An acorn woodpecker pounds and probes deep into the rotten wood of an old oak. We see him nab a grub and move on to repeat the process. Usually life is a little easier for him at this time of year. He is working on a dead limb that is part of one of the two granary trees this colony uses. Most years the half dozen woodpeckers that live in this little canyon will have harvested thousands of acorns and put each in its own hole. They save energy by using the same granary tree year after year. Last March a high percentage of the holes in this tree were still full. There had been plenty of acorns for the whole winter and more.
But this year the acorn crop was exceptionally poor. During the summer I searched the surrounding trees with my binoculars and could see just a few acorns. For awhile the granary tree held a few acorns from the new crop, but it is already empty. Fortunately the woodpeckers eat other things too … grubs, insects, other seeds, but acorns are their primary winter food. Already most of the woodpeckers are gone from this canyon. I can only hope they are foraging elsewhere. I even had one at my feeder the other day. He was helping himself to my sunflower seeds.
An acorn woodpecker in happier days. This is one of my illustrations from “Birds of Oregon: A General Reference.”