Sunday, September 22, 2013
September 8, 2013. I finally, finally get the time and space and decent weather to go to my little Valhalla, North Bend State Park in Harrisville, WV. I'm really not expecting much in the way of red-headed woodpeckers. I figure they have probably moved south by now. Boy, was I wrong.
They're everywhere, quirrking and churring and rattling and fighting, flycatching and drumming. It's heaven all over again.
They always look like toys to me, like something unreal. Ceramic, maybe.
Their colors so bold, so clean. And they're loud, loud, loud. You know they're there. They don't let you forget it. These two were involved in some kind of uber-cool display in which they stretched out and tilted back and forth. Look at this photo and imagine a swelling chorus of swamp cicadas all around.
I loved how this bird looked, like an animated door-knocker, the sky beneath his tail.
I believe we owe this fantastic occurrence of RHWO to the swamp cicadas, for that's what I see them eating every time I visit my personal paradise. This day I would count at least 60 birds.
I don't know how anyone could be so blessed as to see 60 redheads in a day.
Perhaps, thinking about it, it has something to do with putting a canoe in your car and schlepping it an hour and a half down the highway with the hatch open; with slipping on the algae-covered boat ramp while embarking and cracking your elbow so hard it still hurts on September 22. It has something to do with getting off your chair parts and getting out there to see what's what. Nothing magic about it. You just have to go.
I made it my goal to get a decent photo of a recently-fledged juvenile, with its ashen head. Easier said than done.
It was very shy, and it kept a lot of branches between us.
But I stuck with it and at length I saw it sally out and grab a cicada and process it. Hooray! For it's cicadas that make this place so productive, cicadas and the dead snags that act as apartment houses for these glorious birds. Lookit the little red feather on his throat. By next spring he should be a real redhead.
Long may they prosper. And yet I know, even as I cheer them on, that the RHWO colony at North Bend State Park is a limited-time only offer. That the snags are rotting, breaking, falling, and when they've all fallen down the red-heads will come here no more.
And so I go, not expecting them, but finding them.
Not deserving them, but receiving them.
And so grateful to be there amongst them.