Woodpecker and goldenrod galls

We have many, many goldenrod plants in this area – they are common everywhere, though when I was very young, my grandfather had an allotment and I remember that he had goldenrod growing around the shed.  One of my earliest memories.

Goldenrod are very susceptible to galls.  Almost every stem has at least one. These are made by the plant as a result of an insect sting.  The resulting gall provides food and shelter to the insect grub.  The insect is the goldenrod gall fly.

I noticed a downy woodpecker on the weed stems in my garden, where I usually see chickadees and juncos. Unusual, as woodpeckers aren’t big seed eaters.  Then I realized it was eating the gall fly larvae.  Once it had gone, I checked out the galls. Every single gall had a large hole in it, much bigger than the exit hole normally made by the fly, when it hatches out the next spring.  

Woodpecker on galls
Woodpecker on galls
Goldenrod Gall after woodpecker
Goldenrod Gall after woodpecker

Red Bellied Woodpecker moves in

I posted an accidental picture of a red-bellied woodpecker a week ago (I just assumed it was a downy on the feeder and wasn’t paying attention). We had never seen one before in our neighbourhood.

Since then it has been a regular visitor to our garden.  Here it is on a carved fence post. One reference said “It is called that even though it does not have a red belly” and so it appeared when I first saw it.  However, looking more closely you can see a slight tint of red at the bottom.

Red-bellied woodpecker
Red-bellied woodpecker
Red-bellied woodpecker
Red-bellied woodpecker 2

Flickers are woodpeckers that wannabe robins

Although they have the classic woodpecker beaks and stiff tails, they run around lawns and hunt grubs and worms. To me they always look awkward on the ground and can’t run as well as a robin

Robin-the-Flicker
Robin-the-Flicker

In the next picture you can see its stiff woodpecker tail and claws that can still hang vertically on trees.

Flicker 2
Flicker 2

Here, by comparison, is a more conventional woodpecker, although not one I have seen around here ever before.  It is a red-bellied woodpecker which is an odd name for a woodpecker that does not have a red belly.  We are at the extreme northern edge of its range but after this year’s extremely prolonged cold, it might be regretting moving up here.

Red-bellied woodpecker
Red-bellied woodpecker

Great Backyard Dinosaur Count

Today is the last day of Great Backyard Bird Count so I diverted a half hour to counting. Here are some pictures and the count.

I almost missed the bird count.  Thanks Twitter for last minute reminder.  As soon as I started the clock, every bird fled for cover in the trees but a few flew back over the half hour I could spare.
Here’s some pictures.

This shot of our local pair of cardinals would have been better for Valentine’s Day.  They are always together.

Cardinals in thornbush
Cardinals in thornbush

All the birds round here can fly.  Even the turkeys are pretty good at it given their size.  None of those showed up for the count, haven’t been around for a couple of days since we mutually startled each other when they were hiding a few feet away from me. So here are some juncos.

Junco flying 1
Junco flying 1
Junco flying 2
Junco flying 2

It is still only -10ºC, up from -20 this morning, so they’re still fluffing up their feathers.

Junco in dogwood
Junco in dogwood

Plenty of protection in the thorn bush – they’re safe from the hawk here. Another no-show for the count, though.

Juncos in thorn bush
Three Juncos in thorn bush

Finally, a negotiation over the feeder.  The cardinal crouched and snapped its beak at the blue jay. The cardinal got to keep its spot but the blue jay just moved 10cm away and they ignored each other after that.  Human disputes over territory should work as well.

Blue Jay and Cardinal negotiate sharing
Blue Jay and Cardinal negotiate sharing

Here are my counts for 1/2 hour starting at noon. Full sun, 60cm snow cover (hard packed, icy).

Species Count
Blue Jay 3
Junco 23
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
Chickadee 3
Downy Woodpecker 1
Cardinal 2
Crow 3

I’m sure all the others will be back now I’ve stopped counting.
Dinosaur count? Birds are the last of the dinosaurs.

Winter has been here too long and it’s only January

Snow storm for Burns’ night.

We’re having snow storms for Burns’ night. Rather appropriate because he was born in a snowdrift.

He also wrote about snow

“But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flower, it’s bloom is shed;
Or, like the snow-fall in the river,
A moment white, then melts forever.” – Tam O’Shanter

but it doesn’t apply here because the rivers on our property are iced over.

Here is the view from our window, with a couple of woodpeckers and a blue jay at the bottom left of the centre pane.

Snow and woodpeckers
Snow and woodpeckers

The next one is the same window but just as the wind came and whipped up a couple of snow devils.

Snow devils
Snow devils