Friday, June 20, 2008

They Grow Up So Fast

Today was a bittersweet day. I came home from work and traded hello's with Laura as she headed into town with the boys for Benton's last t-ball game (if you ever want some great entertainment, watch a kids t-ball game!). I foraged in the fridge for a bit and sat down to watch the Hairy Woodpeckers before heading into the blind to get a few more photos before they are gone. As I sat down I noticed that the male woodpecker was foraging on the ground further out in the backyard. "that's interesting" I thought to myself as I prepared to watch him gather his next meal for the kids, "I haven't seen him forage there before". That's when I did a double take and noticed that it wasn't the male but one of the female woodpecker chicks, now fledgling. I went to grab the camera and realized it had just drove off in the van with my family. Due to work schedules, swimming lessons, a meeting for Laura, and daycare I wound up driving the van home from town and left my camera in it when Laura headed back for t-ball. Damn.

At least I still had my banding kit. I gathered up my bands and snagged the newly fledged bird against the backyard fence. It seems kind of a weird coincidence but the smell of the young woodpecker reminded me of the smell of a Giant Petrel, a sweet musty smell. All petrels I have handled have had an interesting smell to them and it was very similar to this young woodpecker.
I released the bird near the nest hole and she didn't even seem to recognize what it was from the outside and she headed right up the trunk past the nest hole. I retired to a chair near the back door and watched the family for a while. After watching for a while the young female launched out of the tree and flew rather strongly for such a new flyer, only to thunk against the side of the fence and attach herself like a tick to the boards. She was there for a long while but when I checked again about 15 minutes later she had moved somewhere else.
I think there were at least 3 young in the nest since one female was still left in the nest and there had been at least one male in there as well.
I watched the pair continue to feed the one last bird in the nest and it seemed that they were working on getting the last nestling out into the world. Even yesterday they would stick their head into the hole to feed the young. Today they would just give the chick a taste then move a bit down the trunk to get the youngster to move even farther out of the hole to get fed. I suspect that by late tomorrow morning I will not longer have the youngsters living exclusively in my backyard.
Here are a few photos from the last few days.

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