Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Weird Business

So this little woodpecker has been hanging out in the willow tree in our yard. Often, as I'm sitting on my balcony, I see him pecking away, a dozen feet or so straight in front of me, furiously going after whatever tasty little bug-morsels apparently live there, and leaving dozens of little holes in the bark. Recently, when we had one of our little warm spells, some sort of sap-type liquid started oozing out of all of the holes, drenching the trunk below. And then all these little black and orange butterflies1started hanging out there, fluttering about, apparently drawn to the oozing sap-type liquid. And then one day, as I was sitting on the balcony, I looked straight ahead and saw Pearl, our crazy little kitty, clinging to the trunk in that exact spot, twenty-five-or-so feet above the ground, all wide-eyed and crazed. I exclaimed, "Pearl!" She looked at me for a moment, then scurried back down the trunk. I don't know if she was going for the woodpecker or the butterflies (or the sap-type liquid) or what. All I know is there's a whole lot of weird multi-species drama going on in that willow. Weird business.

P.S. Does anybody know off hand what kind of woodpecker that is? The photos not perfect, but perhaps you can see the swath of red on the top of its head as well as on its throat. And then the distinctive black and white stripes and markings.

1 They're the same butterflies that were obsessed with our passion vine: they slurped its nectar, laid their eggs, spawned their progeny, and gobbled its leaves, going through several generations until, despite my efforts to save it, the poor passion vine gave up the ghost.


  1. Anonymous6:46 PM

    a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker!!! so says the Golden Guide to Field Identification of Birds of North America...

    Miss Em's eldest sister in Chicago

  2. That's it. Fantastic!

  3. Anonymous9:39 PM

    It seems your critter is a bit out of place. According to Wikipedia it winters in the southeastern U. S. That doesn't include Louians, does it ?

    All sorts of little creatures are showing up here. Biologists say that is to be expected with all the changes in climate all over the country

    1. Actually, looking at the map over at All About Birds, it looks like we're smack in the middle of their winter range, which extends from the southern U.S., over to Texas, down Mexico, and all the way to Central America.

      And now all that oozing sap makes since. The Sapsuckers, as the name would imply, don't just eat bugs (though they eat those too). They like to drill into the tree and slurp out its yummy juices. And apparently our willow has particularly yummy juices. I saw it again this morning. (And I saw Pearl again weaving her way through the branches, apparently hoping to have a heaping helping of Sapsucker Surprise for breakfast. I think her chances are pretty slim. That little guy skedaddles pretty fast at the first sign of encroachment.)

  4. Anonymous5:57 PM

    nice photo