Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Winter Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker (male) and
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (female)


Sunday was a sunny day and cold.
Against a bright blue sky and beyond frosted windows, we counted 8 woodpeckers, in bold black and white—drawn to the edge of the woods by seeds and suet. The most numerous and smallest, the Downy Woodpeckers, we see often and know well. And the Red-bellied, Hairy, and Pileated, in fewer numbers, often visit. These woods and the many dead and fallen trees provide the insects and nesting sites for these year-round residents of eastern North America.

But, it is not often that she visits us here, this migratory woodpecker who spends the warm summer months in Canada and eastern Alaska. In fact, only twice in the 16 years we’ve lived in southwestern Ohio, have we seen a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
Whether, on this day, she was just passing through to a more southern spot or arriving to spend the winter with us, I don’t know.
But I have a big box of suet cakes to see her through the coldest days ahead.



Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Sphyrapicus varius,
feeding at Suet


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31 comments:

giggles said...

Oh how cool! I have not ever seen a pileated, though it is on my life wish list... When I lived in Ohio, I hung out where they had been seen but have yet to be graced with so much as a glimpse.... The sapsucker has come to wish you...Happy Holidays!

KGMom said...

I have started putting out a suet block. And I got a Downy stopping by.
But mostly, the squirrels eat the suet, hanging upside down and all.

NCmountainwoman said...

We have Pileateds, Downys, Hairys, and Red-bellieds, but we cannot seem to attract a Sapsucker. Lucky you.

Our story would be like Donna's if we put suet on the tree. The squirrels would take over.

nina said...

Oh, squirrels can be so frustrating.
Have you tried scattering corn for them?
Sometimes it seems to distract them from the seeds and suet; other times, I'm not so lucky!

The Sapsucker is back this morning--with her mate, too!
(wishing I could get better pictures than these taken through the haze of glass and screens!)

Dropping into stealth mode...shhhh...

Lynne said...

How special that you have a pair! Maybe they'll settle in for the winter and your buffet.

Ruthie/Nature Knitter in Rochester, Minnesota had a sapsucker at her feeders over the weekend. They NEVER stay up here in the cold for winter.

Let's see those stealth pix!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I just love woodpeckers, well all birds. It is wonderful that you have a YBWO at your feeders.

Deborah Godin said...

Neat post, the photos and all the info. That little sapsucker must be thinking "Next year I'm booking with my travel agent early!"

The grizzled but still incorrigible scribe himself! said...

No YBSapsucker here…yet. But I'll keep looking and hoping.

Plenty of Downeys, a few Hairy, loads of Red-Bellied, and at least one pair of Pileated that usually hang on the wooded island across from the cottage, and flap over here for a feeder session once or twice a day. Also have a flicker or two.

My squirrels are usually content with cracked corn. If I had it available, I'd also put out some corn on cobs, as they seem to like to work at this—of course they still just nibble out the grain's "heart."

When I get a bit slow on the corn, however, I have squirrels hanging off the seed feeders and suet feeders, and usually one or two on the window ledge of my workroom window, thumping, scratching on the glass, and just distracting the life out of me when it comes to getting any work done. The cure, of course, is to given them their corn.

scienceguy288 said...

Pileateds are big birds! I saw one for the first time this summer and was really surprised.

Carolyn H said...

Nina: Nice. I've had yellow-bellied sapsuckers only once or twice more than you in roughly the same amount of time. Do pileated woodpeckers actually feed at your feeders? I've never had one at mine to eat, though they are all around (sometimes even swooping the red-bellied in the feeder).

Carolyn H.

DCup said...

Beautiful! I get such a thrill from woodpeckers.

(I need to check on our suet supply.)

dguzman said...

Nice! I need to put out some suet.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Nina, We don't have Sapsuckers either.. We have Pileated, Red-bellied, Red-headed, Downys, and in the summer--Northern Flickers. BUT--the suet I bought doesn't seem to attract any of them YET. Hopefully it will soon.

Hugs,
Betsy

Susan Gets Native said...

You know, YB sapsuckers are the only Ohio woodpecker I haven't got on my yard list. We had a Pileated and a Red-Headed buzz through here a long time ago, but no sapsuckers. Please tell your pair that I have Zick Dough. It's only about a 10 minute flight from there to here.

: )

Rurality said...

We have Sapsuckers a-plenty here in the winter... it's the Hairy that is more unusual here!

Cynthia said...

Your blog has reminded me that I've always wanted to be able to identify and assist wildlife. I live in the mountains in the Caribbean and see little finches swaying on thin tall grasses. When I come out they lift up like a disturbed dust pile and then resettle.

How clever to make a feeder that is attached to the side of the tree. I'm ignorant. Is that for protection so they don't make a hole in the tree?

KatDoc said...

Nina - See? You got your sapsucker after all! I haven't seen either one of mine, the one at home or the one at work, for a long time.

I don't have squirrels, but when I put out suet blocks, they are immediately covered in starlings and disappear in minutes. Instead, I use a suet-free "woodpecker block" made of seeds and nuts. The woodpeckers, nuthatches and chickadees love it and tho it still gets some attention from the starlings, it isn't nearly as bad.

I have a caged feeder I can use for suet to protect it from starlings, but it also keeps out bigger birds, like red-bellied woodpeckers and my mockingbird, so it is a trade-off.

~Kathi

nina said...

Cynthia-I'm glad to have you ask questions, and happy to share what I know.
The feeder in the photos is a suet feeder. Suet is eaten by birds that cling to the side of trees, like woodpeckers, so the screened box is placed there to provide food in a way that is like their habit of feeding. The cage-like form is because suet is very crumbly and needs something to contain it, so it doesn't all fall in little pieces on the ground.
The idea behind bird feeding is to provide supplements that are the closest to what birds naturally eat and in a way they look to feed. On the ground for ground feeders, ....while excluding from the food, those you don't wish to encourage--starlings, squirrels,...

Kathi--Yes, I'm overjoyed to have them here again (finally)and hoping they don't run off to Susan's (I hear she's got the good stuff!)

Carolyn H--our Pileateds do not eat from the feeders, but I know other neighbors' whose do. There's always a first time--maybe this year!

I'm just glad all the effort of cooking up the suet cakes is being appreciated!

Appalachian Lady said...

I noticed the Yellow Bellied Sapsucker last year at the feeder. This year, he's back. So, I try to keep cakes out all the time because I don't know what else he would eat since there is no sap. I wonder if the suet cakes keep him here for the winter?

Please check out my blog for ideas for a holiday wreath for the birds.

Cynthia said...

Thanks for the information. I'm going to look up the bird wildlife here and see if any bird needs support.

Bear Naked said...

Seasons greetings from my blog to your blog.


Bear((( )))

Cheryl said...

Hi Nina.....lovely to see the beautiful woodpeckers in your part of the world.
I try to leave the dead and dying trees in my garden to allow the insects to hide and the birds to feed. In the UK people tend to fell the trees when they are dead or dying.....this is a great shame for wildlife. I think the old trees can look quite beautiful too......

Thank you for visiting my blog......

GoWildMarie said...

Hello Nina. I stopped by last week but failed to comment or say hi. (I was just learning about blogs and started a journey linking to lots of different sites.) I kept a link to yours because I love nature and birds, too. The woodpeckers are always a joy for me to see. The YB Sapsucker is not one I have ever seen. Thanks for sharing your wealth!

anthonynorth said...

A marvellous and worthwhile pursuit there.

Neva said...

Woodpeckers..I had no idea how much sawdust they could leave until I saw a pile under one of their holes.....nice.

Mary said...

Loving the woodpeckers. I have the Downys and Red-Bellieds although I've seen the yellow-bellied sapsuckers in the area. Keep the suet flowing!

Yesterday was our coldest day since last January so I promptly made a batch of Zick dough. Finally, the woodies have returned.

Merry Christmas, Nina. Make it Merry.

Hugs,
Mary

Marvin said...

Winter is a great time for getting a better look at the woodpecker, though the Pileated is hard to miss any time of year.

spacedlaw said...

A great W. Wishing you all the best for the holidays.

antigoni said...

Great post! Merry Christmas.

Life with Kaishon said...

Winter Woodpecker! Brilliant W! Merry Christmas!

Dragonstar said...

How wonderful to have such an unusual visitor!

Best wishes on behalf of the Team.