Waking up to woodpeckers

P1290914A hairy woodpecker clings to the fir tree outside our bedroom window.

IMG_7955I’M GETTING TO KNOW WOODPECKERS better than I ever expected. There’s something about first impressions, early in the day.

After climbing back into bed every morning with the first mug of coffee — one of the perfect pleasures of retirement — I have a clear view through our rear window of the trunk of a slim Douglas fir that is a favorite of our resident woodpeckers.

The hairy woodpeckers, the bigger of the two woodpeckers that frequent our piece of the rock, like to cling to the tree’s bark and work their way upward in a circular fashion. With their red topknot, it’s like watching Ron Weasley climb the spiral staircase to his Gryffindor bed chamber. (We read a lot of “Harry Potter” as our daughter was growing up.) Eyeballing the big birds is an idle pleasure complemented by a good dark-roast cup of java.

The hairy is a regular at the suet cage that hangs outside our kitchen window. The big woodpecker dwarfs the small cage, akin to a sumo wrestler riding a Vespa. The bird hooks its talons into the underside of the wire cage, causing it to swing horizontally, then curls its body up and angles its long beak down to peck at the seed-laden beef tallow that seems to be like steak and eggs to a breakfast-seeking woodpecker.

“I hope he gets as much out of it as he puts into it, doing all those ab crunches,” daughter Lillian commented when visiting.

The bird’s exertions often cause the cage holding the suet to knock against the cabin’s wooden eaves. When we hear a sound like the tapping of a light hammer on the side of Nuthatch Cabin, we know our friend the woodpecker is doing his morning sit-ups.1-anchor


This is the weekend of the Great Backyard Bird Count. Join Barbara and me in giving 15 minutes a day to help with this important annual census. Scientists use data from bird observers worldwide to track the health of avian populations. At this writing, 3.6 million birds have been counted in the event’s first day. The count continues through Monday, February 17. Get involved at gbbc.birdcount.org.

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