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.
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.
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.
Most of the time, the adult flew directly to the hole and blocked view of its occupant(s).
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!
To my surprise, the nestling watched the parent fly away.
It retreated back into the nest, but soon reappeared, seeming to follow the movements of one of the adults that was foraging.
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.
On the way home, a short stop at Aurora West Forest Preserve provided an image of a handsome Cedar Waxwing.
The waxwings were also engaged in domestic duties. Here an adult fed two fledglings.
A third youngster arrived...
...and this seemed to provoke a hostile reaction by the others. Perhaps this intruder belonged to another family!