Totally captivated in 2007 by the live camera feed of the Hornby Island nesting Bald Eagles in B.C., I was drawn into birding and have never looked back. Thus begins my account of what I'm fortunate enough to discover each day and perhaps capture with my camera.

Unless otherwise stated, all images were taken by and are the property of Janice Melendez

Species Counts:

2014 Final Year List: 255; 2015 Year List a/o June 5, 2015: 235; Life List: 327

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Knocking on Wood

It's been a remarkable season at the cottage so far! A calling Barred Owl was first heard on May 14th, a welcome and most unexpected addition to my cottage Yard list, and since then another and possibly a third has been heard on subsequent evenings, as recent as last week. 

As for the resident Pileated Woodpeckers, lots of excavation activity was first observed close to the cottage in mid-March:

...and late March:

...and in mid-April:

A male Pileated Woodpecker was seen during one of my April visits...

...and, as it turned out, this sighting was very close to the nest cavity first discovered on May 12th when I saw a parent disappear into a hole in a white pine!  So of course from that point forward I kept an eye on the tree, as now both adults were subdued, making it tough to observe them.  

One evening in May I was fortunate to find the male feeding along the shoreline:

A few days later the female was seen scooting into the nest cavity: on your mark, get set...

Go! And then she's back:

It was a challenge to see the parents fly in and out of the nest cavity as they were so quiet but I did my best. A couple of days later in the early morning, the male poked his head out:

Suddenly he was out of the hole, extremely distressed as he began scurrying around the trunk of the pine:

The racket was terrible when I finally realized this was a smack-down between the Pileated and a red squirrel that was trying to get into the nest cavity! The male successfully defended his turf as the squirrel retreated back down to the ground:

The morning of Thursday, June 5th, was very exciting as I finally had my first views of the three, count them, THREE babies. Look carefully! 

A few days earlier I had imagined hearing what could only be described as muffled chattering coming from inside the tree. I now had confirmation it was the babies I had heard: 

That same evening I was able to catch a glimpse of the male visiting the young (only two were visible), no feeding was going on, just some curious looks by the father! 

I'm going to refer to my first view of the babies as Day One. 

Days Two through Four I was away exploring the Soo (but that's another post!) but upon my return in the evening of Day Five I immediately checked on the Pileated family and saw two of the three babies being fed:

The upper baby wasn't too pleased to miss out:

Wanting more:

A brief trip to the city was required the next day, but not without first stopping for coffee on my way through town. For some odd reason I chose to not use the drive-through at Tim Horton's, and that's when my plans quickly changed, finding an exhausted lost dog in the parking lot. Checking her tags for information, I learned her name was Molly and then called her owner. Molly's owner was at work, so he instructed me to take her home a few blocks away and "put her inside the house as it's unlocked" (??!!) .

After doing so (Molly was one happy girl!), I made my way back to the highway using my GPS, as I was on residential streets that I'd never been on before. Less than a block from Molly's home I spotted this beautiful fox with a snack. 

Was this some one's way of thanking me for helping out Molly??

A few minutes later it came out of this culvert, such gorgeous golden eyes!

That evening (= Day Six) when I returned to the cottage with Tessa, it was no longer an issue for me to determine the woodpecker feeding times, as the baby chatter could be heard from inside the cottage ahead of when the parents were to deliver the food. Both parents took turns at feeding:

It was also at this point that I feared one of the three babies had perished, which in fact was the case as only two were ever seen again: 

The end of the day was spent back down on the dock with Tessa:

Day 8 saw lots of action as I knew exactly when to dash outside thanks to the baby chatter:

I was amazed at the size of this screaming baby when he leaned so very far out of the hole! 

Ahead of each feeding I had noticed the parent's brief hesitation, almost as if to better align their long bills with the baby's throat so as not to harm them when feeding??

I have no idea what that icky stuff is!! 
Not that living inside a pine tree isn't icky.

Always watching and waiting, waiting and watching, it was always about food. And just for the record, I'm talking about the babies, not me. 

Day Nine was Friday the 13th and the morning was spent pre-scouting for the "Kawartha Mystery Tour" I was leading for the Pickering Naturalists the next day. It wasn't called "mystery" for nothing, as when I volunteered months ago I had no idea what would be around, least of all a Pileated Woodpecker nest visible from the cottage property! All I prayed for now was that the babies would not fledge ahead of the outing, which luckily they did not.   

Parental feedings continued in the afternoon and into the evening of Day Nine, look closely and the baby's tongue can be seen:

Always chattering when the parent was near:

There was always one baby visible, but where was the second one? I cannot begin to imagine the inside of the nest cavity...

Was it looking up for a parent or pondering that great, big, new world up there? Time to fledge??

It was time to take advantage of my camera's video recording capabilities, so this thirty-two second clip gives you a good idea of the chatter I could here from within the cottage:

Another video clip of an actual feeding is too long to be included here as I'm in remote mode here at the cottage, but it will be posted at a later date when I'm back in civilization, as it's a fine capture of their behaviour. 

Day Eleven sees more of the same with ongoing feedings as the babies continue to grow:

They're so large now that at times their long bills would almost get caught inside the nest cavity. Both babies showed no sense of urgency to fledge: 

Okfine, maybe this one was ready to leave:

More icky stuff was exchanged here, ewwww...

...and here:

The odd thing about Day Eleven, though, was that the adults had begun calling again, more like how they did earlier in the season. 

Or not, check out a brief video of a baby giving an adult call, stop messing with me now!!!

But only momentarily. Yes, it would call like an adult but would regress to its baby chatter when the parent arrived to feed, little monkeys!

It was business as usual during the morning and early afternoon of Day Twelve.
Or so I thought.  

My last views of them were at approximately 1:30 p.m.:

I did not see or hear them again after searching the ground below their pine tree, as well as nearby areas. 

Since then, over the past few weeks I've heard a few distant calls from the back woods (the same woods from where the Barred Owl(s) were calling). Perhaps it's the fledged Pileated Woodpeckers I'm hearing, as they acquire survival skills since leaving the nest. 

I am knocking on wood for them.  

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