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Posts Tagged ‘Red-bellied Woodpecker’

During a frosty early morning February foray into Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I spotted this handsome male Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) with fluffed-up feathers. Undeterred by the wind and the cold, he was feverishly moving up and around this tree trunk, pecking along the way in search of a tasty tidbit for breakfast.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have observed woodpeckers in action numerous times, but have rarely seen one capture an insect. On Monday, however, I managed to capture this image of a Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge with a tasty morsel of some sort.

According the the welcomewildlife.com website, Red-bellied Woodpeckers are one of three woodpecker species in the United States known for storing their food and protecting their stash. I suspect that the insect in the photo was consumed on the spot, but I have often seen Red-bellied Woodpeckers with acorns in their mouths that they then jammed into a crack in a tree for future consumption. According to the aforementioned website these trees, known as granaries, may hold up to fifty thousand acorns. (In case you are curious about the other woodpeckers that exhibit similar behavior, they are the Red-headed Woodpecker, a species that is present where I live, and the Acorn Woodpecker, which I believe is found in the western part of the United States.)

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Many of you know that I normally post every day—in 2018 I think that I missed only 12 days.  I used to be really obsessive about this and would get anxious if I didn’t have an image to post. Over time, though,I have mellowed a bit and so I am not at all concerned that I write a posting on New Year’s Day.

I have been in a contemplative mood ever since I did the retrospective look at some of my favorite photos from last year. As I looked back I simultaneously looked forward. I have never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, but my hopes and plans for this new year can be summed up in two words “more” and “better.”

Those two words are non-specific and subjective, but for me, that is the nature of my approach to photography. I strive to spend as much time as I can in the wild, opportunistically looking for subjects. When situations present themselves, I try to react as quickly and creatively as I can.

That was the case earlier today when I visited Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Despite the partial federal government shutdown, the wildlife refuge is still open. It was a cool and gray day, and there was not too much activity. I was therefore thrilled when I spotted this Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) feverishly pecking away at a distant tree.

The woodpecker kept its head down as it circled the branch, but finally paused for a moment when it was upright and I was able to capture this shot. Although the woodpecker is relatively common, the organic shapes of the branches really caught my eye.

I’m ok with shooting familiar subjects over and over again. What about you? Some people like to live “widely,” seeing lots of different things in different places, while others prefer to live “deeply,” seeing the same places in different ways and in different seasons. I tend to be in the latter group, but recognize that each person has his/her own comfort zone.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s hard to ignore a red head. No matter whether it is on a human or a woodpecker, it simply attracts your eyes. I spotted this handsome male Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

You might wonder why this woodpecker is not called a Red-headed Woodpecker. That name is reserved for a woodpecker that has a completely red head. For comparison purposes, I am attaching an image from 2016 of a Red-headed Woodpecker. If you’d like to see more shots of the Red-headed Woodpecker, check out the 2016 posting Red-headed Woodpecker in late January.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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If you talk to your dentist, you’ll certainly be told that cavities are bad, but your perspective might change if you were a bird. I am not sure if this Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) was checking out potential nesting sites yesterday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge or merely looking for insects, but it sure did give this tree cavity a careful examination.

There was definitely no need to fill this cavity.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am rarely able to see the red belly of the Red-bellied Woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus) that I occasionally spot, but the light was coming from the right direction on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to illuminate the reddish-brown color of this woodpecker’s belly.

When I first started taking photos of birds, I remember seeing the bright red color of a woodpecker like this one and thinking it must be called a “red-headed woodpecker.” I am somewhat more knowledgeable about birds now and have a greater appreciation for the difficulties associated with identifying them. In particular, I have learned that you often cannot rely on the name of a bird to identify its key features.

Red belly or not, I knew what this bird was as soon as I saw it, but it was nevertheless wonderful that it chose to pose so nicely for me. One of my Facebook viewers said that it reminded her of a similar pose in the movie The Lion King. It turns out that The Lion King is one of my favorite movies, and I was thrilled when I just now watched a You Tube video of The Circle of Life, one of the songs in the movie that features the rock outcropping that looks like the branch in my photo. I was particularly drawn to the beauty of the birds in the opening moments of the video. It is worth checking out if you have never seen it before or even if you have.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The red on the back of the head of this Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) seemed to be a perfect match for the colorful fall foliage this past Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Autumn is my favorite season of the year and the weather on the day that I took this shot was almost perfect—even the woodpecker seems to be smiling.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Even familiar birds can look cool and different when viewed from an unusual angle. I photographed this Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) Monday morning at Huntley Meadows Park. I was shooting almost straight up and the subject was mostly backlit and in the shadows, but I could just see the red color at the edge of the head.

As an added bonus, you can just see what appears to be the touch of red on the bird’s belly that is responsible for its name—normally you can’t see it and wonder why it is called “red-bellied.”

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Every creature enjoys a brief moment at the top, even this humble little Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park. After working diligently at the lower levels of the tree, the woodpecker climbed to the top to enjoy the scenery and to rest for a short while.

All too quickly it was time to go back to work for this tireless and energetic little bird.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am not sure if it is the cooler autumn weather or the impending winter, but all of the sudden the trees are alive with the sounds of woodpeckers. I can hear them pecking away  and calling out to each other high in the trees. Unfortunately there are still a lot of leaves on the trees, making it hard to spot these busy birds.

On Friday at Huntley Meadows Park, I did manage to get a clear view of a beautiful little Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) feverishly  foraging in a tree. Suddenly the woodpecker turned its head in my direction as though it wanted to proudly show me the bright red fruit that it had discovered.  With the fruit firmly in its bill and a slight smile on its face, the woodpecker flew away, perhaps to cache its find for another day.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Several years ago when I first started taking photos of birds, I remember how excited I was when I photographed a woodpecker that looked like this one. It had red on its head, so surely, I thought, it was a Red-headed Woodpecker.  Oh, how naive I was back then about the complexities of identifying birds.

Sometimes with age comes a bit of wisdom. I am now pretty confident in identifying this bird as a Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), though I must confess that I have never seen a single spot of red on the belly of a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Like the Red-headed Woodpecker that I featured yesterday, the Red-bellied Woodpecker gathers and stores acorns for later use. As one of my readers pointed out in a comment on a previous posting, it is a mystery  how the woodpecker remembers where it has stored the acorns and how it keeps other creatures from stealing its ‘treasures.”

Red-bellied Woodpecker

redbelly1_7Dec_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In the distance I could hear the sound of a woodpecker busily at work. It took a little while for me to finally spot the woodpecker, but eventually I caught sight of him and watched him as he pecked away.

I was happy to be able to identify the bird as a Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), a fairly common species in my marshland park. I was surprised, however, to note that the woodpecker was excavating a cavity that was already large enough to contain its entire head.

I know that Red-bellied Woodpeckers make their nests in cavities and wonder if this might be an early stage of building a nest. Could the bird merely be building a storage area for food? I have lots of questions and multiple possible explanations for what I saw but don’t really have any answers. I think that I remember where I saw the woodpecker and may try to find the tree again and check to see if I can tell whether the woodpecker has worked more to enlarge the cavity in the tree.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Normally I see woodpeckers high in the trees, but some of my fellow photographers spotted this Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) pecking about on the ground below a tree and pointed it out to me. The woodpecker appeared to be collecting acorns and then hopped upward onto the tree carrying an acorn in its bill.

Red-bellied WoodpeckerRed-bellied Woodpecker

Initially I was perplexed, because I tend to think of woodpeckers driving their bills into trees in search of insects, not transporting acorns. Then I remembered back to last winter, when I observed some Red-headed Woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) at my local marshland park stockpiling acorns in the hollow of a tree. Is it possible that Red-bellied Woodpeckers do the same thing?

Red-bellied Woodpecker

I checked out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, my favorite website for information about birds, and it confirmed that Red-bellied Woodpeckers “also use cracks in trees and fence posts to store food for later in the year, a habit it shares with other woodpeckers in its genus.”

Red-bellied Woodpecker

It might be my imagination, but if you look closely at the final shot below, you can see what the outlines of what appear to be several acorns just a bit below the woodpecker’s bill. It’s a mystery to me how the woodpecker remembers where it has stockpiled food and how it keeps other birds from stealing it, but I have to assume that the woodpecker knows what it is doing.

The recent cold weather reminds me that winter is almost here and this bird seems to be preparing for those tougher times to come.

Red-bellied5_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Why was this Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) pecking so feverishly at the top of this broken tree? It certainly did not look like a good spot to find insects.

A few seconds later, I got an answer to my unspoken question, when the woodpecker pulled an acorn out with its beak (at least that’s what I think it is). After a bit of research on the internet, I learned that these woodpeckers eat plant materials, like acorns, as well as insects and that they sometimes use cracks in trees to store food for use at a later time.

red_bellied1-blogred_bellied2_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.

woodpecker1_blogtree1_blogtree2_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Walking through the woods on Monday, I heard the sound of a woodpecker and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus).

Most of the woodpeckers that I see are Downy Woodpeckers, which are cute in their own way, but I had been longing to see some of the bigger woodpeckers. Although the woodpecker was fairly high in the tree, I was happy that I managed to get some recognizable shots in different poses.

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I stopped in the visitor center as I was leaving the park and happened to glance through the window at the bird feeders. The birds at the feeders tend to be fairly small, including nuthatches, chickadees and tufted titmice. Imagine my surprise when a big woodpecker showed up at the suet feeder—it was another Red-Bellied Woodpecker.

Although I was indoors, I decided to take a few shots of the woodpecker.  I think I ended up with a pretty cool image, in which the shadow of the wire cage imparted a striped pattern to the bird’s bill. When you first look at the image, you may not even realize that the stripes are added.

Now that I have photographed a medium-sized woodpecker, I will be in search of a Pileated Woodpecker—the superstar of woodpeckers.

red_bellied1_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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