Monday, April 09, 2007


I hope that it's not the very first thing he does when he wakes up - although it probably is at least as effective as coffee for shaking the cobwebs out of your early morning brain.

It has been happening every day at about six fifteen a.m. for the past month or so - a fusillade of ferocious tapping followed by a few moments of silence, then another quick series of shots, then nothing, and so on. The noise is far enough away not to be my problem, and yet close enough to be my annoyance.

Lying in bed, trying to wake up my own brain without disturbing my body too much, I try unsuccessfully to count the number of taps, then failing at that to reckon the duration of each round and the down-time between them. I decide there is no consistency to that day's pattern and being unable to remember even vaguely what yesterday's was (I am after all trying to do this while not waking myself up) I give up and attempt to let my mind drift off into the state of somnambulance from which it only recently emerged. Then the doves "coo" from the roof outside my window, and the cardinals call back and forth to each other from trees at either side of the house, and my night is officially over.

According to Wildlife International "There are three main reasons why woodpeckers peck. The first is to find and capture food, such as insects, or to create access to tree sap. A second reason woodpeckers peck is to attract a mate and defend territory. In this case the bird will peck quickly and loudly - which is called 'drumming' - then pause, and then repeat the procedure many times. And, finally, woodpeckers peck in order to enlarge an existing hole and create a nest cavity."

Now I had assumed the noisy little knocker was searching for and finding breakfast - I mean the "early bird" and all that. Bugs, probably being in the same state of alertness as I am at that hour, are probably really easy targets. I remember from many years ago some friends of ours were having a similar early morning invasion of their roof and called the Audubon Society for advice. They were told to fix the top of their house and thereby eliminate the breakfast bounty that their demi-diurnal diners had discovered. They replaced the shingles and the problem and the birds both went away.

I also knew in the back of my mind about the home construction motive because a Downy Woodpecker is doing that very thing in the dying branches of the flowering crab tree outside of our family room. Apparently however this smallest and most common American woodpecker is also the only unionized one because our resident homebuilder never appears for work before eight a.m. and always leaves by five that afternoon. And if I do happen to see him before normal business hours he is only hanging out at our suet feeder having breakfast on his way to work. So I had ruled that out as a possibility.

But a bird attempting to attract a mate by beating his head against a wall was not something that I would have thought of - although there may be those out there for whom there is a meaningful analogy in there somewhere.

I mean what if, after several strenuous, ear-splitting seduction attempts, it finally works - and now you're the one with the headache.

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