Persistent Pileated

He seldom gave more than three or four pecks at a time, and would then swing his head round to one side or the other, sometimes raising his scarlet crest.

~O. M. Bryens, on watching a pileated woodpecker feeding

Spent a few days at my folk’s place in Damascus this week, enjoying the beautiful mountain setting, and celebrating somebody’s 85th birthday. A couple of days before we arrived, my Dad spotted a pileated woodpecker working on a stump near his garage.

Stump chiseled by pileated

Stump that has been hammered by a pileated woodpecker (click photos to enlarge)

We walked out toward the garage the first afternoon and a huge bird exploded from the ground where it was feeding. Had this been at home, I would have spent the next couple of days sitting in a blind hoping to get some close ups.  But, when you are visiting, you can only grab a camera every now and then hoping to get a shot.

pileated woodpecker on stump

Pileated woodpecker is wary of my approach

Luckily, this particular bird announces its arrival with the typical pileated call. I was inside the house and heard it on the second afternoon. So, I grabbed the camera, eased out the door, walked around the house, and tried to sneak up on the stump. The pileated saw me, moved up the stump and glared at me, then hopped back down and resumed chiseling. But, it was not clearly visible from where i stood, so I took a couple of more steps. And that was it…I had pressed the issue a bit too far, and off it flew. I saw it return a few more times, but decided to not disturb it. I’m not sure what it was after. Carpenter ants are a favorite food, but the holes in the stump look more like some sort of boring beetle larvae was the culprit (or maybe carpenter worms, a type of moth larva).

pileated woodpecker on stump head shot

Male pileated woodpecker showing the red stripe on the side of the face

This bird is a male, showing the red stripe coming off the back side of the bill. When it flew, it went across the road up near my folks’ rental cottage to a stand of large trees, undoubtedly where the nest tree is located. This area has a rich bird life due to the mixture of forest, meadows, and the river down below the property.


View from one side of the wraparound porch at the Country Cottage

And that reminds me…my folks have a rental property that is situated in the mountains near Damascus, VA. It is close to great hiking, fishing, and the famous Virginia Creeper Trail, a bicycle trail that runs from Whitetop to Abingdon. The bird life is abundant, it is not far from my favorite Virginia State Park (Grayson Highlands), and there is beauty to be found any time of year. If interested in a peaceful mountain getaway, check it out at their web site, the Country Cottage.


2 thoughts on “Persistent Pileated

  1. Thanks again for the memories, Mike. Damascas and the Mt. Rogers/Whitetop area was one of my favorite backpacking haunts way back. The area was midway between Sheila’s hometown and our home in Gate City, so we passed through and visited often. I enjoyed many great storms on those mountains. One morning woke up to 6-inch hoarfrost flags covering everything — quite a sight! I hope some of your fans will chose to visit this great area — perhaps at your folks cottage.


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