Sunday, September 8, 2013

Woodpeckers and Waxwings

Fall migration is underway here in Kane County, Illinois. I've spent more time afield and less face time with the computer. Hoping my backlog of unprocessed warbler images will continue to build, so this week's post will be a potpourri of sightings as I rush back to one of our local forest preserves. As we awaited the arrival of what we hoped would be hordes of colorful warblers dripping off the trees, the resident birds provided entertainment.

The Red-headed Woodpeckers mentioned in last week's blog put on a bit of a show. Our friend Marion, who monitors the two nests, reported that the young bird in one of the nests is almost ready to fledge and has been looking out of the hole, begging for food. Mary Lou and I hurried over to see if we could witness the behavior and perhaps capture some interesting images.

When we arrived at the site the two adults were calling excitedly. At first we thought they were chasing after an immature woodpecker, perhaps the one from the first brood that we saw on our last visit. Instead, the source of the disturbance appeared to be a female Northern Flicker who was not welcome in their territory. They chased the flicker away but it returned perstently.

Northern Flicker female 20130903

I set up at a good viewing location. The light was not ideal, but I did not want to use flash. Therefore many of my shots (at 420 mm using a fixed aperture of f/5.6 at high ISO), turned out grainy or soft.

One of the parents, presumably the male, proclaimed victory and ownership of the territory by drumming vigorously at the top of the nest tree.

Red-headed Woodpecker drumming at nest tree 20130903

There was no sign of the nestling, and I wondered whether it had left the nest. Suddenly a parent returned with food. For an instant I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the chick.

Red-headed Woodpecker feeding nestling 3-20130903

Most of the time, the adult flew directly to the hole and blocked view of its occupant(s).

Red-headed Woodpecker at nest hole 20130903

After several frustrating attempts to follow the parent bird to the nest and click when the nestling's head appeared, I simply focused on the nest hole and waited. It seemed like an eternity before the parent made a food drop. Success!

Red-headed Woodpecker bringing food 20130903

Red-headed Woodpecker bringing food 2-20130903

Red-headed Woodpecker bringing food 3-20130903

Red-headed Woodpecker bringing food 4-20130903

Red-headed Woodpecker feeding nestling 4-20130903

To my surprise, the nestling watched the parent fly away.

Red-headed Woodpecker nestling 7-20130903

It retreated back into the nest, but soon reappeared, seeming to follow the movements of one of the adults that was foraging.

Red-headed Woodpecker nestling 3-20130903

Red-headed Woodpecker juvenile 20130903

Red-headed Woodpecker 4-20130903

There appeared to be only a single young bird in the nest. At this point it was uncertain whether one or more others had fledged, as they  usually lay 4 to 5 eggs, though some clutches have been reported to contain up to 8 or even 10. The eggs, laid one per day, are not incubated until the last is deposited, and they take two weeks to hatch. The chicks, born blind and helpless, remain in the nest for another 3 to 4 weeks.

This adult was sunning atop a snag.

Red-headed Woodpecker sunning 20130903

On the way home, a short stop at Aurora West Forest Preserve provided an image of a handsome Cedar Waxwing.

Cedar Waxwing 20130830

The waxwings were also engaged in domestic duties. Here an adult fed two fledglings.

 Cedar Waxwing feeding young 20130830

A third youngster arrived...

Cedar Waxwing feeding young 2-20130830

...and this seemed to provoke a hostile reaction by the others. Perhaps this intruder belonged to another family!

Cedar Waxwing feeding young 3-20130830


  1. so cool to see the youngsters of both of these birds!

  2. Cute shots of the juvie woodpecker! And I love the waxwings. Wonderful series of birds and photos.

  3. Great series Ken!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  4. Fantastic! Its a thrill to see sights such as these, as cute as they come arnt they, and that's just the adults....

  5. Such beautiful birds! The woodpecker nestling is adorable.

  6. Terrific captures! I really like the lighting in the first shot!

  7. Soft or not, they are still great birds! I do miss woodpeckers!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  8. Wow - not many people see Red-headed Woodpeckers anymore, let alone their young! Fabulous images - congratulations!

  9. Awesome shots of the woodpeckers!

  10. These are all so wonderful. I especially enjoyed all of your Red Headed Woodpeckers shares, marvelous!
    Sorry for my tardiness once again. Monday my bad knee gave way to a full Medial Meniscus tear and I am having Arthroscope done to help ease pain this Tuesday...doing life ;)

  11. Wonderful photos! I like the open wings one best.

  12. It is amazing that you got those pictures of the baby woodpecker....thanks for sharing the incredible results of your incredible patience and talent! I've seen (and heard) a lot of woodpeckers, but never have seen the nestlings...I'm in awe. The waxwings are great too...they're one of my favorite birds and I don't see them often enough anymore. We've seen adult waxwings feeding each other holly berries, that's pretty cool too!

  13. How wonderful to see a young Woodpecker. All great shots of them and the Waxwings. I hope they visit us this winter,


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