Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Spring brings in a variety of birds to Cedar Ridge. The following post details this variety in two groups: the loyal year around residents and the migratory birds that start showing up in April.

The largest, year around birds to fly the ridge, is the Pileated Woodpecker and the Common Raven. The female Pileated is now being serenaded by her "drumming" male counterpart... who is hammering out his drumming sound as I write. He has been doing his "drumming" thing for many days, from sunrise to sunset.

One of the most beautiful and rare woodpeckers of the Arrowhead is the Black-backed Woodpecker. They are here twelve months of the year, but are seldom seen. I am not sure if they could be categorized as a recluse woodpecker, but I have only seen one twice this winter. This woodpecker is the three toed variety and loves to pry, scrape and drill on dead spruce. The spruce bark beetle and larvae being his favorite food.

The Downy Woodpecker is one of those taken for granted woodpeckers of the northland. This beautiful little woodpecker is the most social of the woodpeckers. They are with me in the forest almost all the time. They love to fly along as I hike the forest with my entourage of Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches. I have had them land on my jacket sleeve and shoulder, seemingly wondering why these other birds are eating out of my hand... I suppose I should carry suet with me.

The raven has already nested and their chicks have fledged and entered the spring world of the Arrowhead.

In the "other visitor" category, the Gray Fox and the Cross Fox have passed through our front yard, turning on the motion light. It is always a treat to see the fox show up along with the occasional timber wolf and the raccoon.

Gray Fox

Cross Fox

In the migratory category we have two woodpeckers that show up in April and May. They are the Northern Flicker and the Yellowbellied Sapsucker. The sapsuckers cruise in and head for what I call their "honey tree." It is a 70 foot white cedar tree that is inundated with holes... it looks like a movie background for a Foreign Legion "firing squad." There is a hole every square inch from the bottom to the top of this tree. They have been on it for the last two springs and the pair is there almost every day.

The Northern Flicker is a treat, this guy has a piercing cry akin to the Pileated Woodpecker. I almost got a headache listening to him scream from the highest tree top. Tis the mating season and he is desperately searching for a companion.

The prelude to the warbler migration is the sparrow invasion. Each April and May I have many different sparrows flying in to my ridge. Always first is the American Tree Sparrow.

The Fox Sparrow never stopped by this spring, so since he is the second sparrow to show up, this is a shot from last spring.
I really miss this bird as I think they are not only a beautiful sparrow, but hugely entertaining to watch scratch in the leaves with both feet.

The next sparrow to show up is the Song Sparrow and his name implies his outlook on life. I never tire of his lovely song echoing across the brushy meadows.

The White-throated Sparrow is probably my favorite sparrow. They nest farther up our ridge and are the most social of the sparrows. It is a joy to listen to their beautiful, clear songs across the woodlands. They perch on the highest branch of a deadfall and sing their hearts out. I love to whistle back their song and draw them in for a photo op.

The Chipping Sparrow is one of the smallest sparrows that arrives here in the spring. They are here on my lawn by the dozens and they also nest below our wildflower garden. A dapper looking sparrow to say the least.

The last sparrow to arrive is the White-crowned Sparrow and he has not showed up yet. I hope, like the Fox Sparrow, he hasn't missed our ridge this spring.

I am still awaiting the throng of twenty some assorted species of warblers to arrive. So far Myrtle and the Black-throated Green Warbler have been spotted. I am impatiently awaiting for the rest to appear in their splendor.

"I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn." ~Henry David Thoreau