Thursday, May 07, 2009


With the past couple days of rain, vegelife is really pushing up, now that it has the hydraulics.

During a rainlull yesterday I was out by the garden checking on things, observing the changes, when I heard a rat-a-tata-racket up in the big oak; I turned that way and froze in place; soon a pygmy woodpecker, one of the locals - stippled a silver and black that marks him as a deep familiar of oak trees (and renders him nearly invisible thereon) - swooped from the big oak down onto one of my stacks of shiitake logs, which are also of oak.

It surprised me, since the shiitake logs had been cut at least two years ago-- what could they hold of interest to his beakship? He hung from the end of one log, suspending himself expertly from two sticklegs, and thoroughly checked out all around and under and on the various logs, then set to cursory work on the log end. But there was nothing there of interest to a woodpecker that I could see, and he wasn't really pecking full out. After a while he hopped to the top of another log, tilted his head to listen, put his head down and ratatatted for a few seconds, then stood victoriously erect, holding at the end of his beak a long fat white grub, held by by the middle!

It was bigger than he could eat comfortably down low in the open like that, so he flew back to the heights of the big oak to dine. I went over to the logs he had been on, and found that on the end of the first log, he had been pecking at a certain lichen-like fungus that grew there. He had eaten it all off! And on the other log, where he had gotten the fat grub, there was only a small hole, about half the diameter of a pencil, which he had so fine-gauged as to enable him to grasp the grub precisely at the middle and pull it out!

What a master.


Tabor said...

Not only that...but both plant(?) and protein. What a healthy eater! Birds are going crazy in our garden this year, so we have lots of bugs...or will not have lots of bugs.

Mary Lou said...

I have four kids of woodpeckers this year. Now if only the damn starlings would leave the suet blocks alone so the woodpeckers could find them.

joared said...

I'd never heard of pygmy woodpeckers until I read this. I know only the large red-headed variety in the U.S.

A different variety of some sort of bluejay I've never seen before is vying with a mockingbird for territorial rights to my yard.