Bird activity has certainly picked up here at Owl Hollow. This morning it was a flock of robins investigating the lawn that's becoming greener by the day.
I thought I'd seen it all here when it comes to bird sightings. Everything from rufous-sided towhees, lovely blue birds and Baltimore Orioles to wild turkeys, scarlet tanagers, rose-breasted grosbeaks, hummers, thrushes, yellow warblers and two that always wow me, the black and white warbler and indigo bunting.
For years, I volunteered with Project Feeder Watch, monitoring the population fluctuations and species diversity of North American songbirds in my own backyard. But after 15 years at Owl Hollow, I really wasn't expecting to see something new.
Until this morning.
As I watched the robins, my eyes caught a flash of something large coming to perch on a large branch of the giant sugar maple. Uh-oh, I thought, another Cooper's hawk come to pick off one of the birds at my feeders. The bird was partially obscured and appeared to be walking on the side of a horizontal branch. I caught sight of the red head. Oh, I said to myself, it's just a red-bellied woodpecker looking for insects. I often see them here. Then it took wing. It all happened so fast, but by golly, I do believe it was a pileated woodpecker. It was too large to be a red-bellied woodpecker, and I've never seen a hawk with a red head!
It flew to the rear of my yard and was gone. I feel so honored to have seen a pileated in my backyard! It makes all these years of working to create a suburban wildlife habitat worthwhile.
I saw a pair of pileated woodpeckers a few years ago not far from here; in fact, you might say it was an adjacent patch of woods, just over the hill from me near the dairy farm. At the time, I was taking a walk; the crow-sized birds seemed spooked by my presence.
In other news, I found the remains of what I believe was a skunk on the sheltered south side of the house.
(What else has a striped black and white tail?) The strange thing is that I found a similarly dead skunk a number of years ago very close to where I found this one. It was maybe 10 feet away on the same patch of lawn, under the shade of a large white pine. Is there something inviting about this sheltered spot that beckons the old or sick to lie and rest a while?
One of my spring rituals is hanging an onion bag full of cat hair outside for birds seeking to line their nests with something soft.
Luther is a prolific shedder and has, in fact, taken advanced coursework in the field. So I expect to find his soft orange hair lining the nests inside the bluebird and wren boxes later this year. Now that's the ultimate in recycling!