If I hadn’t gone grocery shopping on bicycle, I probably would have missed the oversized woodpecker checking out some local trees. But as I pedaled down the street towards home I heard a bird speaking a language I didn’t recognize, and I turned my head just in time to spot the flashy red crest of Dryocopus pileatus.
The colourful sight was a welcome treat given that nearly all migratory birds have left, vegetation is now mostly faded, and the sun’s glancing rays are often dulled by clouds. The views across marsh and lake often present in a nearly black and white palette.
The Lesser Yellowlegs was one of the last traveling birds to come through from shores far to the north. On a cloudy evening the shallow muddy water made an austere background for this wader.
But in the afternoon sun the waters picked up reflected colour from surrounding plants.
And a nearby stand of sumach turned the surface to crimson.
Warm days soon gave way to chillier mornings and the welcome sight of steam rising off the lake.
The autumn still held a surprise, though, for the spectacular Pileated Woodpecker made a sudden appearance just a few days ago. Since this is not a migratory species, perhaps she has moved in nearby.
A bird this large needs to carve a deep hole for a nest, and the Pileated Woodpecker is up to the task. “Pileated Woodpeckers use their long necks to pull far back from the tree, then make powerful strikes with their heavy bills, pulling with their feet to increase the strength of the blow.” (allaboutbirds.org)
It’s convenient that some of the tastiest food lives in trees: “The birds also use their long, barbed tongues to extract woodboring beetle larvae.” (allaboutbirds.org)
Photo at top of page: Exploration (click here for full-size image)