Wednesday, 12 November 2014

#582 In the Field: Birds of the North Country, con't . . .

This blog is part of a series of posts about
our island studio and cabin located on
Lake of the Woods in Ontario, Canada.
The series starts with #568, posted
September 24 of this year.  There are
many earlier posts about the cabin that
can be seen by going to the blog index.

Much of the inspiration for my art is gleaned from the wildlife and wilderness experience that surrounds the studio.
Trish and I have closed the cabin for the season but the influence and memories of the past remains.

The focus of this blog is woodpeckers.  Among the species of woodpeckers who remain in the frozen North Country
 winter and are able to cope with the brutal weather are the Pileated, Black-backed, Red-headed, Downy, Three-toed,
 and the Northern Flicker.  All woodpecker species have evolved with unique characteristics which enable them
 to exploit food sources, year around, that are untapped by other species.  Their sharp beaks enable them
 to excavate food from branches and trunks of trees that other birds can't reach.

Below, is a drawing of a Downy Woodpecker. . .  common in the Lake of the Woods region year around.

Another species of woodpecker that is common in the region where my cabin studio is located is the magnificent
Pileated Woodpecker.  These beautiful birds are large with a 30 inch wingspan and are routinely seen on our island.
They are almost entirely black with white neck stripes and white wing lining.
 Both sexes have a bright red head and a "mustache" which is black on females and red on males.

Below, is a drawing of a Pileated Woodpecker from my ever-present sketchbook.

Below, is a head study of a male Pileated Woodpecker.

A woodpecker's tongue if four times longer that it's beak and is amazingly flexible.
 It is mounted at the back of the skull, acts as a spring-like device which enables it to tunnel out wood eating insects.
Interestingly, the strong beak is mounted on the skull in such a way that the hardy bird
can withstand the stress of repeated hammering of trees.

Most birds have three forward-facing toes and one rear-facing toe.  Shown in the drawing below, woodpeckers
 have two front-facing and two rear-facing toes which give a stable platform while hammering away at a tree.

Below, is John James Audubon's imaginative illustration of the Pileated Woodpecker.
This is one of my favorite engravings from his celebrated,  Birds in America, published in 1830.

Woodpeckers are often heard long before they are seen.   In the fall, I love to walk
 in the woods and hear their tap-tapping ringing through the birch and conifers.
 The bitter winter will soon envelope the North Country . . . they will stay and I will go south.

Go to the BLOG INDEX on the right for more information. 

Blog, text, photos, drawings, and sculpture . . . © Sandy Scott and Trish

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