Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki Hairy woodpecker peeking

About a week ago, I started to feed the birds at my house. The two bird feeders hanging on a post in my backyard had remained empty most of the summer, so I filled those up with sunflower seeds, peanuts, thistle and other goodies, and I added a third feeder on the balcony upstairs.

Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki Hairy woodpecker peeking
Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki
Hairy woodpecker peeking

I purchased the third feeder from the Aubuchon Hardware store in Brewer. It’s a wooden Audubon feeder, shaped like a house. Seeds spill out of two sides, and on the other two sides are wire cubbies that hold square suet cakes.

Suet cakes — if you don’t know — are basically a mixture of seeds, nuts and sometimes bugs and fruit in some sort of fatty, edible substance. They tend to attract woodpeckers, but they’re also enjoyed by bluejays and other birds.

Since moving to the hills of Hancock County last spring, I’ve seen both pileated and hairy woodpeckers drilling at the trees around my house, so I knew they were there. I want to help them out, give them a little extra sustenance.

Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki Two hairy woodpeckers
Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki
Two hairy woodpeckers

They didn’t show up to the feeder right away. Few birds did. It was on the balcony of my house, after all. But it didn’t take long before the bold bluejays showed up, snatching sunflower seeds and drilling on the suet early in the morning. Then came the tufted titmouse, chickadees and white-breasted nuthatch.

My bed is near the balcony, so I get to watch them when I wake up. But if I make any sudden movements — or if my dog Oreo does — they’re gone in a flash.

Then, after a few days, came the woodpeckers.

Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki Downy woodpecker. Smaller than hairy with a shorter beak.
Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki
Downy woodpecker. Smaller than hairy with a shorter beak.

Yesterday morning I had at least six woodpeckers — hairy woodpeckers and the smaller downy woodpeckers — all clinging to the tree trunks by the balcony, taking turns pecking at the suet cakes. I was thrilled…

… But later that day, I was sitting downstairs doing work on my computer when I looked up to see a plump hairy woodpecker hopping about on the railing of my back porch. I watched as it flew up to a bannister and started inspecting a knot hole, sticking its red-streaked head into the hole, fishing around for bugs or eggs. Amused, I watched as it pulled out a small, fluffy white object — probably spider eggs or a cocoon. Then another woodpecker flew in, flapping its wings to scare off the first. That one was also interested in the knot hole.

Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki Hairy woodpecker on my deck
Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki
Hairy woodpecker on my deck

As much as I love watching woodpeckers, I don’t want them drilling holes in my deck or my house.

So I stood up and banged on the window several times, trying to scare the bird off. It wouldn’t budge, so I walked out onto the back deck and shooed it away. (It’s funny how you can’t scare birds when you actually want to, but when you’re trying to take a photograph, they seem so easy to spook!)

http://www.tout.com/m/01bsrd

Do I have a problem?

Should I move the feeder farther from the house?

Have you ever had problems with birds causing damage to your house?

If you have any stories or advice to share, please write in the comment section below.

Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki Pileated woodpecker
Photo by Aislinn Sarnacki
Pileated woodpecker

I’m not too worried about it … yet.

Later that day, I saw a pileated woodpecker — the state’s largest woodpecker species — not far from my house, drilling a large hole in a birch tree. It was a woodpecker-filled day, I guess.

I also saw a purple finch come to my house for the first time yesterday. It was checking out the feeders and the other birds — assessing the situation. I suppose I’m doing the same thing.

More woodpecker photos from yesterday:

Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn Sarnacki is a Maine outdoors writer and the author of three Maine hiking guidebooks including “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine.” Find her on Twitter and Facebook @1minhikegirl. You can also...