along a path. No other woodpeckers in our area can match the volume of a Pileated Woodpecker when it is burying its bill into a tree.

I managed to locate the woodpecker and was a little disappointed that it was high in a tree in a location where it was obscured by lots of branches. Eventually the woodpecker climbed higher in the tree and I was able to get a few relatively unobstructed shots, although I had to take them at a pretty sharp angle.

My favorite shot is the one in which the woodpecker looks like it is stalking a prey at the top of the tree. Its eyes are fixed on the target and it seems to be trying to sneak up on it. In reality, I have no idea what the woodpecker was doing, but it made for an unusual pose.

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Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do woodpeckers ever make noise just for fun? Usually when I hear a Pileated Woodpecker at work, it sounds like a jackhammer as the bird drives its bill deep into the tree, but earlier this week I hear a more resonant, drumming sound coming from a hollow tree.

I spotted the Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) just before it spotted me and I was able to snap only a couple of photos before it flew away. As I looked at the tree afterwards, it was easy to see that it had essentially served as a musical instrument for the bird, allowing the woodpecker to send its rhythmic music out a long distance.

What was not clear, however, was whether the actions had been related to searching for insects, because it sure didn’t look like the long dead tree housed any insects.

Was the woodpecker sending messages? The message I received was that I should hurry to that spot for a great photos opportunity.

Pileated Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday, I was walking through the woods when I noticed pieces of bark falling through the air. I assumed that this activity was caused by hyperactive squirrels and was shocked when I looked up to see a Pileated Woodpecker high in the trees.

Pileated Woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) are really loud when they are foraging for food and their forceful drumming often sounds like a jackhammer. This woodpecker, however, seemed to be in stealth mode and he was removing sections of bark by putting his bill underneath the bark and twisting his head a little.

There were quite a few branches between me and the woodpecker, so it was interesting challenge trying to find a visual  tunnel that would permit me to photograph him without too many obstructions. As anyone who photographs birds knows well, focusing was also an issue and I ended up with some photos of a blurry woodpecker, but beautifully in-focus branches. I was pretty happy, though, that I managed to get a a couple of relatively clear shots.

The woodpecker was undoubtedly searching for something to eat. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a Pileated Woodpecker’s primary food is carpenter ants, supplemented by other ants, woodboring beetle larvae, termites, and other insects such as flies, spruce budworm, caterpillars, cockroaches, and grasshoppers.

I have no idea what delicacy this woodpecker was seeking, but in the second photo it looks like he might have found some tasty little snack. Bon appétit!

Pileated WoodpeckerPileated Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do woodpeckers smile?

Earlier this month, I spent some time observing a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) at work, high in a tree at my local marshland park. The woodpecker would peck away for a while and then stop for a break.  As the big bird turned his head to one side or to the other, it seemed to me that its face would light up in a self-satisfied smile.

What do you think, is the woodpecker smiling or is it just my imagination, running away with me? (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist the temptations to throw in a line from a song.)

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It’s nice to be back home from my recent overseas trip and to have the chance to go out in the wild for some photos. Urban shooting is ok, but somehow I feel more comfortable chasing after wildlife.

Yesterday I spotted this Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) high in the trees at Huntley Meadows Park, the local marsh that is my favorite spot for wildlife shooting. I’ve been trying for quite a while to get some good shots of this spectacular woodpecker and they are getting better, though they are not quite there yet.

These two shots are part of a series that I took as the woodpecker moved its head from side to side as well as up and down, chiseling out a hole in the tree. I was amazed to see how far back the woodpecker pulled its head before each stroke and the powerful force with which it struck—it was enough to give me a headache.

I’m still hoping that I will find a Pileated Woodpecker a bit lower in a tree (or working on a fallen log) in a location that will permit me to get some better shots, but I am content that I was able to get these shots when I caught sight of this woodpecker yesterday.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Do you have a list of subjects that you really want to photograph? I do and ever since I caught sight of a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) through the window of the visitor center of my local marshland park, I have been possessed with an overwhelming desire to photograph one. That first time, the woodpecker was hanging from a suet feeder usually used by nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers and I was impressed by its size and its beauty.

Last month, a year after the initial sighting, I finally got a photo of one and featured it in a posting My First Pileated. The photo was a little blurry and the bird was partially obscured by branches, but it was clearly a Pileated Woodpecker. This past Saturday, I came upon another one as I was walking through the woods. Not surprisingly, I heard the woodpecker before I caught sight of it high in the trees, barely visible.

The dry leaves crackled loudly as I tried to get closer to the woodpecker and it flew to other trees several times during this protracted process. I had heard from others that Pileated Woodpeckers sometimes work on fallen logs, but this one never left the higher reaches of the trees. Eventually it flew out of sight.

I ended up with a slightly better photograph of a Pileated Woodpecker, but am confident that I can do much better this winter as I continue to stalk “big game,” which for me includes this woodpecker, hawks, and maybe even an owl.

pileated_dec_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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He was partially hidden by the branches, but I was happy—I had finally gotten a clear view and a recognizable photograph of a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus).

I have long hoped to spot a Pileated Woodpecker. I have seen evidence of their handiwork (or is it more appropriately “beakwork”) several time and heard the loud sound of these large woodpeckers at work, but I had not been able to find one. This past Monday, while I was attempting to photograph dragonflies, I heard the sound of a woodpecker in a nearby patch of woods and went to investigate. I was surprised to see a Pileated Woodpecker, because the soft tap-tap was not what I expected from this species.

My shot is really just a record shot, but the first time that I see a new bird, insect, or animal, I am invariably content to get any kind of shot. I know I can do a lot better, if I can just find a cooperative Pileated Woodpecker.

pileated_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most often I see small woodpeckers high up in the trees, pecking at the smaller branches there, but this male Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) seemed determined to take on the challenge of the trunk of this substantial-sized tree. I really like his pose, as he appears to be contemplating how best to tackle this problem.

Does he dream of great things, like excavating holes in trees like those in the second and third photos? Maybe he was an orphan and was raised by a family of Pileated Woodpeckers and doesn’t recognize any limitations in his size.

I am still trying to get photos of the larger woodpeckers that made the impressive series of holes. I hear a jackhammer-like sound when they are working, but they manage to elude me each time.

For now, I am content with my photo of the smaller woodpecker, attempting to punch above his weight class.

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Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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