THE WOODPECKER

Often we get woodpeckers at our feeders in the yard. The little Downy Woodpeckers, black and white mostly, come frequently, visiting briefly and then gone. Once in a while, we see a Pileated Woodpecker, the behemoth of the genre, though more often we hear it drumming on a tree nearby. It sounds like a roofer has turned on his nail gun to “automatic” mode. Once I watched a Pileated attack an old fence post in our field, furiously banging away in a blur of red. When I went to see what he had left behind, I found a hole that looked as if a shotgun had been discharged at close range. Our most common visitor, though, is the Red-Bellied Woodpecker, whose belly is not actually red. While they sometimes go for the seed tubes, usually they are found upside down on the suet feeders put there mainly for their use. Other birds come to that feeder, including some that aren’t supposed to be able to feed hanging upside down (must not have read the book), but when the Red-Belly shows up, they all vacate to give room. Facing that beak must be like seeing the fastest gun in the west come into the saloon. While the other birds at the suet peck furiously in a seemingly random fashion for a few seconds and then drop and fly off, the Red has a more contemplative style. He or she hangs there, casually gripping the wire cage and contemplates for a moment or two, head cocking this way and that, then makes several very precise stabs, waits a bit, looks some more and then again the few carefully placed jabs of the sharp powerful beak. It makes me think of a sculptor finding the desired figure in an amorphous block of marble. After watching these birds for a while, I would not be too surprised to go out there and find a replica of Michelangelo’s David carved into the suet.

About johngrice

Retired small town lawyer, lifelong motorcyclist, traveler and old guy sitting around thinking.
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