Downy Woodpecker Photo by Kelly Townes-Hall
With all of this winter weather we have been blessed with, there is always a hope of the spring solstice that will soon be warming our hearts as well as making our grass grow. We can have the best of both worlds by not complaining about how hot it might get. It's a shame we can't bottle some of our summer heat to be let out slowly to balance the days when we do not have the warmth in our bones. Maybe this past "Polar Vortex" will slow down what has been called, global warming. I know the effects even reached down as far as Tennessee, where we were at the frozen waters of Reelfoot Lake watching the Bald Eagles.
With this kind of harsh sub freezing temperatures, I have heard all of my life that we need such periods of this to, take care of the insect population. It might make a difference on the mosquito population, but what about the other bugs that bug us when warm weather gets here. I have read that when the cold weather comes, the insects living in the ground, just tunnel a bit deeper. I have already seen flying insect activity here in my own yard as we have experienced a few of these two day warmups.
It is getting close to the time that we should be seeing the return of our Purple Martins. I still have my houses lowered close to the ground, but it will only take me a couple of minutes to have them ready for occupancy. Many friends have asked when will these beneficial birds get back to their houses. You have to remember that Purple Martins eat only flying insects. It would be a shame for them to return here with nothing to eat. Martins should be filtering back here within the next couple of weeks, barring another blast of the Polar Express.
These birds have a lot in common with our Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, even though they eat entirely different foods. Our Hummers should not arrive here before there is ample nectar producing flowers to sustain their lifestyle. When mama Hummingbird has laid and hatched her eggs, she will feed her babies a protein rich diet of small insects along with nectar.
Saturday afternoon after a ride out around the Cedars of Lebanon State Park, we didn't see a whole lot of activity, except a plethora of small sparrow type birds, mainly Field and White-throated Sparrows. Off of Central Pike there was a male Pileated Woodpecker flying toward an old Hack-berry tree. Anthony Gray wanted to slow down to see it, but every time there was always a car on his bumper.
We got back to my house and I said to Anthony, "do you want to have a little fun with my Downy Woodpecker?" A slight grin came to his face so I went to get my CD player and my Woodpecker calls. A downy was on the feeder and immediately answered the challenge to his territory. He flew right over my head, not even a foot above me trying to locate the interloper that would dare to invade his territory. He even got his missus to get involved. Aggravated, he would fly to his favorite branch in the old maple tree next door and start hammering on a dead limb. I played the call again and here he came straight above my head, reminding me of a Kamikaze strike on my old bald head. The word Kamikaze means "Divine Wind" and that must have been true because I could hear the wind from his wings as he flew by. That was all fun and games until another family of Downy Woodpeckers came by to see what all the fuss was about. My resident pair of Woodpeckers took offense to the others in their territories and soon had a chase all around the yard. Of course, my pair won out and then he headed back to the limb of his choice, to hammer out his victory dance. I will not do this again, for fear of them clashing right above my head, unless I retrieve my motorcycle helmet for some serious protection.
The photo in this weeks article of the Downy Woodpecker was taken by my good friend Kelly Townes-Hall. She has become quite handy with a camera, and I might get lucky and talk her into letting me use some more of her photos on down the road. I am in hopes of meeting her and her daughter, Abigaile Hall in the near future. Both are enjoying the outdoors and seeing lots of our feathered friends.
I really enjoyed myself on the radio with Coleman Walker this past Thursday morning on the Coleman and Company show. Coleman's wife Helen Walker is an avid birder and has a Purple Martin house awaiting the arrivals of the beautiful insect eating machine to make sitting outdoors a little more tolerable this spring. I gave her a Hummer feeder last year and I know she enjoys the show that they put on.
I would love to hear from you as to what's lurking about in your neighborhood and at your feeders. You can write me at, 606 Fairview Ave., Lebanon, TN, 37087, or you can e-mail me at, firstname.lastname@example.org.