As if it's not enough that there has been a flock of maybe twenty pine grosbeaks showing up regularly. As if it's not enough that lately several dozen redpolls have decided to make this their home feeder. No hoary redpolls yet, although I've been looking. As if it's not enough to see a dozen chickadees, along with nuthatches, blue jays, and downy and hairy woodpeckers.
Today we happened to be looking out when we saw first one ruffed grouse, then another, then two more, emerge from the woods, walking on the crusted snow. They came so close but didn't quite be so bold as to step out into the open, under the feeder. One of them flew up into a small aspen, eating buds.
While I was watching this with wonder, I spotted a woodpecker on a dead white pine bough. I had been eying that bough suspiciously, wondering what had been peeling off the bark. As soon as I saw the woodpecker's dark back, I had a good idea. My binoculars were out in the car, but I was pretty sure this was a black backed woodpecker!
Later on I heard a persistent tapping from close by in the woods, so I investigated, this time with binocs. Sure enough I spotted it, a female black backed woodpecker, flaking bark off of a bough that had broken off last spring, and boring into the exposed wood for insects. She must have been finding a lot around here lately; under every dead white pine bough, flakes of bark litter the snow.
Black backed woodpeckers are a boreal species, and we are at about the southern limit of their range. Even in range they are not as easily spotted as other woodpecker species, such as downy or hairy woodpeckers. I don't think they come to suet feeders. I wonder if this is the same one I saw last spring?
In other news, I had a near miss yesterday in what would have been my first real life encounter with a blogger from another (neighboring) country. But that's another story, and I'm sure she'll have her version up soon as well. ;)