Graphic Warning: A backyard bird feeder feeds all sorts of birds.

The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group. It is a place for the community to note any observations they have made of the world around them. Insects, weather, climate, birds and flowers are worthy additions to the bucket. Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located in the comments. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unfolding around us.
Gooseville, WI

Often, I find it hard to gather words to describe the small happenings in my backyard. I offer no apology for this diary or for my love of all the birds that make an austere living in season, especially in the bleakness of a harsh winter.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (female) Melanerpes carolinus

The sharp-shinned hawk swept in fast from the east, banked steeply through the thick boughs of the spruce tree and landed on top of the bird feeder.

Sharp alarms were screamed as the seed and suet eaters exploded in all directions. In panic and confusion, a large male red-bellied woodpecker slammed into the glass patio door with a sickening thud and fluttered onto the deck.

Sharp-shinned hawk with red-bellied woodpecker

The sharpie pounced on the stunned woodpecker and struggled to drag it off the deck in small shuffled hops. The hawk was a small male not much bigger than the red-bellied.

The struggle

'eee-eee-eee-eeeeee-eee-eeeee' The screams from the woodpecker were piercing and heart wrenching, but there was nothing I could or would do to interfere.

life and death

The woodpecker fought to peck the eyes of the hawk with twisting and turning thrusts. Snow and feathers flew as they struggled together.

the plucking begins

His sharp talons held firm and the hawk began furiously plucking neck and back feathers as they continued to wrestle in circles.

winter hunger

The struggle went on for another ten minutes before the woodpecker fell silent and still. I was able to breathe again, relieved it was over.

the screaming stops
winter survival
renewal of life
the pluckings
the feast begins
harsh realities

The small sharpie was ravenously hungry. He remained on the ground hastily devouring his feast for another thirty minutes. He carried the carcass away when he left. Nothing remained except a scattering of black and white and red feathers drifting across the snow on the wind.

Backyard bird feeders feed all sorts of birds. I was glad that the sharpie gained a much needed meal. I was saddened that one of my beautiful red-bellied woodpeckers perished so traumatically. So goes life in our backyards.

What's happening in your neck of the woods? This bucket is now open for observations and discussion.



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Originally posted to Backyard Science on Thu Jan 23, 2014 at 06:31 AM PST.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive, Birds and Birdwatching, and Shutterbugs.

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