Outdoors in the Mon Valley Region
Hi. My name is Ken Yonek & I’m going to try to start a conversation about some of the birds and natural attractions in the region. Since this region is defined by the meeting of woods, water & field it provides many different habitats to support a variety of creatures.
When it comes to birds I’ll probably be asking more questions than providing answers. I’m a ‘recreational birder’ at best, but I do have a copy of “ Peterson Field Guides , Eastern Birds “ and when I see something new, I want to know what it is. So, let’s start.
On Thursday , 2/22, my dog & I were walking around a familiar lake park when I saw a flash of color to my right just as a pileated woodpecker landed on a tree trunk in full view. It called out & almost simultaneously I heard an answering call from my left. That second call was so sudden & unexpected that I wasn’t sure I’d really heard one. But after several seconds, it called again & this was immediately answered by the bird on my right. ( I realize that while I say “ answered “ I have no idea what’s going on in either birds head.) I assumed they were a bonded pair since it would otherwise be unusual to see two pileated woodpeckers in such close proximity because a nesting pair will try to defend hundreds of acres of territory. At this time of the year former mates will be moving closer together in preparation for nest building & mating. And that leads to my 1st question. I checked several on-line sources but none told when the pair will start excavating a new nesting cavity or laying eggs in this region. Anyone out their know that ?
My second observation/question concerns the pileated woodpeckers call. If you’ve heard it, you know it’s not anything you’d call a “ bird song “. I’ve seen it described as a bark, a laugh, or a wuk/cuk call. It’s essentially the same note repeated several times with variations in the length of the repeat chain. The normal call will run several “ wuks “ with a pause between each, e.g. wuk-wuk-wuk. There’s also the almost manic sounding version that Cornell University called the “ fast wuk series call “. There the repeat chain, length, volume & frequency all seem to increase. It’s more like a WUKWUKWUK.…. My reaction the first time I heard that was : “ What the heck was that ?” Because it seems like a such strident call, I assumed it must be a territorial warning call and thus more common during the nesting period. But the same Cornell website advised that a short “ wuk-wuk “ is the territory boundary or alarm call. Ok, I thought. That’s like us shouting “ stop, no, or help “. But then I thought about my dog’s reactions to potential threats. When another dog has acted too aggressively toward him/me/us the barks & spittle will pour out rapid fire. So, I’m still wondering. Is that “ fast wuk series call “ a special time/purpose call , or just a random variation, even though it seems to be used much less frequently that the “ normal “ wuk series ? Or is it just the pileated woodpeckers version of singing a few bars of “ Ode to Joy “ ? Appreciate any thoughts on that “ fast wuk “ question.
Love to hear about anyone else’s experiences.
Oh yeah. I’ve got 3-4” daffodil shoots all over the beds. Spring is coming.