003 Smoky-brown woodpeckers, day 31.

Post date: Apr 9, 2014 4:14:45 PM

Smokey brown woodpecker

Smoky-Brown Woodpecker - Veniliornis fumigatus

I have been filming this family of woodpeckers for over a month. They decided to nest in a dead tree in the middle of our garden. This is one day of shooting just four days before the young left the nest.

I have many more days of footage which I will compile into another video at a later date. (reminder insert link here)

This is an 'arty' video, no voice over and just music and footage. The audio is real, some was captured with a shotgun microphone and some with a lav mic hidded under the bark. If you look carefully you can see the wire.

I would like to point out that these birds have chosen to nest close to our house and although very shy they very quickly got used to me setting up my camera equipment. In the beginning all the camera gear was 10m away from the nest and I gradually got the equipment closer and closer. In fact towards the end the chicks would watch me from the hole as I walked within meters of them. Mostly I could get the setup and teardown done while the parents were away feeding.

There are two chicks in the nest both male, (interestingly contrary to wikipedia). They can be quite aggressive towards their parents. I also observed that the male woodpecker stays in the nest during the night. The female is left out in the rain. Obviously the males are very proud of their homes and protective of them also. The red feathers on the top of their head are an ideal attention grabber for any passing female woodpecker.

One camera is on a slowly rotating mount and the other fixed on the hole. If you didn't spot it already I am a sci-fi nerd and a Stanley Kubrick fan.

Woodpeckers are a great sign of a healthy, and untouched, ecosystem. The only reason we have them in our garden is because of the dead trees that have been left there. Selective logging is a huge industry in Ecuador and people will go as far as they can into the forest or jungle to take trees for their wood. Worth saying also that there is a huge demand in the west for tropical hardwoods. Our property backs onto a 70m cliff beyond which is untouched cloud forest simply because it is steep and inaccessible. Beyond that is the Sangay national park so we live in a very lucky area. Even so, you still have to walk days to see the truly 'big' trees.

If a forest is destroyed it takes a very long time before woodpeckers will come back. Not only must you wait for the trees to grow again a sufficient number of them must die so that the woodpeckers can build their home in them and have a reliable source of food. It is also a rare case that a tree dies and remains standing.

The ivory-billed woodpecker is a classic example of extinction due to habitat destruction. Its large size was a disadvantage as the trees it needs for nesting take a very long time to grow. If you are from the United States you really should read a bit about the Ivory-billed woodpecker.

Update: A few months later and the chicks have left the nest but the entire woodpecker family are still regularly heard in the garden. After watching them for so long their calls are unmistakeable.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video. Please, comments and discussion are always welcome.

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