Back Yard Buddies

Back Yard Buddies

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By Texas standards it was a cool summer day. Early July and only in the mid-70s in the early afternoon. An on-again and off-again rain went along with the bright over cast day.

The various wildlife spent their time wandering in and out of the woods behind the homes in the area.

It turned out to be three days during which we spent many hours photographing the uneasy truce that developed between two newcomers to the neighborhood, a red-headed woodpecker and a mourning dove.

Between those two, the woodpecker arrived first, landing on one of our birdfeeders, reaffirming the pecking order as it ran a blue jay off and we marveled at how the jay, in a flurry of feathery activity, accomplished a vertical takeoff to escape the woodpecker.

The jay had startled a pair of cardinals into full retreat just moments before and they in turn had sent a titmouse scurrying for safety before that.

But the dove didn’t hesitate. It landed on the bird feeder a couple of feet from the woodpecker, totally at ease and not intimidated at all. Finally the woodpecker simply cocked its’ head to one side and then flew away.

The swift landing by the dove was unexpected, given that the previous evening when a pair first appeared, they would fly up to the bird feeder, flutter inches from the feeder, and not land for several seconds, as though totally unsure of how to deal with food located six feet above ground level, where dove normally feed.

In the meantime a brown thrasher arrived as the dove left and a small number of squirrels left the safety of nearby trees to gather under the bird feeder to enjoy the seeds that fell to the ground as the thrasher slashed its’ bill back and forth through the seeds.

The squirrels put on a show themselves, leaping from a large oak or scampering through the greenery of nearby softwoods.

A red-bellied woodpecker made an appearance, though that’s not unexpected since a pair of them nest in the oak that is part of a fence line less than 30 yards behind the house.

And a tri-colored blackbird, not normally known to inhabit East Texas, spent much of a morning hour fending off the woodpeckers and jays.

As if drawn by the action of the birds, two young bucks, their antlers still developing, wandered through the area, pausing to watch the squirrels and birds before disappearing through the nearby trees.

Before the three days of photography ended we found the constant struggle to maintain one’s “turf”… or place at the feeder… to be very entertaining.

There were rare moments when those on the lower end of the pecking order stood their ground long enough to grab a quick bite before beating a hasty retreat… though those moments were few in number.

We hope you enjoy the results. We love photographing the feathery patterns on display as the various birds land or take off.

There was one landing pattern that differed from all the others. The red-bellied woodpeckers, young and adults, each landed at an angle as though they learned from watching fighter pilots land on aircraft carriers.