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Monday, July 13, 2009

Pileated Woodpeckers and Lion's Mane Jellyfish

My mom is up to visit and camp for a week, and while I was at her campsite helping her set up a pair of pileated woodpeckers flew in. They are always so cool to see, as they are the largest woodpecker in North America (15-20 inches long). One of my first bird-watching memories is watching a pair of pileated woodpeckers and their young come to our suet feeders in my parent's backyard when I was a little girl. We don't see them often in my parents neighborhood anymore, but in general they are steadily increasing across their range. Here is the one photo I got showing both members of the pair, with the male on the left and the female on the right:


They were flying from tree to tree for a few minutes, giving me a chance to snap off several phtoos of both the male and female. Here's a better shot of just the male:


Back at the houseboat, we spotted a lion's mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) swimming just off the dock. Lion's manes are the largest known species of jellyfish, with one specimen that washed up in 1870 measuring a bell of 7.5 feet and tentacles of more than 120 feet long, which makes it officially the longest animal on the planet exceeding the lengths of even a blue whale. Of course, not all specimens are anywhere near that large; in fact, most of them are about the size of the one we saw today - about 20 inches across the bell and maybe tentacles one to two feet long:


Lion's mane jellyfish live only in the cold waters of the northern hemisphere and are one of the two most common jellyfish I see, the other being the moon jelly. I would love to better understand the seasonal fluxes of jellyfish, as some seasons one species or the other will be especially plentiful or noticeably absent. Lately there have been rafts of tiny moon jellies floating around, but this is the first lion's mane that I've seen in quite some time.

8 comments:

Wren said...

What fun, and a just reward for helping set up camp.

Rainsong said...

Before I forget, thanks for sharing the jelly-fish story. I didn't know that.

It is starting to be a regular delight when I am quiet and in the wood, that a Pileated pair will swoop in, often laughing. You would think that such a large bird with that bold cap would be easy to snatch a photo of. It seems as if they plan to fuzz up a shot somehow, as if they are spirit. Of all the times I have had camera in hand when they came into view, few photos of mine do them justice. Yours are great, thanks for sharing.

Warren Baker said...

Monika,
Do those woodpeckers drum ? If they do i bet its loud!

Monika said...

Wren - I agree!

Rainsong - They are extremely difficult to photograph. My best shots definitely came yesterday, on a completely unexpected encounter. I really like the idea that they are a spirit - it's an appropriate way to think of them when you hear their booming call in the woods!

Warren - They sure do, and you're right, it's amazingly loud!

The Chatty Housewife said...

Beautiful shot! I have never seen one of these before, only the colorless ones. I will have to keep my eyes open, now that I know what to look for!

Larry Jordan said...

I am so jealous of your Pileated captures Monika. Like Rainsong said, I think they are spirit also. I have seen them but never for very long. I am working on capturing that species on digital though.

The jellyfish is amazing! What a treat!

Bhavesh Chhatbar said...

Whoa!! The jelly fish photograph is so good. And yes, the woodpeckers are beautiful.

TV Tower on Sinhagad - Going Inside Clouds

Heather said...

Wow Monika, what great shots! That must have been quite a thing for you when you were young, seeing those big prehistoric-looking birds at the feeders. I think it might have freaked me out a little. Hope your mom had a nice camping trip!