Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Woodpeckers at a Gut Pile

Hairy Woodpecker on a gut pile in the snow

It snowed again last night.  Only an inch or two.  The red liquid in my kitchen thermometer hovered around the "0" line.  I dreaded going outside.  But the birds were a callin' and they wanted the feeders filled. 

I put on my coat and gloves and went outside at 7am.   I shoveled the feeding station and filled the feeders.

I didn't see the "crime scene" until I started shoveling the driveway.  I found it behind the big spruce that shelters my feeding station.  At first I thought it looked like one of those clumps of snow and road sand that I've been kicking off the wheel-wells my Prius.   It wasn't until I got closer that I realized it was something else altogether.

The gut pile in my driveway

Here's what was left at the scene:  The fur and tracks (on the right) belong to a cottontail rabbit.    Feather and talon tracks (on the left) belong to an owl - a Great-horned or Barred.  I've heard them both in my backyard.

It looks like an owl spotted a rabbit early this morning.  The bird killed it and eviscerated it on the spot;  then flew off with the body, leaving the rabbit's intestines and a swatch of fur behind.

Will the owl come back?  Will another creature eat what was left behind?  Inquiring minds want to know.

I moved the guts to a place I could watch from the comfort of my kitchen window.

Downy Woodpecker on rabbit intestines

Minutes later, a Downy Woodpecker discovered the now-frozen guts and started pecking away at the pile.  As I was setting up to take a photo, a Hairy Woodpecker flew over, scared the Downy away and started pecking

I couldn't stay and watch, but when I got home at 4pm, some of it was still visible from the kitchen window.  I'll be surprised if it's still there in the morning.  Stay tuned...

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