Slice of Life — Ornithology Division

James was outside, having a cigarette and watching the birds. I came to the screen door.

U: “Birds out in force?”

J: “Yep. I saw a woodpecker on the stand.”

Now, there’s two woodpecker snags on our property–dead, topless and limbless trees riddled with woodpecker holes. They sway less than any tree in the yard, due to lack of wind resistance, so I’m not particularly worried about them coming down any time soon, and the Wildlife Foundation encourages people to leave them up whenever even remotely possible, or to make artificial ones, because it’s the primary habitat for a great many woodpeckers.

As far as Jamesisms go, substituting “stand” for “snag” barely raises an eyebrow. I let it pass.

U: “I know there’s a red-bellied wood…pecker…that…hangs…around…the…holy crap!”

As I watched, a red-headed woodpecker flew nonchalantly off the snag and vanished into the greenway.

While I have red-headed woodpeckers on my lifelist, it’s from one dismal sighting. Literally–it took place in the middle of the Great Dismal Swamp. It was a red-headed woodpecker, largely because there was nothing else it COULD be, with the red noggin and the big white back markings, (and even a rank novice like myself can identify a red-headed woodpecker on a dark night at a hundred paces–the markings are as crisp and distinctive as birds get) but it wasn’t a sighting I was particularly happy with. I wanted to SEE that bird. I wanted to get up close and personal. A distant squinting through binoculars did not satisfy me.

And now one visits the snag behind the house. Dude.

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