Yesterday's breathlessly predicted spate of bad weather never quite materialized. Myladylove and I were running various errands which occupied the entire day and had us all over the county, yet all we encountered was the occasional light drizzle. It did, however, warm into the upper-30s, which melted maybe 85 percent of the snow. More snow—up to five inches—is on the way tomorrow, with temperatures plummeting to 5˚F tomorrow night. Just winter being winter…and it's probably best to keep in mind that we still have two full months of it ahead.
Today is another drippy, gray morning here along the riverbank. Since breakfast I've been watching pileated woodpeckers. As I write this, there's a male pileated whacking his way up a box elder about fifty feet downstream from the cottage—and I've just made his portrait (above) though the deskside window. Every so often he pauses in his labor to cut loose with a loud maniacal yelping, and sometimes I hear a fainter answering call from across the river. Paired pileateds keep track of one another this way throughout the day, like teenagers texting on cell phones.
Earlier, two female pileateds spent half an hour playing peek-a-boo from opposite sides of a hackberry a dozen yards upstream of the house. The birds were positioned no more than four feet from the ground on the tree. First one woodpecker would peek around the trunk, then quickly jerk back—at which point the other woodpecker did the same. This was repeated several times—peek, hide, peek, hide, peek, hide. Occasionally they flapped their wings, or shook their feathers like a dog shaking off water. Now and then they took turns yelping. They might move up the trunk a foot, or down, but essentially remained on the same confined section. After exchanging a series of peek-hides, the birds would spin around the trunk, more-or-less exchanging positions, and repeat the peek-a-boo scenario.
I don't know enough about pileated behavior to understand what was going on, but to me it simply looked for all the world like play. In my experience, pileateds rarely spend much time on or close to the ground.
I shot several frames through the kitchen window of these carryings-on, but there's a lot of brush at the base of the hackberry and the photos don't show much. To give you a bit of perspective, the birds are actually below my eye level, and I'm shooting slightly downhill. The ground is maybe six inches below the bottom of the photo. That's the frozen edge of the river in the background.
After half an hour, the two big woodpeckers took their goofy act a hundred feet upstream. I returned to my desk and am now trying to get some work done as I have a deadline to meet…but I'm rather prone to yielding to certain temptations, and will doubtless succumb again should my red-headed distractions reappear.