"Woody" Visits Keystone
Inside the Outdoors, June 17
, 2011

“Hey Pee Vee…hey Pee Vee, hey Pee Vee. You’ve got to look at this over here on this tree. Come on over here Pee Vee. Now…Come over here now.”

It’s not like I didn’t get the message the first time, but apparently my fishing buddy saw something in a tree that apparently shocked him, for he never saw the likes of a Pileated Woodpecker before (I can only assume).

All doubt was erased when a man in a yellow kayak happened by as we were doing a bit of fishing in Keystone State Park Lake, New Alexandria, and filled us in when he saw us eyeing at a tree. When the words, “Pileated Woodpecker” exited his mouth, we knew right then and there what our mystery guest was some 35 feet down the shoreline in a tree by the calm waters.

For those who may not be familiar with this bird, all one has to do is recall your friend and mine, Woody Woodpecker. He was of this species.

According to www.birdweb.org, “Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers in North America. They are crow-sized and black, with bright red pointed crests, the red more extensive on the crests of mates. A broad white stripe on each side of their faces below their eyes continues down along each side of their necks. Males have red moustachial stripes, black. White underwing linings and some white at the wrist above are visible when the bird flies.”

I remember many years ago when the family went to Cooks Forest to camp in cabins. I was alerted to my fine-feathered friend as he was sounding a beat to a cadence outside my bedroom window. Doing a little investigating, I saw this bird, high on the pecking order, drilling into a dead tree. It turned out to be a large woodpecker doing its thing, silhouetted against the overcast morning sky.

Pileated Woodpeckers prefer any type of tree as long as they are dead and large enough for roosting and nesting. They are often associated with mature and old growth forests, but can breed in younger forest if they contain some large trees.

“These powerful woodpeckers chip out characteristic oval or rectangular excavations in the trees in which they forage. Their drumming can be heard for long distances, as can their loud ‘laughing’ call. They roost in hollow trees with multiple entrance holes,” the website said.

And what is on the menu when it comes to their eating habits? It only makes sense that they prefer insects that make their homes in trees. Carpenter ants and long-horned beetles are two examples. “They eat some fruits and nuts as well.”

This website divulged that these birds are fairly common in the west and uncommon in the east. I agree that they may not be as common as a robin, for example, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say they are uncommon to the east. If they are found in Clarion and Westmoreland Counties off and on, I would probably conclude that one may happen upon them if they visit the forests regularly sighting birds as a hobby.

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Three high school youth stopped by my residence to report that they have been catching a number of bass on the Loyalhanna Creek. Keep in mind bass season will be getting underway for the lakes, streams and rivers, June 18. A friend and I have done remarkably well catching bass around the Legion Keener area.

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If you happen to be over in the Ligonier area tomorrow, the Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited will have a booth at the Farmer’s Market just west of town, a stone’s throw from the Loyalhanna Watershed office and recycling area. Stop by and visit. In addition to a table display featuring FTTU’s many activities , there will be casting demonstrations. I will be there to greet anyone who wishes to talk about the organization or this column, Inside the Outdoors. I will be looking forward to seeing you.

Until next week, keep cool!


- Paul J. Volkmann
You can contact me by email