Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Seen on a Black Walnut Tree

I mentioned in the last post that black walnut trees are among the first deciduous trees to lose their leaves in the fall. The leaf canopy has thinned greatly and it is much easier to see birds in the tree tops. The migrating songbirds have left and our winter crowd is far more visible these days. I walked below the hospital at noon one day last week and watched as a red-tailed hawk flew up from the ground into a nearby walnut tree. The thick shaggy bark makes it easy to identify the tree even without leaves.

This hawk is a regular and I have taken many pictures of it, but this day it posed most obligingly, showing me every side of its body. This is his (or her) territory and it is not easily intimidated.

On another walnut tree I was treated to the sight of three (!) different woodpeckers working the bark simultaneously. A Downy, Hairy and the seldom seen Red-bellied woodpecker were easy to see with binoculars. I have never taken a good picture of a Red-bellied woodpecker and this day was no different.

Male Hairy Woodpecker

The other two woodpeckers are less shy and eventually flew into camera range. I have no difficulty distinguishing a Hairy woodpecker from a Downy woodpecker in the field. However I sometimes get confused when looking at pictures I have taken as the size difference is not always apparent in a photograph. Both are common here and they are often seen side by side. Not every picture has a good view of the bill or tail.

Female Downy Woodpecker

Other birds seen in the walnut grove this day included a White-breasted Nuthatch, Cardinal, Blue Jay, White-throated sparrow, ever present cheerful Chickadees and Juncos. The black walnut may be a good sign for farmers, but is also a refuge and food source for many other creatures.


  1. Ruth, it sounds like that hawk has a wide choice of species for his meals. Will the hawk migrate, or will he/she winter there? I was also wondering if the chickadees and juncos stay for the winter.

  2. That hawk did give you a nice photo shoot. He is so regal. Thanks for the information on the differences between the hairy and the downy woodpeckers. Beautiful pictures as always.

  3. What a beautiful Red-tailed! I've never seen a Hairy WP here, only Downys and Red-bellied. Great shots Ruth!

  4. Anonymous7:37 am GMT-4

    I find it very difficult to determine if the woodpecker is a hairy or a downy. Fascinating little birds as they keep themselves busy "hammering" at the trees. The hawks seem to be plentiful right now. I think it may have something to do with the farmers taking the corn off the fields. The hawks know that there are some mice in there that will make a tasty meal.
    I have not seen any junco's yet. But I'm sure they soon will be feasting on my feeders.

  5. Mary C- A lot of hawks do migrate across Lake Erie, but we do have them here in the winter too. Chickadees are here year round and Juncos, Tree Sparrows, Snow Buntings, Pine Siskins and similar birds are here in S. Ontario only in the winter from areas much further north. We have a lot of "winter only" birds including Bald Eagles and various ducks.

    Beth- I could have burdened you with at least 15 more pictures of this same bird :-)!

    Jayne- I am hoping to get a good Red-bellied shot this winter and it would be so exciting to find a Red-headed Woodpecker.

    Cheryl D- I have had Juncos for about 10 days now. They do not like higher feeders and prefer seed on the ground. I put out seed on the deck floor for them. They will feed under the feeders to pick up what other birds drop.

  6. Great photographs. Those walnut trees are indeed special.

  7. Wow Ruth, those hawk pictures are really great! Whenever I try to get close, ours always fly away.

  8. Fantastic pictures.I'm surprized the hawk posed so well,that has not been the case for me.

  9. It always amazes me the details that birders can see. It's a combination of "good eyes" and knowing what you are looking for. The differences often take an eagle eye.

  10. Don't think I have ever seen a Red-bellied woodpecker.
    Here we have the Downy and the Red-headed but they are at high (over 6,000 feet elevations) for the coolness. I suppose.
    Do you ever see the Canada Jay? It was at our farm years ago and was caught and banded as the first seen in that part of Southern Ontario

  11. Ruth,

    What lovely photos of the woodpeckers. Yes, our songbirds have left for the year but there are many that stay and they are all delightful to watch.

    We have red-tailed hawks that fly over the airport here. The boys love to watch them gliding on the wind currents. We also see eagles in the same area, though never at the same time.

    Enjoyed my visit. Stay warm. There's a nasty wind out there tonight.


  12. I enjoy seeing and hearing about your birds. I like 'em -- just don't follow 'em. :)

  13. The hawk is very stubby in shape compared to how I thought he'd be. Beautiful pics.

  14. Nice catch on the red tail. I saw one perched on a wire on the way home today. Beautiful birds. I get confused with downy and hairy...Your photo showing the difference is great.

  15. Thanks for the comments. This hawk has personality! Mom, I have never seen a Canada Jay. I know they are more common in the Cdn Shield, but they do move south in the winter.

  16. Wonderful Red Tailed Hawk photos! My husband and I keep a journal in the glove box of the car to record our sightings as we travel the 401 and 403. Our best tally? 29 during one trip between Woodstock and Niagara Falls, ON.


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