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.
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]