I shot this video from my front porch on Tuesday morning. Pileateds are common here because we have an old forest with lots of standing dead and dying trees full of their favorite food: carpenter ants. They’re really neat birds, and I end up mentioning them often in The Morning Porch. This video doesn’t capture their oddness in flight, but it does show calling, drumming, and excavating.
Dec 25, 2007
Christmas—the quietest morning of the year. The stream is a full chorus. A pileated woodpecker flaps overhead, cheering itself on.
Jan 27, 2008
Commotion among the pileated woodpeckers: cackling, drumming. One swoops past and lands on the side of a tree with a magician’s flourish.
Feb 26, 2008
It’s snowing. A pileated woodpecker drums twice in Margaret’s yard: a resonant timpanum. Then sleet: rapid brushes on a taut skin.
Oct 1, 2008
A pileated woodpecker hammers on a dead tree, resonant as it never was in life. I watch ground fog form and dissipate into a clear dawn sky.
Oct 12, 2008
BAM. BAM. BAM. The red crest of a pileated woodpecker flashes into view from the dead side of a maple, sunrise orange on the hill behind.
Nov 14, 2008
Thick fog prolongs the dawn light for hours. A screech owl is answered by a pileated woodpecker, dirge giving way to second-line ululation.
Mar 8, 2009
The distant drumming of a pileated woodpecker is the loudest thing. A faint rustle in the field, the yard, the woods as the rain moves in.
Oct 19, 2009
Heavy frost. In the clear, still air, black birch leaves fall like rain. A pileated woodpecker dives cackling into the treetops.
Oct 31, 2009
Peeled flesh of a black walnut leaks pus onto the sidewalk, more indelible than a blood stain. A woodpecker cackles from a bone-white snag.
Dec 21, 2009
A pileated woodpecker herky-jerks to the top of a tall locust and flies off. My apple core disappears into the white yard without a sound.
Mar 6, 2010
Clear and cold. A silent pileated woodpecker propels itself through the sunlit upper air with great slow strokes of its shining oars.
May 20, 2010
So clear, even the mourning dove sounds joyful. Muffled thuds of a pileated in a dead tree, knocking—as Rumi would say—from the inside.