A “Big Duck” Pecking on a Tree

Funny story. Yesterday, after seeing reports of a Bald Eagle and Pileated Woodpecker at a Stony Creek Metropark, I decided to run over there for a look. I spent a half hour at the observation deck of the Nature Center, noting a dozen or so species, then started walking on the trail down below. I was focused on finding the Eastern Bluebird that  was sighted just a few hours earlier, and didn’t really plan to go far on the trail.

I just happened to glance out in the field behind me though, and this is what I saw there:

It’s a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk clutching dinner in its talons.  I snapped a couple photos and then slowly reached for my binoculars to get a closer look, hoping not to disturb him. Unfortunately he took off from the snag, dropping his prey along the way. I watched him for a couple more minutes as he continued to move around the woods, then I noticed someone coming around the far bend in the trail toward me. She sat on a bench nearby, so I walked over and had this conversation:

Me: Hi! Are you looking for birds?
Her: No, but I just saw the weirdest thing! It was like a big duck hanging on the side of a tree pecking at it.
Me: Oh my gosh, that must have been the Pileated Woodpecker!
Her: I don’t know, but it was about this big. (Holds her hands about 12 inches apart.)
Me: Did it have a red head and look like Woody Woodpecker?
Her: Yes!!

I’m still chuckling at her description of a “big duck” pecking on the side of a tree…OMG. I quickly pointed her in the direction of the Red-tailed Hawk (not that she cared!) and took off to find Woody. After walking for about 20 minutes I found him just where she said he’d been. I tiptoed from tree to tree trying to sneak up close enough to get a photo, again trying not to frighten him. The strange thing is that just outside the park in this area is a shooting range, and there were constant gunshots going off. I found it very unnerving myself and was amazed that the bird was apparently unfazed by it all. But even with my efforts at stealth I wasn’t able to get a clear photo of him, although I got a very good look through my binoculars. Beautiful bird. (This photo is a different Pileated, taken in 2010 in our yard.)

My birding life has been given a shot of adrenaline since I subscribed to a birding listserv for SE Michigan. Twice this week I’ve gone out birding after reading about interesting sightings. On Tuesday I drove 30 miles to Lake St. Clair Metropark trying to find one of the awesome Snowy Owls that are in the area. No luck with that elusive bird. I was also trying to find a Merlin that is reported to be sooo easy to see at the park, but he eluded me as well.

On the plus side, I added some other birds to my life list. I saw Greater Scaups and Buffleheads, and maybe some Canvasbacks. I’ll know after I zoom in to examine my photos of the flocks of hundreds of ducks on the lake. I’ve never been able to get too excited about ducks and shorebirds before, but I did get a thrill at seeing the Buffleheads, so maybe there’s hope for me yet. And these outings are great for the fresh air and exercise, even if the birds don’t show up for me every time.

Most of the birds were too far offshore on Tuesday for me to get good photos, but the Mute Swans were kind enough to pose for me. I call this one Swan Love. Enjoy!

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4 Responses to A “Big Duck” Pecking on a Tree

  1. Mark says:

    Bald Eagles have set up a nest in the ‘Inwood’ section of stony creek park

    • Kim says:

      Yes, Mark, that’s the one I just wrote about in my new post. I didn’t disclose the location, as I was told they were trying to keep it quiet so the eagles won’t be disturbed. But it looks like the nest location wasn’t as protected as I thought, lol.

  2. I am glad you had such great sightings! We used to live in a log house and there was a resident pileated woodpecker that liked to hack away at our cedar roof shingles. I would go out and yell at it, trying to scare it away (they can do an amazing amount of damage), and it would fly just a few trees away. I would go towards it and it would fly a few more trees away. They can be very brazen birds!

    • Kim says:

      I’ll bet that WAS really annoying! We have wood siding and have to fill woodpecker holes all the time, but it’s only the downy, hairy, and red-bellied woodpeckers that are doing the damage so far. I’ve seen a pileated drill huge holes in our sassafras trees quite quickly though, so I’d hate to have one of them attack the house. Good grief.

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