"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Monday, April 27, 2009


This dapper fellow has formed a serious attachment to our little gray cottage. More specifically, he seems to think the downspout just outside our bedroom window holds some mystery that he must unearth at all cost.

Woodpeckers' beaks are amazing feats of engineering, designed to drill and chisel into wood where delicacies of all sort await. Our new house guest, the Red-breasted Sapsucker, dines primarily on sap. He also likes fruit and ants and other insects quite a bit.

Not one of those things can be found on, in, or near our gray metal downspout.

He arrives after daylight and before noon. He is not fazed by window pounding, yelling, or loud window opening. The first day I barefoot tiptoed into the front yard to investigate, I got within six feet of him before he decided to scram. He was back at his post before I got back to the bedroom.

My wonder and amazement at this avian intrusion is not shared by Walt. I have to admit, being awakened early on a Saturday by a noise that might have been a car driving through the wall, a noise that brought Toby to full flag and woofing alert, a noise that pulled the cats from deep mousy dreams to feral fight mode - that's enough to knock the awe out of anyone.

To make things even weirder, after several days of being probed violently for  impossibilities, the downspout isn't even scratched. 

Animal behavior is always purposeful. Human behavior is, too, but it's not always so simple to divine. I have seen unbalanced birds before, but Red really seems to know what he's doing. 

It turns out, after a bit of research, that Red does indeed know the difference between wood and metal. He's claiming territory, and metal is louder than wood. One site I read said that sapsuckers will return to the same metal signs repeatedly to declare their manhood. It didn't say manhood exactly, but as soon as he's established territory with the metal drumming, there's a whole new kind of drumming to attract a mate.

Which means a nest nearby. And fledgling sapsuckers later in the season. And an abundance of hummingbirds who hang around to snitch the sap Red and his bride will release from our trees. All of that, plus the chance to watch him up close and personal, is worth living with a little extra noise and a little less sleep for a while. Right?

photo by Walt Shucka (taken from our front porch)


Angie Ledbetter said...

Ummm, a day or two of the mad rapping would be okay, but more than that? Not so much. :)

Janna Qualman said...

We have one, too! He likes to pound on our chimney outside, which is still newly-constructed (read: wooden) and hasn't been rocked-over yet. Blast it, he's loud!

And did you have any idea woodpeckers were so fat? I thought they were small fellas.

Anonymous said...

I had birds build a nest in my oven fan vent one spring, didn't want to disturb them so left them. I thought it was sweet when the babies first hatched but it soon became awful listening to them 24/7. They did finally leave.

It's a lovely photo.

TheWritersPorch said...

Now that could be a nerve racking event! I wouldn't have a clue how to solve this!

Jerri said...

Sounds like a good trade-off.

Wouldn't be great if we humans used the same good sense animals do? Bird needs mate. Bird finds metal to clang. Bird gets attention.

We all clang metal in our own ways, I guess.


Literary Nut said...

We've got birds that have nested in the fan vent for the bathroom and it's always funny to listen to them moving around up there...hopefully after they raise their little brood, they'll move on.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Right! Way to make lemonade!

Jessica said...

He's so pretty. How interesting that he built a nest nearby. :-) Have fun with him. LOL

kario said...

Oh, dear. We had one of them on the metal flashing on our roof two Springs in a row - sending out signals to the girls in the area that he was here and available.

Unfortunately for us, he ended up puncturing the flashing and we ended up with a leak in the roof when the fall rains came.

She said...

Awesome! I love that you find beauty in nature and share it with us!

Your writing is stunning (I tell you that every time, and I am RIGHT!) ; -)

Amber said...

Sometimes the reasons are not always so obvious, huh? lol
Why do I feel I might take something from that..?


M said...

Sadly, I'm afraid little Woody would have to go. The thought of being pulled out of a deep sleep my the sound of the drilling would be enough to almost want to call your neighbor to "take care" (j/k) of the little problem.

I suppose like the sleepless nights with Toby, the time will come this summer when the small discomfort now will be well worth it.

Love you

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