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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A change in the weather

Up early today for my morning walk, I was delighted to discover that there had been a change in the weather overnight.  No rain - that would have been too much to hope for - but cool, pleasant, autumn-like temperatures had arrived.  The temperature was 58 degrees F, territory that we hadn't been in since early spring, as we set off down the street, and the thirty minute walk barely even raised a sweat!

The lower temperatures were a great relief to morning walkers but think what a relief they must be also to birds and other wildlife that have suffered through this long, long, hot, hot summer.  Yes, it would have been nice if the cooler weather had been accompanied by some rain, but I won't look a gift weatherman in the mouth.

Birds were mostly quiet during today's walk, but I did hear one voice in the neighborhood that I don't hear every day.  It was a very loud voice, the ringing call of our largest woodpecker, the Pileated Woodpecker.

These big, crow-sized birds are permanent residents here and their population seems to be stable, but they are so stealthy and secretive that they are seldom seen.  Their presence is more often known by the sound of that distinctive call.  It may well be that their secretive nature is part of the reason for their success and why they haven't gone the way of the even bigger Ivory-billed Woodpecker which seems to be most likely extinct on the North American continent.

For all its secretiveness, the Pileated is fairly tolerant of human activity and, if left unmolested, will live quite successfully in parks frequented by humans or even in suburban neighborhoods like mine.  My neighborhood features the kind of habitat that the birds like, with its mixed conifer and hardwood forest (what there is left of it).  Pileateds are pretty adaptable, apparently, and will utilize a wide variety of species of trees.  They have even been photographed visiting backyard bird feeders, although, to my knowledge, I've never had one visit any of my feeders.

One consequence of our long drought is a lot of dead trees and this should be a boon to birds like the Pileated Woodpecker.  They normally nest in a dead tree, excavating a large cavity in it.  They and all the other woodpeckers will have plenty to choose from next spring.

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