Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Woodpeckers in our backyard

I was nursing baby "Princess" the other morning, stuffed into a comfy chair relaxing, when I heard a huge thwack at the window. I was nose to beak with a large bird, a woodpecker with red, white, and black plumage. Since I'm a nature lover, I was thrilled. This is our first spring in our new house and I didn't realize that I would get to observe birds quite this closely. I was so excited about my bird that I just had to tell almost-eight year old Kerm.

"I know," he told me. "I saw it pecking on the fence in our backyard at breakfast."

"What kind of bird do you think it is?" I asked. "Let's get out your bird book and look it up."

Well, this is where our problem started. We opened up Kerm's copy of Bill Thompson III's The Young Birder's Guide (which we own courtesy of our friends at 10,000 Birds as per this post, but that's another story), and Kerm and I realized that we disagreed on what the woodpecker looked like. I said that it had a red head and black wings. Kerm said the wings were black mixed with white. So, we couldn't identify which bird we had seen, which was very disappointing since it was a truly striking bird.

However, a line that I read in Thompson's book stayed with me. He suggests that you shouldn't run for your bird identification guide the minute that you spot a cool-looking bird. Rather, you should pay close attention to what you see.

So, I spotted our bird again yesterday and, this time, I took a long, hard look at him. He has a red tufted head, black and white bands on the sides of his face, and solid black wings.

Two fun things came of my close observation. First, I now know that there's a Pileated Woodpecker living in the woods near my backyard. Second, Kerm was adamant that *his* bird had speckled wings and no red tuft. So, I think we will soon have another bird to identify!

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