Whither Woodpecker?

After weeks of deluge and drizzle with little respite, during which bits of bloom and bud burst forth, there came a glorious mid-spring day of sunshine and birdsong. For those same dreary weeks I had been hoping to recreate an amazing experience I’d had the previous year on a similar day.

After running a few errands I felt the need to commune with earthy things and stopped in a greenway along the large creek that runs through town. (Depending on where you’re from, you might call it a river, or if you reside along the Mississippi, it might be beneath your notice.) In recent years the city has constructed a trail alongside, much used by noisy kids and dogs. Perhaps that is why no one else seemed to notice. I heard a loud cry that was positively simian. What was that?! Casting eyes upwards I spotted a gargantuan bird, a pileated woodpecker. Oh my! If the even larger ivory billed woodpecker, whom the pileated closely resembles, really does still live, it is no wonder that it is sometimes called the “Lord God” bird, based upon the startled exclamations at first sighting.

The bird first noted was one of the parents of an immense juvenile still in the nest high atop a hollow sycamore tree. Both mom and dad were in the vicinity but not inclined to give in to junior’s plaintive screams. Ee-eee-eee-eee-eee-eee-I’m HUNGRY was his cry. One of the parents eventually flew over and fed him, but clearly they thought it was time he left the nest and found food for himself. Mama bird even lolled on a nearby branch, preening in the sun (yes, you are a gorgeous creature!), seemingly oblivious to the pitiful calls. No one else appeared to be aware, let alone interested in this avian drama, but my friend and I, fascinated, were rooted to the site for over an hour.

And so, a year later, we returned in hopes of seeing another family of pileated woodpeckers. Alas, their hollow sycamore with the sky-high opening, so perfect for their breed, was gone. Only the stump remained. Perhaps the tree had been struck, or fallen of its own fragility in a storm, or even deemed a safety hazard and taken down. I trust the pileateds found a new home this year.

Creatures we never used to see very much out of the wild now regularly appear in well populated places. It was their habitat first, after all. And so just this week I heard that spooky, jungle-like cry of the pileated at the edge of the village of Clayton. I regularly see blue herons fly over I-465. And in spring and fall, working in my backyard in the inner city, I often hear the haunting bugles of the sandhill cranes. More anon on those wondrous dancing birds.

This entry was posted in Encounters with Wildlife and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Whither Woodpecker?

  1. Eric Grayson says:

    Pileateds are cool. Here’s that simian call that you heard…

    • Clarissa says:

      Not too much wildlife around here-although we recently found deer tracks in our backyard (fully fenced, suburban yard-someone left the gate open). We get lots of birdies and hummers and butterflies but the most wild we see is at the hand of three rowdy kids and all their friends. And yeah, sometimes they do make me run away screaming!

      • Boby says:

        I spent three years in Memphis, TN (2007-2010) and I was a member of the Memphis chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society. The group has some of the best birders I have known. Not a single person I met in the Memphis group ever believed the sightings in the Brinkley Arkansas area were real. In 2009 we took a trip to the Dagmar State Wildlife Management Area (only a few miles from Brinkley), so members of the group were familiar with the area. If anyone could have seen the birds if they were there, it would have been these folks. But they did not. I truly believe that the folks from Cornell were too quick to credit sightings that simply don’t hold up and shouldn’t have been given so much attention.

  2. admin says:

    Yes, indeed! The baby’s cries were much longer, though, no doub out desperation!

  3. Brooks says:

    Melody and I see herons just about daily except in winter on our commute from Oaklandon to the west side or on the return, almost always near Ft Ben/near Geist but often on northside 465 as well. Their flight seems so purposeful compared to some of the willy-nilly meanderings of smaller birds, and so graceful compared to the ducks that always seem like they are underpowered.

Comments are closed.