Is anybody home?

Several days ago I stood at the wood edge near Dixon Branch trying to grab a photo or two of a pair of woodrats scampering about in the brush.  I played stone for almost an hour waiting for one or both of them to make a recognizable appearance, to pass through or pause in a clearer field of view.  Alas, neither of them obliged me that favor, though I did capture some truly impressive blurs as they dashed back and forth behind cover.  Woe is the anguish of being so close yet so far from the goal.

But as I stood there muttering internally about being mocked by rodents, the call of a red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) drew my attention upward and into the thick of the forest.  I saw the male climbing the side of a cottonwood tree investigating nooks and crannies along the way.  As I watched him, I noted the entrance of a new woodpecker nest and immediately thought he was the owner.  He was, after all, heading right for it.

It didn’t take log for me to realize he most certainly did not own the home.  In fact, he was as curious about it as I was.  Here in sequence are ten photos showing his response to the nest.

A male red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) investigating another woodpecker's nest (2010_01_10_047705)
A male red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) investigating another woodpecker's nest (2010_01_10_047707)
A male red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) investigating another woodpecker's nest (2010_01_10_047708)
A male red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) investigating another woodpecker's nest (2010_01_10_047709)
A male red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) investigating another woodpecker's nest (2010_01_10_047713)
A male red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) investigating another woodpecker's nest (2010_01_10_047714)
A male red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) investigating another woodpecker's nest (2010_01_10_047716)
A male red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) investigating another woodpecker's nest (2010_01_10_047717)
A male red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) investigating another woodpecker's nest (2010_01_10_047718)
A male red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) investigating another woodpecker's nest (2010_01_10_047719)

This went on for perhaps 45 seconds, maybe even a minute, then the woodpecker moved on.  He never entered the cavity.  As for me, I think I started laughing about 20 seconds into the investigation.  He’d stick his whole head inside, look around, pull his head out to check for possible threats, turn his head so he could look into the darkness with the full vision afforded by sideways glances, then back in his head would go.

And yes, I’ve since learned who owns the nest: a pair of downy woodpeckers (Picoides pubescens).

[photos taken at White Rock Lake]

9 thoughts on “Is anybody home?”

  1. Scrolling down very slowly in order to allow all of the details of this brid to sink in, I had a sinking feeling she was the exorcist woodpecker. Great photos! Scroll slowly and you’ll see what I mean! Miss you bunches!

    1. Great observation, LaDonna! I didn’t see the resemblance until you mentioned it, but there it is. Now I’m waiting to see the split pea soup… Too funny.

  2. Oh Jason that is FANTASTIC!!! Only the blessed… or those as incredibly alert to the natural world around them as you are… would capture that brief 45 seconds of priceless observation. The RED!!!! Now THAT’S how to sport a cap!!!

    1. Thank you, Clive! I was thoroughly entertained watching this. Had it not been for the woodrats vexing me from behind their thicket cloak, I might have moved on and might have missed this curious woodpecker.

      You know, this species is common here, ubiquitous really, yet I’m with you: They’re just stunning, beautiful creatures, and that brilliant red screams for attention.

  3. I can just hear us giving voice to this guy as he stickes his nose where it doesn’t belong, and I just have to laugh. He’s beautiful and oh so watchable. Great shots!

    1. Thanks, Mom! And that’s part of why I started laughing as I watched him. Certainly it was funny to see such intense curiosity, but I also kept envisioning some poor mother inside screaming about the peeping tom.

    1. You’re a woman after my own heart, Amber. I’m infatuated with these birds. Sure, they’re everywhere, but that doesn’t diminish them at all. And how right you are: Nature never disappoints even if she hides what I’m looking for and offers something else instead.

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