Taken For Granted

As we travel through this journey of life, we sometimes become so accustomed to our routine tasks of the day that we don’t give a thought to some of the essential things around us.  Air.  We use it every second of our existence and can’t live without it, but when do we express thanks for it?  Water.  Not much is as satisfying as a long drink of cool water, but we just assume it’s clean and won’t do us any harm.  Love.  A look, a touch, a word from someone you love and who loves you in return – how marvelous!  How often do we enjoy this precious commodity and how often do we acknowledge it?  (When is the last time you unexpectedly told someone:  “I love you.”? — Now is a good time!)

It’s easy to take things for granted.  Sometimes, we do so out of complete ignorance.  That’s the way it is with woodpeckers.

Growing up in Florida, living in other states, visiting Europe – there were always woodpeckers.

The flash of black and white and a bright scarlet head always commanded attention when a Red-headed Woodpecker dashed between trees.  Locally, they’re in real trouble due to their special habitat requirements and our disregard for providing it.

An older home had a chimney which had been “bird-proofed” with a metal cover.  A Pileated Woodpecker found the cover to be an ideal transmitter during mating season and we awoke during  spring mornings to the amplified drumming echoing throughout the house, the fireplace acting as an effective loudspeaker.

The dainty-looking Downy Woodpecker has a bill that looks like it couldn’t punch a hole in paper, much less excavate a nesting cavity in a tree.  We were privileged one year to observe a pair from the living room window as they raised a family in a maple tree in the yard.

Adaptation is a key to survival and the Red-bellied Woodpecker has learned this lesson quite well.  They are common visitors to back yard feeding stations and are abundant in almost any environment in the area.

A ring of small holes completely around a branch identifies the hunting territory for the handsome Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  It really does consume some of the tree sap during its search for insects.

A Northern Flicker always looks like it just stepped out of a salon with its neat appearance.  Although it’s a woodpecker, it spends most of its time on the ground slurping up ants with a long, sticky tongue.

We were just recently fortunate to find our first Red-cockaded Woodpeckers.  These birds breed cooperatively, the sons of prior generations helping to raise the families of current birds.  Holes are drilled in living pine trees and the sap allowed to run down the trunk.  It’s believed this deters snakes from approaching the nest cavity.  Not that long ago, they inhabited Florida’s old-growth pine forests by the tens of thousands.  Sadly, loss of habitat to lumbering and development has reduced their number so drastically they are now a federal and state endangered species.

So, I was stunned to discover there are parts of the world where no woodpeckers exist.  Folks in Australia, New Zealand and Madagascar don’t get to enjoy these lords of the woods.  This post is dedicated to anyone who has never seen these colorful winged loggers with the chiseled beaks, never climbed a tree to peer into a round cavity for a chance to see if there are eggs or chicks in there or never marveled at a bird clinging vertically to a tree trunk as it scoots up and pries off a piece of bark to reveal its prize.

Please enjoy a few of our Florida woodpeckers.

Red-Headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Sapsucker Holes

Sapsucker Holes

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

Northern Flicker (female)

Northern Flicker (female)

Northern Flicker (female)

Northern Flicker (female)

Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis)

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Pine Tree With Sap (Red-cockaded Woodpecker nest in progress.)

Pine Tree With Sap (Red-cockaded Woodpecker nest in progress.)

For the rest of us, let’s try not to take for granted these particular treasures Nature has provided.

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

See more birds at:   Paying Ready Attention   (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

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28 thoughts on “Taken For Granted

  1. So beantiful words!
    Love all birds pictures! The woodpeckers are really gorgeous!

  2. Pingback: Birding News #30 | Prairie Birder

  3. Wonderful set of pictures – not a woodpecker to be seen in Australia – so I really like this post!

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

    • Thanks, Stewart! I thought of you and others who have been active on the site you host, Wild Bird Wednesday, and thought I’d post a few pictures for the “woodpecker-deprived”. 🙂

  4. Florice

    There are a lot of birds I don’t see here in Arizona that I did 50 years ago. Used to be lots of roadrunners, but don’t see them any more. One bird we have lots of in our yard is Gila Woodpeckers. I enjoyed your photos. Didn’t know there were so many kinds of woodpeckers. There is one that sits on the top of a lamppost and wakes the whole neighborhood every day. Seems he has been at it for years. Wonder if it is the same one? Surely not a 50 year old woodpecker!!

    • Hi, Sister! These are just woodpeckers we have here in central Florida. There are a whole bunch of different ones out your way!

      Love you!

  5. I can’t get enough of these beauties! A Northern Flicker’s chance visit to our yard got me interested in birding. I’ve not seen one since.

  6. Beautifully written Wally with photographs to match. Woodpeckers are rather special to watch and of course to hear in the early morning of a springtime day. What a fabulous adaptation to use their environment as a form of attraction and display – “rat-a-tat-tat” banged out on a tree or a chimney means I love you or something very similar I guess. Sadly we have only three ‘peckers in the UK and one of those the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker is doing very badly.

  7. Loving these Wallace — and grateful to have seen all of them in Florida. But wishing I could get pictures half as great. (I didn’t know the red-headed was in danger…I’ve only seen them once for a few days in our RV Park, but I just thought it was me not being in the right place at the right time.

    We have seen several of these in Oregon too. So I feel very lucky and honored.

    • Sallie, I would love to visit the west to see other woodpecker species! Hurry home, it’s cooling off fast – only made it to 95 today! With 100% humidity, of course! 🙂

  8. All the woodpeckers are beautiful and your photos are great. As you said we don’t have them out here in Australia. We do have lots of birds that nest in holes in trees but our eucalyptus trees make ready-made holes when a big limb falls off. Birds that use these holes then do a little modifying and hollowing out to their own specifications!

  9. beautiful bunch. i haven’t seen a redhead since i left wisconsin many years ago. the cockaded, never. i love the redbellied and downies we have here – and they love our old woods and willows. have one pair of pileated, too.

    • I think they’re a special group of birds and really enjoy watching them. Thank you so much for dropping by again! We sure enjoy your blog!

  10. Beautiful group of woodpeckers. I’d love to see Red-headed or Pileated Woodpecker here.

  11. What a wonderful series of images Wally!! I love that bright red against the tree.

  12. Breathe, drink, love, appreciate. Sublime essay, Wally, and a perfect morning meditation for my about-to-happen walk in the woods. The coffee will be waiting for me when I get back. Have I told you I love you yet today?

    The photo gallery is a neat resource, too. As you know, we live in a longleaf forest, so we’re lucky to have habitat for these grand birds. May it always be so.

    • You certainly have a special place there! A woodpecker paradise! Thanks for the kind words, I appreciate it.

      By the way – I love you, too!

  13. Beautiful collection of woodpeckers. It is sad to hear these birds are losing their habitat. Wonderful photos, Wally.

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