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Saturday, March 11, 2017



Saturday, 8:00 AM.  6 degrees F at the ferry dock, the same on the back porch.  Wind NNW, light with stronger gusts.  The sky is mostly clear and sunny, moderating the chill somewhat.  The humidity is relatively low at 63%, the barometer mostly steady at 30.69".  It looks like it will be a beautiful but cold weekend, the wintry weather continuing into next week
   This gorgeous pileated woodpecker was spotted eating crabapples from the flowering crabapple tree on the south side of the house.  I had seen him precariously perched there a day or two ago but he was too wary then for me to snap a photo; as it was I was lucky to get this one, imperfect as it is, because he noticed my slightest, most cautious moves to take the picture.  
   He was so large hat he had a difficult time staying upright on the branch, and spent a lot of time upside down while having breakfast, which makes it doubly hard to swallow.
   Bayfield has a significant population of pileated woodpeckers, the largest of the North American woodpecker clan.  Buddy and I often hear them on our walks, drilling holes in decaying trees to extract grubs, or drumming on trees and other objects to define their territory.  Their depredations look terrible, but insect grubs, which the birds are after, have already done the major damage to the trees, and in nature the excavations made by the woodpeckers provide nesting holes for many different animals and birds.  Folks often blame the woodpeckers for damaging the trees, but in reality the damage has already been done by injury, decay and insects.
  The pileated woodpecker is quite a large bird, roughly the size of a crow, and is very obvious in flight, with an undulating flight pattern and a distinct, laugh-like call.  They are not difficult to observe (at least hereabouts)  if they are present, and if one has even a modicum of patience.
   The natural habitat of pileated woodpeckers are the deciduous and coniferous forests of eastern North America and around the Great Lakes.  The larger ivory-billed woodpecker of the southern forests of North America is quite probably extinct, although there are persistent reports to the contrary.

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