Last year around this time, preparations for new fiber optic internet service in this area led to a significant removal of trees near power lines, and I've been concerned about how that has or will affect birds and other wildlife in the holler.
On a snowy day, not long after a lot of trees had been cut, a really puffed up yellow-bellied sapsucker visited the feeder area three times. He began his third visit clinging to a porch post for about 12 minutes, much of that time with his head tucked under his wing, while other birds flew in and out.
I wondered if one of those trees had been his. He eventually went to one of the suet feeders (as he had on earlier visits) and ate for awhile before flying off.
I watched for him over the next few weeks, hoping he'd done okay. Almost a month later, I saw him gleaning bark on a tree near my house. so, I'm watching who's here and who's not out there with greater awareness this year. After last year's chainsaw massacre, I'm especially happy to see so many woodpeckers.
The holler is home to several woodpecker species -- downy, hairy, red-bellied, pileated, yellow-bellied sapsucker, and northern flicker -- I've seen all of these, for sure -- and likely the red-headed woodpecker. I saw one only once, just after I moved here 22 years ago.
Last summer the downy population seemed to explode right outside my window, with parents bringing a number of fledglings and introducing them to the suet and seed feeders. This winter I'm seeing two different females and at least one male pretty much daily.
Just this week, I saw the first male hairy woodpecker at the feeders. The first day, he visited each of the suet feeders but was slow to actually land on one. After he failed to get much by stretching out toward the feeder from an adjacent clinging spot, he finally flew onto the suet ball feeder and stayed for awhile.
He's been back several times and has gotten better at jumping right on them. He seems to prefer the suet log. I've seen a female hairy woodpecker this winter as well. Last year I only saw hairy females until summer when one brought at least one fledgling of each sex to use the feeders.
Last year when a red-bellied woodpecker started visiting the feeders, she first ate seeds on the ground -- alongside American goldfinches, mourning doves and sparrows -- before she tried out the seed feeders. I think it's likely that the female red-bellied that I'm seeing this year is the same one. This one showed up about a month later than whoever came last winter. She went straight to the suet feeders, visiting each one in turn before settling on one to eat from.
This past week she has started adding seed feeders to her visits. A couple of summers ago I saw a male red-bellied woodpecker on some trees behind the house. So far I have not seen a male near the feeders.
I've seen pileated woodpeckers near the house ever since I moved here. A few years ago, a pair of them nested close by and I got to hear young ones making their first calls. I sometimes see one at the edge of the woods near the feeders, but had never gotten a photo of anything but large dark blobs moving behind bushes until December 2021. On that day a female spent several minutes on a branch doing feather maintenance before she flew into full view and gleaned bark a few seconds on a tree trunk just beyond the porch.
Besides seeing woodpeckers by themselves, I often catch sight of them near other species, especially around my planter garden, feeders and water stations. Downys don't seem to mind chickadees or titmice sharing a feeder -- I have plenty of photos of them together -- but the arrival of a second woodpecker usually ends with one of them leaving or finding another feeder.
One of my favorite woodpecker photos so far this year -- I love the look on the red-bellied woodpecker's face as she sits on the porch rail near a mourning dove.