This was a treat to finally get to photograph on of the largest woodpeckers in America. Growing up in Australia I didn’t know there were different types of woodpeckers, I thought there was only one. This particular bird is a Pileated Woodpecker that lives in Yosemite National Park. My ignorance about the woodpecker is valid considering they exist worldwide except for Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, Madagascar and extreme polar regions. In America, well before I had even seen a woodpecker, I had learned to recognize the signs of woodpecker activity on trees who have had numerous holes poked into them and display naked areas where the bark has been hammered off. I’ve also often heard the bird in the distance hammering on the tree, but not actually seen the individual making all the noise. They hit the tree surprisingly hard with their beaks over and over again at incredible speed, it is a wonder how they don’t have a permanent migraine.
During a recent trip to the west coast of the US, we couldn’t have missed this bird if we’d tried. They are out in numbers around Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park where conifer forests are prominent. Having spent time around Blue Jays (a close relative) in New York I think Stellar’s Jays are by far the noisiest of the two and make their presence known. In addition to numerous distinct vocalizations, they are also known mimics of the calls of other birds, animals and can also produce non-animal sounds.
It is said that Yosemite National Park is home to only one type of rattlesnake, and I was honored to meet him. This is the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake which is patterned with grey and white markings. I might be the only person that would call this the highlight of their trip to this spectacular national park. My friends were understandably horrified when I told them that this was the perfect snake to photograph – not frightened and running away nor aggressive, just happily working it’s way through the tree roots and occasionally stopping for a photo. What a treat!