Friday, April 18, 2008

The Sentry, Part 2

The Sentry has a mate. We have observed the mate darting back and forth, helping with all manner of household chores. As well, red-headed woodpecker hanky-panky was actually witnessed last week. Hopefully, a baby or two will occur from their union and I’ll have some amazing photo ops in the not-too-distant future.

Not knowing exactly what an immature red-headed woodpecker looks like, I went to one of my favorite birding sites, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and found the perfect photo of one by a Mr. Kevin T. Karlson. Also there, I learned some groovy things about RHW’s. Their favorite food is grasshoppers, and they store them alive “wedged into crevices to tightly that they cannot escape.” That’s pretty cool, unless you’re a grasshopper that is.
Red-headed woodpeckers are extremely territorial. You may recall from my original post some months ago how The Sentry would dive bomb any and all hapless squirrels, blue jays and cats that happened to get too close. According to Cornells’ page, we can expect anywhere between 4-7 eggs, provided all works out according to my wishes.

Imagine my curiosity when yesterday during my gardening frenzy I hear an odd sound coming from The Sentry’s tree. Glancing up I see the fluttering of wings close to the nest hole. Once I got my camera with its zoom lens in position, I fired off various shots to enlarge to ID the bird. I wasn’t familiar with its call. It wasn’t a song, or a chirp, or a warble. It was very unusual. Is this an immature red-headed woodpecker…already? By the size it would be a "teenage" RHW. I can't imagine a teenager red-headed aggressive-territorial woodpecker knowing what I know from living with my OWN teenager, but I digress.

It’s a starling. A basic, b-flat starling. But what is it doing up there? It was fluttering around the nest hole – above it, really, on the broken part of the branch. Back to Cornell Lab of Ornithology for a lesson in european starlings. First off, Cornell describes their sound as a “quiet series of rattles and whistled notes.” That is a perfect description of what I heard. Here I learn that starlings are cavity-nesting birds and are fierce competitors for nest holes, even expelling native species. Cornell goes on to say so far only sapsuckers seem to be on the decline due to these non-native birds.


I’m not necessarily against starlings, but I am FOR my native red-headed woodpeckers. I’ve seen The Sentry take on much larger critters who venture too close to the nest hole, so I’m hoping the starlings are quickly ousted from the tree. That's The Sentry report for April.

6 comments:

albertapostcards said...

You are far too nice. You may not be against starlings but I sure am! The moment I saw that photo i knew immediately what it was so I pleased as I read further down that you identified it. They are noisy, very very messy and will kill any songbirds that are even remotely close. If I even see one stop in the yard, I immediately chase it away. They never stay here because of that monster on teh ground that always chases or throws things at them :)

Diane

Carla said...

Oh dear, hopefully the Sentry can handle the Starlings. I know you're looking forward to baby Woodpeckers!

wcgillian said...

Despite the fact that the bird is a pain in the butt, you got a great shot here.

RJ

Daniel Spurgeon said...

Very nice post! I liked the photo you submitted of the immature red headed woodpecker- I had no idea they looked like that, very interesting. I hope you get to see one! Let me know when you do, please. :)

Nancy J. Bond said...

Outstanding photos! Thanks for your visit today -- I finally earned enough points to add some more blogs to my Favs, and did so to yours. Now I won't lose track. :)

Diane said...

I hope all is well in your neck of the woods.

Diane

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