Monday, March 9, 2009

WARY WOODPECKER WAYLAID!

One tenet of my personal credo is that when things get tough, the tough go fishing. Unfortunately, this philosophy is sometimes shaky—easier recited than applied. Weather, season, water conditions, gainful employment, social responsibilities, and the current state of my monetary health all hold their sway in the equation; lofty expounds reduced to the mundanely practical. When faced with an enterprise that repeatedly mires itself in failure, I therefore recall another axiom passed down from my mother—a reminder that persistence pays off. I’ve certainly had to persevere lately in my efforts to photograph one of the pileated woodpeckers which daily visit the suet feeders. As usual, Mom was right—at least my stubbornness eventually intersected with luck, although the results were decidedly mediocre. Still, a middling photo has finally been attained! The saga itself has been ongoing for months. Back in January, Giggles, a regular reader and commentator to these postings, mentioned how she’d never seen a pileated woodpecker but would sure treasure the experience. I replied that while a digital image certainly wouldn’t replace an actual field observation, I’d nevertheless take a shot of one of my pileateds for her. It was the best I could offer. There’s an old saying that the pathway to hell is paved with good intentions. My casual promise quickly turned into an astonishing string of such ludicrous flops and infuriating near-misses that I soon came to wonder if pileated woodpeckers were actually flesh-and-blood birds, or winged cacodemons who found malevolent pleasure torturing my self esteem. At the very least, I suspect that most—if not all—purported photographs of living pileated woodpeckers in the wild are completely spurious, obtained through a shameful use of taxidermy stand-ins and judicial staging. Either that, or the photographers themselves are current test subjects in the government’s top secret invisibility cloak experiments, and just figured, hey—seeing as how we’re already lurking about disguised as riverside vapors, we might as well take some bird pictures. I swear, there are no other logical explanations. Pileated woodpeckers do not do “photo ops.” It’s easier to get a picture of Jimmy Hoffa or sasquatch than a pileated on a suet feeder. What’s more, these red-headed enigmas can see through walls, read your thoughts, and using their powers of telekinesis, place all manner of inanimate objects between their hastily departing selves and your auto-focused telephoto lens. My own personal pileated will-o-the-wisps live on the island directly across from the cottage. It’s easy to sit by the front window and watch them hammer and hack their way up and down any of a dozen dead and dying snags. Their wild laughing calls—a bit derisive, if you ask me—can be heard echoing through this floodplain woodland at almost any hour from dawn ‘til dusk. Suet-feeder raids, on the other hand, are unpredictable—though possibly predicated on which room my camera happens to be residing in at the time (always a different room from me, of course), and how much scrabbling and crawling they believe I can be induced to attempt should they momentarily present themselves. I won’t bore you with descriptions of how I’ve slithered like a reptile through my own rooms—much to the delight or chagrin of Moon the dog, depending on her mood. (Should rug burn ever becomes a personal issue, contact me…I can summarize treatment options.) Or how I’ve occasionally glanced up (me in one room, camera in another) to observe a heretofore spooky pileated now parading around the box elder with the smug self-assurance of a high-fashion model on a Paris catwalk. If I thought I could get away with it on this blog, I’d claim my modest success was due to consummate diligence and exemplary stalking skills against a wary, wily opponent. Woodsman over woodpecker! But honesty compels me to admit my grandfather’s homespun observation that even a blind hog finds the occasional acorn would prove closer to the truth. Victory of a sorts was eventually mine, but I’ll be more cautious in making future promises to deliver the near-impossible. Remember…no good deed goes unpunished.

22 comments:

giggles said...

OMG!!!!!! Oh Grizzled scribe...you have done it...you have really done it!!!!!! This is a GREAT picture!!!!!

Fabulous, fabulous....beautifully done!!!! (middling??!! I don't think so!!!!!)

YAY!!!!!!!! Your persisitnece certainly did pay off..... Now I just get to sit at the 'puter a stare at this gorgeous specimen all day long!!!!!!!!!!!! (Longingly....)

Now...how do I repay the honor??!!

WOWO! WOW, WOW!!!!!!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Ha! I'm tickled you were the first to comment.

The photo's okay, but fabulous, nahh-h-h. It would have been fabulous if it showed that exasperating gal's beady yellow eye gaping in shock at having her picture taken—a pileated woodpecker's gotch'a moment.

I'm hoping to do better. Of course I'm also hoping to win the lottery, be 25 years old again, and lose a few pounds without dieting.

JMS said...

Ha ha, great pic, really. You even sent me to the dictionary for "cacodemon"! ;o)

I've only seen them a few times and had no idea they were so elusive. It makes one appreciate how tough it is to get a photo of her cousin, the Ivory-billed!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

JMS…

Actually they're no more elusive than an ivory bill—in fact, I have a theory that ivory bills are actually thriving, except they've learned how to look like pileateds.

All joking aside, they're no spookier than, say, wild turkey (the bird, not the booze). But it's a lot easier to photograph a flicker than a pileated, at least for me. Some tend to tame down a bit. I have a friend who's backyard pileateds are easy photo subjects. (And yeah, I thought of cheating and taking my pileated shot at his place but…that would have taken the fun out of things.)

Anyway, glad you liked the piece. Didn't mean to make you run for the dictionary, though—but it just seemed like the right word.

Bella said...

Wow - beautiful ..I've never seen a woodpecker.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bella…

Never seen a woodpecker…or just never a pileated? Here along the river I daily have downy, hairy, red-bellied, and flickers, in addition to the big pileateds which are, in comparison to the others, huge.

Maybe I'll do a post with photos of each.

The pileated are spectacular birds.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Wonderful photo, Grizzled. What a beautiful bird - I like the red 'cap'.

I loved your description of your quest for the photo ... 'Slithered like a reptile through my own rooms'! Brilliant!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Raph…

Thank you. I like their red caps, too. The male (this is a female) has an extra bit of red on his chin—as though his throat at the read of his bill might have been slashed by some frustrated photographer.

And I'm not kidding a bit about the slithering. That danged woodpecker spotted me when I tried crawling. Squat-walking was out of the question. Slithering at least allowed me to get the camera in my hand, or come close to the window, whichever. But what works for snipers is not so good for photographers; one cannot photograph well in an upward direction from a slithering position. Also, slithering is slow, demeaning (even if the dog isn't looking), and can induce associated bouts of guilt when you peer under the furniture during your reptilian progression and note the prolificacy of dust bunnies.

Jenn Jilks said...

I have a favourite pileated WP. I managed to photograph a flying squirrel, too.

My WP is quite happy with the tree that went over in the wind. I had a young one that decided the bird feeder was a good place to be. I made a YouTube video of the little twerp! . Also not so great, they do seem to like to hide behind branches, don't they?! I love my winter birds. They are much easier to spot.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jenn…

I'm not sure why my pileateds are so easily spooked—none of the other birds seem to be. It's easier for me to shoot a blue heron than a pileated. But the trying is fun.

I also enjoy my winter birds. And yup, no leaves makes for easier bird spotting. In another month or a bit more the warblers will be coming through here. I'm worthless on warblers. But I love trying.

giggles said...

You flatter me....I betcha you can rig who appears to comment first....(in this case, looking at the timing, I bet I really was first....luckily so! But wait! Did I not tell you I have esp?! I knew when you posted!! ;0)

Shelly said...

Our pileateds aren't as shy I'm happy to say. What persistence and reward. Great story. I caught some fun video of a pileated calling this winter if you want to check that out: http://mybirdyblog.blogspot.com/2008/12/sunday-outing-december-7th.html

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

I do know you have ESP. That's why you're reading this right now.

Actually you flatter me when you imagine I might be computer capable enough to fiddle with posting times or the like. I'd like to add a couple of gadgets to my page, but to do so means adding them to my code or whatever—which I can locate, but have no idea about: yes, I copy and insert this string of new code into that code—but where?

In truth, the posting time for this blog is not actually correct—that's the time when I transfered it from my WP to the DRAFT window; then I looked around my desktop's photo files for another pileated pix I wanted to run (of a departing woodpecker), couldn't find it, looked in the files on my laptop, still couldn't find it, came back to the desktop, looked some more, gave up, and posted. Your comment came zooming back in under five minutes! So, you were the first, fair and square.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Shelly…

I had an oldtime Appalachian squirrel hunter once say to me, "Boy, if y'all can sneak up on one a'them Lord God birds, dang if you ain't a pure Davy Crockett."

That's how spooky my pileateds are—and yet I know some folks have nearly tame pileateds visiting their feeders. I'm trying to reassure mine that I consider them too skinny for the cook pot.

I'll take a look at the video.

Deb said...

A quick search of my blog reveals that you have, in fact, outdone me in your quest for a pileated photo. They are always the least spooky when I don't have a camera in hand. They are one of my favorite birds!

giggles said...

Well huh!! Coulda fooled me... I look at your moon gadget all the time.... And actually, my middle kid does too! I'd never know it's a full moon today/night 'cuz of the clouds.... but I can see it cuz of your thingy!!

I'm not good on the 'puter either...ergo the "sparseness" on my blog...I expect it's gonna stay that way .... I'm lucky I can do what I can do on this dang computer thingy....!!!!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Deb…

My pileateds are apparently least spooky when they're at someone else's feeder!
I hear rumors of semi-tame birds, but mine are not. And yeah, they do seem to know when you have a camera at the ready—at least these noncooperative birds surely do.

I'm still after a better shot. I hope you get a good one, too. But please believe this, the photo you see here—and this was by far the best out of a half-dozen frames—was due more to luck than skill.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggle…

The moon gadget got there because some wonderful soul, mindful of fools like me, created it such that all I had to do was click a box, slide it around to where I wanted it, and presto—instant blog design improvement while simultaneously making me appear smarter. You gotta love folks like that!

BTW…it is a useful—and cute—little moon minder, isn't it?

giggles said...

Indeed!!

I have a blogging friend who is going to help me post an award at my place...when I find some time...yes...friends like that are wonderful to know....!!

PS. I haven't told you yet...but I love alliteration!!!!!

Bella said...

Aaah, I did a wiki search on woodpeckers because I didn't think they frequented this region....the second sentence was "woodpeckers are found worldwide except for Australia and New Zealand.."

There are some unique birds aren't there - here we have the kookaburra which are unique to this region and quite magnificent to watch.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Ain't that the pits! Win an award, can't post it own your own.

Alliteration…you mean like WACKY WOODPECKER WARRANTS WRITER'S WAYLAYING?

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bella…

I'd give my eye teeth to visit Australia and New Zealand. You may not have woodpeckers, but from what I know, that is some of the prettiest country on planet earth. And lots of neat, unique birds, too.