White-headed woodpecker swoops
Clings to corneous bark of stump
Disappears before my eyes
When Amy of WildBirdontheFly asked for Twittered bird-related poems that included the word “corneous” I thought of the bark of this tree and the White-headed Woodpeckers I saw there. I’m thrilled that my poem won her contest and I’ll be getting a new book: The Armchair Birder: Discovering the Secret Lives of Familiar Birds. Very cool! Thanks so much, Amy! And, if you use Twitter and aren’t subscribing to Amy’s tweets, why not? More to the point, if you love birds and you aren’t subscribing to WildBird magazine, why not?
I promised, upon winning, to share the story behind the poem. When we arrived at our campsite in Sequoia National Forest, we got the motorhome settled and then did a little exploring around the site. Directly behind our motorhome was a small pine tree and behind that was a stump of a much larger tree. As I watched, a woodpecker swooped in and landed. It hopped up and down and then around the tree out of my site. I sent my son around the other side so he could see it. And, there was nothing there. I’d been watching the whole time and never saw it leave. Shrugging, I finished setting up the camp.
It wasn’t until later that I realized that the only answer was that it went into a hole in the stump. A nest.
So, later that day, I checked it out and it was there. I watched for quite a while and the mother and father flew in and out regularly, showing no concern about our being nearby. I got a decent picture and pulled out my Sibley Guide. They are White-headed Woodpeckers.
White-headed Woodpeckers tend their young together. They are very attentive to each other during the incubation (according to All About Birds). I like that I captured the two of them sharing a moment.
When I finally got a chance to be alone, I set up my tripod and took some better shots. I love the combination of a tripod and rapid shot mode.I’d never seen a White-headed Woodpecker before so my thrill was doubled. A lifer! And catching one of them in-flight is almost as thrilling as seeing them to begin with — look at that action!
After I took the pictures, I did sneak up to the nest and take a quick video of the babies. I could hear them chirping in there. I didn’t want to worry them or distress the parents so Ireally did make it quick but I wanted to share it.
The first sound you hear is not a bird. It’s a marmot. I’ll share more about the marmots in a future post. Enjoy!