Project Chekov: Downy Woodpecker

Today we have the fourth installment of Project Chekov, but this one comes with a little bit of uncertainty and mystery.  While processing the feeder shots I came across the image below.

At the time I immediately classified this as another Downy Woodpecker since those can be seen quite frequently hanging out there.  They like to give the impression they are hard working drillers for their food but I’ll see them sneak a trip to the feeders every once in awhile for a snack.  At one point they were showing up a lot more than usual and for the longest time it stumped me as to why.  Later, it became apparent that one of my seed bins had gone bad and it was filled with  ants – the woodpeckers were not so much going after the seed as much as they were the ants that must have been overtaking the feeder.  Clearly the one above was there for the seed.  While uploading it to our photo website the yellow on the bridge of the beak caught my eye.  I had not really noticed that before, as opposed to the more noticeable red highlight on the head for the males.  This prompted a dash for the reference books.  Nothing really conclusive there but part of that is due to the reference shots all being from the side and not directly on (bad reference authors, very bad).  The size led me to believe it was the Hairy or the Downy and since there hasn’t been a lot of Hairy’s around here the best guess is the Downy.  I checked the juvi Yellow- Bellied Sapsucker but that has more markings on the breast and less white for sure).  The Black-backed Woodpecker and Three-toed didn’t match either and didn’t line up with the regions very well.  Without any further input I’m forced to consider it the Downy.  Please let me know your thoughts in the comments, I could be swayed easily at this point.

Here is another shot of a similar bird taken at a different time.  As with the previous image you can see a little bit of the yellow on the bill here as well.  This one is a pretty good match to the Downy characteristics and you can visualize the smaller stature.

So, it is possible the first is not a Downy, but I didn’t want to cheat you out of a post so went with some insurance!

Hit the jump to check that out.

Continue reading Project Chekov: Downy Woodpecker

A Devil Pecker… But Not Sure Which?

I’m a little off my schedule at the moment due to the little issue I had to take care of in the last post.  With that all past us now (and if you still think Linda isn’t the 2012 UB you need to go back and read the finely tuned analysis on the previous post), I can try to get through another entry in the Wisconsin Birds series.  This one is actually a bit of a mystery and hoping one of my fine readers can help me out a bit.  We were up on the cliff trail above Devil’s Lake when I heard a very familiar drumming a little ways into the woods (opposite cliff side).  I’ve been diligently searching for a Pileated Woodpecker without much luck so every time I hear that rattle I jump into search mode and start tracking.  Anyone watching me would have been trying to hold back a laugh.  Finding woodpeckers can be difficult in a dense forest – I swear their drumming echoes off of every try in the area.  Usually I walk to what appears to be the center point of the echoes and move my head in various directions looking for the the sharpest rattle position.. then walk a ways in that direction and repeat.  It looks stupid to onlookers, but it is effective.  After about 3 cycles of this I came upon this:

My initial guess through the viewfinder was a Downy Woodpecker.  Some doubt crept in as I was taking additional shots.  The most interesting aspect was the bird had a yellowish tint to it – most noticeable behind the head and on the breast below the legs.  Depending on how the light hit it, there seemed to be some yellow tint in the white areas on the back and wings.  We have numerous Downy’s where we live and I’ve have had a lot of opportunities to photograph them.  To my recollection, all of those Downy’s had very white highlighting and breast markings.  I tried changing positions to get a better shot of the head but that was difficult to do and still avoid all the branches.  The shot below was the best result, but a foreground branch managed to sneak in.  This shot, however, brought up an additional concern.  That beak is larger than most of the Downy’s around here which are smaller in relationship to the face.  They also look sharper than the one sported by this specimen.

Hit the jump to read more about this mystery bird.

Continue reading A Devil Pecker… But Not Sure Which?