This is a non-commercial educational video documentary with a comic twist that deals with the unique habits and very strong instinctive reproductive behavior of birds – in this case a species of woodpecker that inhabits the lower elevations of the Rocky Mountains in western Montana.
The idea for this documentary came to me quite by accident when I discovered a nesting cavity under construction in a live Quaking Aspen tree in my back yard. Then, subsequently, after being awakened one spring morning in May with the loud tap-tap-tapping sound of a woodpecker on my neighbor’s fence rail, I immediately linked those actions to the previously discovered nesting cavity. So, I grabbed my video camera and began recording the events as they transpired. This documentary is the result.
One of the purposes of the documentary is to educate bird lovers, bird watchers and the public at large on how to use subtle distinctive physical features of birds to positively identify them.
Another purpose is to make us more aware of the special role that instinct plays in the survival and perpetuation of animal species on this planet. It is a motivating force just as strong as and irresistible as the force of gravity.
Furthermore, this documentary film will hopefully make us all more aware of the unique life cycles and natural dramas that are taking place right under our noses so to speak, yes, in our own back yards. We just need to be more observant of our surroundings.
I was very impressed with the procedures used by this woodpecker species to communicate with and to attract a prospective mate. As the woodpecker tapped out his coded message on a split in the fence rail, broadcasting, in effect – “I have constructed a very nice nesting cavity over here - are you interested in seeing it?” – I was really floored when a prospective mate responded with his own taps in the distance, showed up, and then investigated and inspected the other bird’s handiwork in the Aspen tree.
Watching the events transpire and recording them on video persuades me to believe that the instinctive actions displayed so vividly by this bird species have to be designed. They cannot possibly evolve gradually over time as all components have to be in place for the instinctive behavior to work.
I found it of interest that the woodpeckers tolerated my presence as I filmed them day after day. They looked at me and my camera setup from time to time, but then went right ahead with their construction activities seemingly oblivious to my presence in their world. The birds often flew right over my shoulder up to the hole in the tree as they worked hard for several weeks to construct the nesting cavity.
As an update since this documentary was produced, the pair of woodpeckers are currently engaged in taking turns incubating eggs in the nesting cavity. While one of the birds tends the nest, the other is out feeding on adjacent trees. They take turns on a regular basis, changing roles frequently throughout the day. What a wonderful example of cooperation and shared parenting in the natural world! Clearly, all this is by instinct as well.
I hope you enjoy this video documentary just as much as I have enjoyed putting it together. It was filmed using a Canon 5D Mark II DSLR camera equipped with Canon telephoto lenses.
Oh, by the way, hint, hint, don’t miss out on the credits at the end of the documentary.
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