Downy Woodpecker nesting

May 10, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Greetings! I thought I would dip my toe into the blogging waters. I have been using Facebook, Instagram and the website to share photo, travel and now birding adventures over the last few years. With all the changes being made to social media platforms however I find many posts are not reaching friends and family.  Let's give blogging a try. I welcome your comments or suggestions. 

Spring is Here 

The Snoqualmie Valley is a "hotbed" of nesting activity in early May. We had a wonderful morning earlier this week with soft light from high clouds and warm but humid conditions. It was hard to decide:  jacket or hoodie, boots or shoes, rain pants or leggings. The birds didn't have such crucial decisions to make and were happy to swoop over and around us. 

I am finding my happiest places to visit outdoors are National Wildlife or scenic areas. They tend to be well loved but not as crowded as many of our parks. That is certainly the case in the Snoqualmie Valley east of Seattle. Our destination this morning was to locate and photograph a Downy Woodpecker nest with recently hatched young. What I didn't expect was the beauty of the area and the wealth of subjects in addition to the woodpeckers. 

We found the tree, a snag really, alongside the Snoqualmie Valley trail. The conditions couldn't have been better with the tree in clear view of the trail at eye level. The birds were oblivious to our presence and flew throughout the area with ease. Here you can see one of the Downy parents flying to the nest hole on the right. 

There was a great deal of activity around this snag with Tree Swallows hovering around the tree and even looking inside the nest hole. Apparently real estate is a hot commodity in the forest as well as the suburbs here in the region. 

The swallows are so beautiful with their irridescent blues. They were very animated and often squawking at one another.

 

 

The noise of the swallows was nothing compared to the racket coming from the woodpeckers waiting for the latest meal delivery. If you look closely in the nest hole you have a vision of the open target facing the Downy.

The best meal delivery I saw was a moth captured right in front of us as the female woodpecker scaled a tree searching for morsels in the moss and bark. 

 This moth was downed in two gulps by a hungry youngster. 

Both parents were very attentive caring for their young. If you look closely you can see the colorful difference between the parents. Males have the red band on back of their head while females lack this coloration. 

As the young get older they will be coming further and further out of the nest hole so I expect photos next week will show far more of the young as they lean into the meal deliveries. 

 

Occasionally we would see one of the young stretch up and look out the nest hole. There is a fair amount of room inside since the parent had to sit on the eggs for 30 days before hatching. 

What I didn't realize was the housekeeping duties parent have. The "fecal sack" deposited by the young after feeding is removed from the nest by the parents in between feedings. It keeps the nest area clean. The photo above was taken just as the male left the nest hole with the fecal sack. Apparently some birds have a designated tree in their territory where they will leave these nest cleaning deposits. Other birds, like the Downy woodpecker, drop the droppings without such precision- a natural fertilization source for the wetlands. 

It will be fun to see how much the birds have developed in a week. I hope to return to the nest soon for another morning with the Downy family.  



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