Thursday, April 3, 2014

Old Friend

As I’ve written earlier, it’s possible to identify and become familiar with individual birds, both in the field and in the backyard. Maintaining bird feeders makes this easier of course, especially when one watches the feeders carefully on a daily basis.

This is a tribute to an old friend, now gone

I especially enjoy the woodpeckers that come to the feeders. They are so bright and bold in color and behavior and are endlessly entertaining and lovely to look at. I’ve identified four pairs of Downy Woodpeckers; two pairs of Hairy Woodpeckers, and two pairs of Red-bellied Woodpeckers. A single male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has been coming for three winters. An occasional Northern Flicker gets into the mix, and one day a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers blasted through. (To see images, enter species names in the search box above to the right.)

D and I especially love the Red-bellied Woodpeckers, whose scarlet napes and rolling chirruping calls are distinctive.

For the past two or three years, I’d grown rather attached to the older, larger, and more brilliantly-plumaged of the two male Red-bellies. I was able to distinguish him from the local younger male by the wash of orangey-red over his face and cheeks, which the younger male has not yet acquired. I have many images of this fabulous bird, including these:


In the last days June of last year, I noticed that he was moving rather slowly. Over the course of three days, he became more lethargic, and it was clear that he was dying. He looked perfectly fine, so I can only surmise that he simply reached the end of his genetic allotment and time, and died of old age.

Here is my last photo of him, along with a short video that shows his stillness, and his beauty, even as he was dying.

I find myself still looking out for him, but he’s gone. 

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