Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Fruit Pickers

Although the day began overcast and gray, the sun eventually made its appearance and brightened the old-growth swamp at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest. The light brought out the color in the swamp and also brought out the fruit pickers!

A migrating male Black-throated Blue Wabler (Dendroica caerulescens) stopped along its journey to pick fruit from a Yellow Passionflower (Passiflora lutea) vine outside our office window. Yesterday, a Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus), a Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), and a Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) all made a stop at the Yellow Passionflower vine. Male and female Black-throated Blue Warblers look nothing alike and were considered different species by early naturalists. This is an interior forest bird, so its numbers have been adversely affected by logging and development across its summer range in the northeastern United States and across the border in southern Canada. Although some of the summer range lands are returning to forest, lands in the bird's wintering grounds throughout the Caribbean are being cleared.

At the end of the boardwalk at Goodson Lake, a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) weighted down a branch as it picked fruit from a Viburnum species, possibly Black Haw (Viburnum prunifolium). The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker remaining (Ivory-billed Woodpecker was larger) in the United States and Canada. The Pileated Woodpecker needs trees with sufficient girth in order to build its nesting cavity. Therefore, the removal of old-growth forests has an adverse affect on this bird. Fortunately, the Francis Beidler Forest continues to protect 1800 acres of old-growth, cypress-tupelo swamp. The Pileated Woodpecker plays an important role in the forest ecosystem as it excavates cavities for nesting, roosting, or while in search of food. A variety of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates use these cavities for nesting and shelter.

Images by Mark Musselman

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