Last week, on June 11th, I found the nest hole of a pair of Hairy
Woodpeckers in a mature 100+ year old Sugar Maple which hangs over into my
yard. According to, it will be another two weeks from now
before they fledge.  The perfectly round hole is about 30 feet up on a
dying limb of the tree.  Today, before I took off on my bike, I heard a
Pileated(?) woodpecker calling in the tree of the nest.  It called for
about a minute, then flew off, and has not been calling from here for
months. I couldn't help but think the bird was coming by to visit (like an
auntie) to check on the babies!  I could not make out the bird, but it was
large, mostly black and surprisingly close to the nest cavity (about five
feet, maybe less).  I do not think this was an accident as I have not heard
the Pileated or the Red-bellied for several months.  I later read that
Hairy woodpeckers sometimes follow Pileated woodpeckers to eat the bugs
they miss, but no mention was made of the other way around.

Shortly thereafter, four blocks from my house near the corner of Yates and
Cayuga, while I was on my bike, a black and white bird undulated in front
of me and landed in a small tree near me.  I stopped to watch and saw it
was a Hairy.  Since it was so close to my house, I suspect it was likely
the female I have been watching all week, and that she was foraging for
insects for her babies.  It then went from its perch to the rooftops and
looked in gutters and peaked in several holes of uncaulked crevices of
houses.  The male called from down the street, and the female responded.
It looked like she had a "routine" path, as if she knew where the insect
"hiding hotspots" were.  Why do I say this?  Because it would fly directly
to a gutter corner, then zig zag backwards to a crevice, then up to a roof,
look under a loose shingle, then without hesitation bolt between two houses
to the tree behind.  The bird appeared to "know" where she was going as she
promptly left for the next spot if no bug or spider was found.  Very cool!
Kind of like how squirrels "remember" where they hide their nuts (and my
stolen unripe peaches)?

So I am left wondering does anyone else have these kinds of
close-encounters? I was on my way to the library, minding my own business,
when the Hairy flew a few feet in front of me, at eye level, and landed in
a young tree.  What kind of coincidence is this? What are the chances that
a Hairy would pass me as I was biking???  That's almost as crazy as the
time I felt the tail wind of a Sharp-shinned Hawk swoop up and over my
helmet as I was on my bike at Newman Golf Course and it was hunting a flock
of Mourning Doves (or were they sparrows?).  It came out of no where and
suddenly swooped up behind, over, and in front of me while I was peddling
hard.  Both of these incidents were so close I could have easily collided
into these bird(s) with only a mili-second in time difference.
Coincidence???  Clearly, they are agile and highly skilled flyers who know
their abilities and can out-maneuver me; but why did they choose to go in
front of me instead of wait until I passed by?  I have my theories,
wondering what others think or have experienced.

Regardless, the entire experience helped me better understand why the
parents can be gone for 15-20 minutes at a time before returning to the
nest to feed the noisy nestlings!  Also, I have even greater appreciation
for birds, especially those who reduce the number of spiders and bugs on
our houses!

*"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come ALIVE, for what
the world needs is people who have come ALIVE."  - Dr. Howard Thurman,
American Theologian, Clergyman and Activist (1900-1981) *

Sandra (Sandy) Wold
Author/Originator/Designer/Publisher of Cayuga Basin Bioregion Map,
Artist, <>

*To be astonished is one of the surest ways not to be old too quickly.* -
Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette


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