On the wing…and the paw

Well. I’ll be. Here’s the news. This pretty cool nature photo wasn’t taken by Steve. I took this one. Through the great room window. With my iPad. (But Steve cropped it.)

This Pileated Woodpecker was chowing down at the paddle suet feeder for quite awhile. He was making a big mess, dropping the chunks of suet that the squirrels so appreciate. There is a red mustache on his face, so this really is a he. Pileateds at the feeder are skittery. You’d think they had eyes on the sides of their heads or something. Sometimes even if you get up from a chair 15 feet from the window they fly away. This one let me rise and approach the window with my iPad. But he flew away just as I snapped a few photos. I thought I’d missed him. I found I had this photo instead. It’s just after the pileated flew up from the feeder.

Such a magnificent bird.

It’s been a bit of a drought this winter in terms of nature posts. I’ve been knitting up a storm and my blog reflects that. But nature continues to capture our attention.

Sticking to the theme of bird feeder adventures, and of my own photography, check out this sorrowful fellow.

Close, but no cigar.

This raccoon’s saga continued for a bit. He was emerging in the daytime to poke around at the seed and suet droppings under the feeders. And he was emerging from under our main deck. That was somewhat concerning to us, so we decided to try to trap him and move him to another location.

We set out a humane trap. With a little lunch buffet laid out inside the trap. I put a paper bowl of crumbled up aromatic brie, a soft cow’s milk cheese. I really didn’t know if raccoons like brie but I don’t and we had some left over from the holidays. Brie in a paper bowl in the trap, with the door open. We put the trap out toward dusk and brought it inside the garage after a few hours. If we caught the critter, we didn’t want it to have to spend a scary night inside the trap. First evening. Nothing. Second evening. The aroma of the brie must have been too much to resist. I was in the great room when I thought I heard something. Sure enough. A raccoon. In the trap. Pawing away trying to get out.

Steve had his hatchback ready to transport. The plan was to drive several miles away and then release the raccoon. I didn’t go with Steve. I heard a raccoon cry once when I was young when dogs chased it up a small tree. It’s not a sound I wanted to hear again or inflict. Steve says the raccoon was quiet and calm. In fact, it polished off the rest of the brie during the ride.

Steve released it. And came home. We watched out for it in the days after, thinking the brie might have been so delicious that the raccoon would find the way back to our place.

There is a raccoon prowling about at night. But we don’t know it’s the brie-lover. And it isn’t living under our deck.

Here’s a view of the water flowing at the dam at the north end of Long Lake. Can spring really be just around the bend?

Pileated pair


It was 16 degrees below zero and the suet feeders were empty. This pair of pileated woodpeckers landed on the trunk of one of the tall trees between the lake and our front room windows and started bobbing around. Steve imagined they were saying “get out here and fill these feeders ‘cuz we’re hungry and cold.”

He bundled up, filled the feeders, and of course these big guys are shy and so they’d flown off. But when he came back inside, the pair quickly flew back and stayed at the feeders for a good long time.

The male is the one with the red mustache on the log feeder. The female is at the paddle feeder. Pileateds have wingspans from 26 to 30 inches. The adults are 16 to 19 inches from crest to tail. We’re happy to give them some help getting through the winter.

Pileated woodpecker


We’ve had some fine bird viewing this winter. We serve a late lunch most days to pileated woodpeckers. One male, one female. You can tell, by his red mustache, that this is the male. The suet paddle feeder is their favorite lunch spot. That’s a hairy woodpecker on the log feeder and a black-capped chickadee flying in for seeds.

It was a snowy day, with high winds. The night was wicked, with rain, heavy sleet, then snow and plummeting temperatures. Maybe our food helped some make it through the tough night.

Pileated Woodpeckers


Last winter, when this photo was taken from our great room window, we were amazed to see this guy.  He’s supposedly shy.  Wary.  Needs lots of elbow room–something like 400 acres per bird.  Yipes. We felt  honored he trusted our suet. He soon became a regular visitor, late in the day, after the riff raff finch hordes departed.  He always preferred the suet feeder that allows woodpeckers to eat while getting some purchase by pressing their tail against the paddle just like they would against a tree.  You can tell he’s a him because of the red mustache.  Sometimes a female would visit the feeder (no red mustache, the same red hairdo), but they never came together.  Dryocopus Pileatus a/k/a Woody Woodpecker eats tons of bugs, primarily carpenter ants and woodboring beetle larvae.   He uses his powerful beak to excavate tree trunks and then uses his long barbed tongue and sticky spit to slurps up ants and larvae from their tunnels in the bark.  I don’t even want to think about what must be in that suet they like so much.

These birds are the largest woodpeckers in North America.  Except if you believe that the long-thought-to-be-extinct Ivory Billed Woodpecker has really been rediscovered in eastern Arkansas.  The Pileated is 15.7 to 19.3 inches long.  Think about that for a minute.  It’s as big as the biggest crows.  Its wingspan is 26 to 29 inches.   Pileateds have  a lovely call, something like chalk being pressed fast and too hard on a blackboard.  Their call does not resemble Woody’s famous “ha-ha-ha-HAA-ha.”  The sound of their pecking at trees is most impressive.  Maybe scientists should study how Pileated’s brains are insulated from such jackhammer shock forces.  They could probably save the brain functioning of more than a  few motorcyclists.

A few weeks ago, the Long Lake Suet Cafe was visited by mom, dad, and  “baby.”  We even watched the parents take a chunk of suet and feed it to “baby.”  Forgive the photo.  The light was dim.  The birds weren’t sitting still.  But triple wow what a sight!