Tuesday, February 16, 2010

FIGHT OR FLIGHT?

Another snow-filled day—sometimes fairly heavy, sometimes just a few fine flakes sifting lightly from the sky. Also switching back and forth several times from clouds to sun.
A couple of hours ago, when the sky was bright and clear, I stood watching through one of the windows overlooking the river. Snowflakes were blowing sideways. Though I wasn't aware of so much wind, the air was full of this horizontal snow. What made the moment special were the flakes themselves—each sparkling like a brilliant diamond as pellucid winter light flashed off the flat planes off the individual snowflakes, gleaming, scintillating, a scene more dazzling to the eye and heart than mere words can ever paint.
Now it is overcast again and snowing fairly heavily. The feeders are busy, and have been all day—a dozen or more species visible at any given time, and always heavy on cardinals. I don't know why I seem to have so many cardinals around this winter. I also have a lot more Carolina wrens and white-throated sparrows, yet far fewer house finches and goldfinches than usual—though way more purple finches than in winters past.
Moments ago I looked up to see a female pileated woodpecker come flapping across the river, heading directly for one of the suet feeders. A male red-bellied woodpecker, already occupying the feeder, also noticed the big pileated flapping his way. I swear I saw him cringe.
It was one of those David-and-Goliath moments…except in this encounter, the red-bellied David lacked both size and a trusty sling and stone. The square-off was over with a peck and a squawk…the pileated administering the pecking, the red-bellied protesting with indignant squawking. In the end, of course, size does matter—especially if your opponent could chisel a hole through your skull with a single sledge-hammer whack.
The red-bellied did exactly what I would have done in his place, flew over to the safety of a nearby tree and hurled loud invectives at the bigger, badder usurper……you xy&#w2a3k@z redheaded pterodactyl!
Yup, he showed her.

14 comments:

Jenn Jilks said...

Griz, can you tell me how to tell the males from the females?
Great shot, P.S.
I heard one on a walk in the forest today. Hubby saw one on our property while I was gone...go figgur!

Wanda said...

I've not had a pileated come to the suet feeder, but with all this snow we were able to count 38 Cardinals this morning at the feeders. I especially liked yesterday's and today's photos!

KGMom said...

Aww--poor red-bellied. Even though pileateds are impressive with their size, I much prefer the looks (and behavior) of the red-bellieds.
Ah well, one can't dictate to nature. It is a path filled with folly.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jenn…

Sure can…the male has a red slash BELOW the eye, and below the white stripe which starts at the rear of the bill; the female lacks this red mustache. Otherwise, they look alike—but as big as they are, you can usually see this second bit of red (or not if it a female) without much trouble. They usually work around through a woods in a sort of loose pair, not close together, but in the same vicinity. I have a pair on the island across from the cottage and see or hear them practically every day.

I seem to remember a video you posted awhile back of your cat watching a pileated or two at rather close range—right?

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

My pileateds are regulars and must keep a pretty good eye on the feeders. If I let one run out of its suet block and then fill it, I can count on a pileated visit within minutes. They stop several times daily, but oddly, never eat as much of the suet block as you'd think—no more than any other woodpecker per visit, as best I can tell.

I just have cardinals everywhere this winter. Easily a couple dozen any time I look out, and way more than that sometimes. Almost evenly matched in pairs, I believe. I'll try and count them and see what I can come up with. My problem is I keep getting distracted by the red males, so pretty against the snow.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

I really like red-bellieds, too. But I like all woodpeckers. The downy and red-bellied are the most friendly, easiest to tame enough that you can work around within a dozen feet or so of them.

And nope—we have to take nature as it comes.

Bernie said...

Your photos are absolutely beautiful.....ahhhh never under estimate the power of a female especially if she is hungry.
I love visiting here Grizz, you make is sound wonderful especially as your words describe the beautiful snowfall. Now we are having another beautiful sunny Spring like day and I love it and truly enjoying this weather as I know we will still get more winter storms as we always do.....:-) Hugs

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

I'm glad you enjoy visiting here. So much of what I see and later write about is wonderful not because of anything I say, or my perspective, but simply because nature itself is filled with wonder and beauty, drama, humor, mystery. All I do is try and get just a little bit of that down in words and photos so I can pass them along.

Jayne said...

A Pileated at your feeder!!! I am now officially jealous. ;c)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jayne…

Not uncommon here; they visit almost daily. Sorry. Guess they recognize a woodpecker man when they see him! Of course I've yet to have a mockingbird in the yard…so don't be too jealous.

The Weaver of Grass said...

We call that the pecking-order, Scribe. By the way - does your river have a name? If so I would love to hear it - also if you have a special word for a stream round your part of the world, would you pop over to my blog and tell me your word for a small watercourse, if you have time.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

Pecking order, indeed. Or as I once heard a fellow say, "A smart man knows when he's whooped beforehand, so he doesn't need to endure the lesson." Same applies to woodpeckers.

My river does have a name, and it's right there on the map. (See, in the southwest corner of the state…that squiggly blue line?) :-)

P.S. Check your email.

Kelly said...

Hahaha.....you made me laugh, especially with the lines, "I swear I saw him cringe." and..."The square-off was over with a peck and a squawk…the pileated administering the pecking, the red-bellied protesting with indignant squawking." perfect....

....I hear more snow is possible this weekend! Although I also heard it may go south instead. (I want a little more snow!).

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Kelly…

Hey, I can't help it if my woodpeckers are funny—what else can you expect from birds that dress likes clowns?

And yup, I'm with ya…gimmie more snow!