Wednesday, April 30, 2008
High above the Forest Floor
There is a wood lot close to home that I have walked many times over the years with our daughters and the dog. It is beautiful in the spring with wildflowers covering the ground. We have collected acorns and leaves and are familiar with all the side trails. Until this spring, I have never spent much time looking at the treetops of the very high canopy. One evening last week as we were leaving the lot at dusk, a noisy female Pileated Woodpecker flew by and sat on a high stump near the parking lot. I returned earlier the next evening with the Becka to see if I could find the woodpeckers again. While scanning the treetops I noticed a duck high in the branches... an unexpected male Wood Duck.
I didn't see the woodpeckers that evening but was very happy to find the Wood Ducks. The next evening I went back even earlier to look for the ducks again. I went to the tree where they had been...and saw a female Pileated Woodpecker moving up the trunk of a nearby tree. Once she arrived at the top, the male flew in and joined her right above my head.
This picture was taken straight up. There were no Wood Ducks to be seen that evening. The leaves are opening quickly and in another week the activity in the tree tops will be hidden. And once the mosquitoes appear I stay out of these woods until fall. But when I return I will be looking up more often.
Post Script... A couple of people have commented on the fact that they have never seen a duck in a tree. Several ducks do nest in tree cavities including Buffleheads, Wood Ducks, Goldeneyes and Mergansers. They will also make nests in man-made boxes. Here is a You Tube Video of Wood Ducklings leaving a box. These ones do not have far to fall, but in the forest they may have to make a 40 foot drop to the ground and then follow their mother to water. This will be a treacherous journey for the ducks I saw.