Pileated Woodpecker

by Skip Via
skip@westvalleynaturalists.org

Pileated woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers in North America. (The ivory-billed woodpecker of the southeastern US swamps and marshes is larger, but it is considered “definitely or probably” extinct.) While pileated woodpeckers are not exactly rare in the valley–I’ve encountered them year ’round in the Happy Valley State Trust Lands and the Pig Farm State Trust Lands (see Locations)–they are infrequent visitors to areas of the valley with fewer trees and more houses. That’s why it’s such a rare treat to see one in the back yard.

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The Keller Homestead

by Jeanine Beuttner, with photos from Pat Jaquith
nammy@montanasky.com, pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Editor’s note: Pat Jaquith came across a barn wood reclamation team dismantling an old pump house on Spring Creek Road. Pat contacted Jeanine Beuttner for more information and learned that this property was established by Jeanine’s great grandparents, Charles and Rosalia Keller. Jeanine graciously offered us this fascinating historical vignette.

Editor’s note 2: Don’t miss Jeanine’s follow up comments at the end of this post.

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Corvid Intelligence

by Skip Via
skip@westvalleynaturalists.org

(Update: It’s now Dec 23 2020 and they’re still daily visitors to the seed, suet, and peanut butter feeders.)

The corvidae family of birds includes ravens, crows, magpies, jays, nutcrackers, and several other species known to be highly intelligent and capable of learning. This article suggests that ravens have the capacity for abstract thought, and this one demonstrates evidence of the same kinds of intelligence in crows. And anyone who has had the experience of having food stolen from their hands by a gray jay who has waited patiently for the perfect time to strike knows how intelligent those birds are.

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Invasion of the Nutcrackers

By Skip Via
skip@westvalleynaturalists.org

Clark’s Nutcrackers are year-round residents of the high country of the Rocky Mountains, often seen above treeline. But for some reason—either because their alpine food sources are scarce or because they found an abundance of pine seeds here in the valley, a flock of more than a dozen decided to briefly invade my yard this morning.

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