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.

Click to enlarge

I have indicated where the duck was sitting to the left of the red letters. Closer inspection with the binoculars showed the female sitting nearby, well camouflaged against the bare brown branches and bark. This bush is in the middle of an industrial park with plenty of truck traffic and roadways on all sides. The nearest pond is a couple of kilometers away across pavement and parking lots. How successful will this nesting pair be in raising their young?

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.


  1. I've never seen a duck in a tree! We feed ducks and have large trees. Interesting.

  2. I've never heard of ducks nesting in trees, I wonder if it was the environment with the traffic that caused them to do that. It seems kind of perilous to me, but I'm not a duck. Beautiful pictures of the pileated woodpecker.

  3. Oh wow Ruth! What a great sight to behold high up in the trees! That is odd about the ducks in the tree. The Pileateds are beautiful.

  4. Anonymous7:19 pm GMT-4

    on our birding adventures, we hear the pileated, but rarely spot them

  5. Try as I might, I could not see the duck. Thanks for the close-up.
    Hmmm-ducks in trees. Nope, me neither.

  6. Anonymous7:59 pm GMT-4

    I believe the planet earth DVD shows the ducklings emerging from a tree nest. Truly something strange to see, but cool nonetheless.

  7. Jean, Beth and Jayne, I added a post script on the post for you. Several ducks do nest in tree cavities.

    SLD- If I saw a goat in a tree in Steckle Woods I would think someone slipped me some drugs in my tea. Your goats like low branches but even so they look out of place.

    Jan- I hear them more often now that I recognize the call. I believe I found the nesting tree of this pair and they have been easier to find.

    KGMom- The duck looks like a little leaf just to the left of the red letter "D". It is about 1/2 the size of the letter. They were very high up.

    SG- I was going to do a post on Planet Earth sometime... the most awesome DVD series!!!! I enjoyed the duck drop segment.

  8. Sort of like a duck in a tree: I once saw ducks nesting on a rooftop in my neighborhood, next to a chimney. Also, several duck couples appear in my neighborhood each year in May, walking from house to house looking for potential nesting spots. It's very funny to watch them check out the real estate, chattering away to each other.

  9. Great job getting those photos! I must be honest though-I'm a little--I'm not sure what the word for it is but I've tried on many occasions to get good photos of Pileated Woodpeckers and Wood Ducks for the past few years..-I've failed on both.-Oh Well-good for you!

  10. Melissa- I wonder what type of duck was the roof top nester? We have a nesting goose at the end of our street, but I haven't come across any duck nests, although they are likely around.

    Larry- Thanks. The pictures are blurry, but the size they are posted on Blogger hides some imperfections. I don't lug a tripod around and you really need one to take high zoom pictures. And that Wood Duck was taken on high zoom! I took both Wood Duck pictures from the same spot.

  11. Anonymous1:58 pm GMT-4

    Wonderful woodpecker photos. And such an unusual sighting of a Wood Duck. Enjoyed your lovely post, Ruth. :)

  12. I never got a close enough look at the roof ducks to see what kind they were. I really need good binoculars, or better still, a telephoto lens for my camera. :-)

  13. Anonymous8:33 pm GMT-4

    It is amazing what you can find high up into the canopy! Sometimes I wish I had an elevator to take me up and look around!

  14. What a great post Ruth! I especially enjoyed the wood duck nest box video.


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