Thursday, February 21, 2013
A few days ago in the middle of the afternoon Blondie excitedly called me away from my desk to point out a red bellied woodpecker that had just arrived at one of the feeders on the lake side of the house. Of course it was gone by the time I got up to take a look. Being a rare visitor here in Northern Minnesota, it is a colorful and refreshing sighting in what is becoming a very harsh winter. It is worth getting away from work for a few minutes to have a look.
This year the weather has been more akin to the winters of decades past. The bird returned to the sunflower seeds on several occasions following that first visit and seemed to be a bit odd in its behavior. Very puffed up against the cold and much searching through the seeds, but little ingestion of anything.
Sometime after midnight last night, I flipped on the outside light to have a look at the suet feeder that is placed in one of the back yard oaks. I was hoping to see a flying squirrel - there have been as many as three at a time using that added food source this winter. Instead of a squirrel, there was the red belly perched on the chunk of suet, head tucked under wing, shivering through the minus mid-teen temperature of the night. I thought it was odd behavior again and likely portended the demise of the woodpecker.
In the first light of morning the bird was still clinging to the suet - dead and frozen. One can only speculate as to the cause of death, but examination revealed a very emaciated condition.
Although the light is returning, winter is still deadly deep and unforgiving.