Thursday, 15 October 2015

Hairy Woodpecker (Pic chevelu) Feeding on Staghorn Sumac

15 October 2015
rare, Cambridge, ON

     Fall weather in southern Ontario this year has been especially agreeable, with warm sunny days and an abundance of dazzling foliage.
     This morning, while doing my regular Thursday morning monitoring at the rare Charitable Reserve in Cambridge, it was a distinct highlight to see two Hairy Woodpeckers Picoides villosus feeding on the fruit of Staghorn Sumac Rhus typhina. The drupes of this shrub are densely gathered into a conical formation and covered with hairs.

    The shrub actually has separate male and female plants and the fruit is produced on the female. The name Staghorn Sumac derives from the fact that the bark has a fine velvety texture, somewhat reminiscent of the velvet of the new antlers of stags.

     Sumac is impressive at any time of year, but it really assumes its prominence in the fall when the leaves and the fruit turn a vivid scarlet, breathtaking when struck by sunlight.

     White-throated Sparrows Zonotrichia albicollis was quite common, feeding on the ground, and flitting in and out of cover. It was not the easiest species to photograph today!

     For a couple of weeks now there has been a significant concentration of Rusty Blackbirds Euphagus carolinus, a species which has declined in abundance in recent years.

     Red-winged Blackbirds Agelaius phoeniceus were flocking with the Rusty Blackbirds; curiously the males were in full voice. I could have closed my eyes and easily imagined that I was listening to recently arrived males at a marsh in spring.

     Here is a hatch year male starting to acquire the badge of his gender.

     Both species of blackbird occupied the higher parts of snags, and trees already denuded of leaves, and the chorus was almost deafening.

     Mourning Doves Zenaida macroura were very willing to share the branches with the blackbirds.

     It was interesting, albeit a tad gruesome, to come across the corpse of a small Raccoon Procyon lotor, almost picked clean by whatever predator had been able to capture it.

     The colours of the trees are so glorious that it is hard to resist taking a few more photographs, so let me present, with no apologies for repetitiveness, autumn in southern Ontario at its best.


  1. Quel plaisir cette série d'oiseaux.
    Plutôt dramatique pour le canin.
    Superbes tes rencontres David

  2. Beautiful shots as usual David, love the Autumnal colors.

  3. Great bird shots, love the hairy! Beautiful fall colours too.

  4. Hi David,
    marvelous photos of the woodpecker and all the other birds. I like the colors of the leaves too.
    Best regards, Synnöve

  5. Gran reportaje mi amigo David, me ha gustado mucho. Saludos desde España.

  6. Hello David, such spledor of colors, we do have this also here in our regions but not as spectacular as you show here. Love those photos of te woodpecker blending in so well with the red of the plant.
    Good to see you had so much variety of birds to admire.
    Take care and regards,

  7. Dearest David,
    So glad that the Staghorn Sumac is not related to the poison Sumac!
    You managed to capture some incredible photos, full with fall colors at its peak.
    We never will see that in middle Georgia but I certainly enjoy it. For that we must travel some four hours north bound into the mountains and see the oranges and reds.
    You got a lot of birds in that area, guess they eat all the seeds and berries that are left. Those that not migrate stil need to find their winter meals daily; not always easy.
    Sending you hugs,

  8. Autumn looks very like here, our Pygmy Woodpeckers look very similar to those Hairy Woodpeckers too..............

  9. .Beautiful pictures, David. The pictures of the Rhus are wonderful, yet I have less pleasant memories of such a tree, he increases via rhizomes and with such a tree at the neighbors, the garden border, this is not fine. Meter long roots jut out every year. But otherwise it was to enjoy the color changes in a year. Gr Jan W

    1. Hi Jan: It is generally not used here as a garden plant for the very reasons you state.

  10. Beautiful pictures David.
    I had the woodpecker also for the lens, photos yet to come.
    Greetings Tinie

  11. The autumn colours are gorgeous and I love the woodpecker.

  12. You do have some intense autumn colours there David. The trees and the blue skies just make me want to get out birding but today I am inside gaining Brownie points on a very grey day.

    I would love to hear those Red-winged Blackbirds. As you say there spring songs are just wonderful. Such a shame that Google wont let us add such sounds to Blogger anymore. Unless someone out there knows how?

  13. It is indeed a beautiful time of year...I never saw a Rusty Blackbird...Wonderful pictures..Thanks for sharing..

  14. Hello, the fall colors are gorgeous. Beautiful leaves and trees. I love the woodie, they are one of my favorite birds. Great post, David! Enjoy your new week ahead!

  15. Hi David.. Thanks for your comment..

    Nice series of pictures.. Perfect autumn.. Cheers

  16. Wonderful autumn colours, David! Your fall is much more advanced than ours, although we're starting to get there now, with some fine colours starting to appear.

    I'm hoping, one day, to see your Hairy Woodpeckers. Thank you for the tantalising images of them!

    Best wishes to you both - - - - Richard

  17. Great set of pictures - love the woodpecker. Used to get the similar, but larger, Great Spotted, in my garden - just another reason to be a little bit homesick!!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  18. Awesome pictures from the woodpecker David, very nice to see.
    Pretty well all the colors of autumn.
    Greetings Tinie

  19. You leave really beautiful pictures of the woodpecker and other birds.
    The fall colors on the trees are absolutely beautiful.
    The corpse / skeleton of a raccoon see is sad, really sad.
    Unfortunately, that belongs to nature.

  20. Me again - thanks for the comment - name has been fixed and I have enrolled in Basic Bird Names 101 at my library!!

    Cheers - SM

  21. Hello David,
    Nice shots. Great with the autumn leaves.
    Very good shots of the woodpecker. Very well done.