posted: March 26th, 2014 | by:Bert
©Bert Gildart: For the past few days I have been obsessed with creating images of one of the primary birds that makes its home in the saguaro cactus, specifically, the Gila woodpecker. Opportunities have been many and have included feeding shots on the ocotillo cactus, the actual excavation of a cavity in the saguaro cactus, and the occupancy of a cavity (I’m working several cavities) in which adults are now beginning to raise their young.
Gila woodpeckers are one of the more showy species of the Sonoran Desert. As always, the male is the more showy of the two sexes, sporting a red cap on top of the head. Females and juveniles are similar, but both lack the red cap of the adult male.
According to a site maintained by Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Gila woodpeckers create nest cavities in the sides of saguaros in between the skin and the inner ribs (the outer cortex) of the cactus. With the saguaro tissue serving as insulation, these cavities provide safety from predators and refuge from extreme temperatures. Abandoned woodpecker holes make great nests for elf owls, kestrels, and purple martins.
But according to other reports, populations may be in decline because of competition for nesting sites, and we did note that other species occupied nearby saguaro cacti to include the house sparrow. But the major problem, and one which is proving to be universally destructive to wildlife, is the endless constructions of housing developments.
L to R: Male Gila peering from recently created cavity; female Gila atop century plant, now in bloom; male Gila and ocotillo flower.
Certainly as you can see from the top image, the Gila could be a pollinator of the ocotillo cactus, for it spent enough time on flowers of the ocotillo. And the bird could not have struck more interesting poses.
First it landed among countless thorns on both upright and on branches that had begun to droop. Then it inserted its beak into the flower, and whether or not it was extracting anything other than nectar was difficult to determine.
All these images have been made while based once again at the Gilbert Ray Campground just outside of Tucson. Today, however, we depart and start heading north, knowing, however, that we will come back another day.
AIRSTREAM TRAVELS LAST YEAR:
4th ed. Autographed by the Authors
Hiking Shenandoah National Park
Hiking Shenandoah National Park is the 4th edition of a favorite guide book, created by Bert & Janie, a professional husband-wife journalism team. Lots of updates including more waterfall trails, updated descriptions of confusing trail junctions, and new color photographs. New text describes more of the park’s compelling natural history. Often the descriptions are personal as the Gildarts have hiked virtually every single park trail, sometimes repeatedly.
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Montana Icons is a book for lovers of the western vista. Features photographs of fifty famous landmarks from what many call the “Last Best Place.” The book will make you feel homesick for Montana even if you already live here. Bert Gildart’s varied careers in Montana (Bus driver on an Indian reservation, a teacher, backcountry ranger, as well as a newspaper reporter, and photographer) have given him a special view of Montana, which he shares in this book. Share the view; click here.
$16.95 + Autographed Copy
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Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent
Glacier Icons: What makes Glacier Park so special? In this book you can discover the story behind fifty of this park’s most amazing features. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes and little known facts, Bert Gildart will be your backcountry guide. A former Glacier backcountry ranger turned writer/photographer, his hundreds of stories and images have appeared in literally dozens of periodicals including Time/Life, Smithsonian, and Field & Stream. Take a look at Glacier Icons
$16.95 + Autographed Copy