Head Bangers

Northern Flicker_LAH_1810_filLast year, our son-in-law, Ian, fell when the ladder he was using collapsed out from under him. Given that his head had been more or less at the same level as the eaves of their single story house, it had accelerated to approximately 13 feet per second when it hit the cement patio. Unsurprisingly, the impact knocked him out. Thankfully, all he suffered was a severe concussion. It could have been much worse.

From our backyard, I have been watching a Northern Flicker make a hole in the mostly-dead oak tree next door. According to one website, the woodpecker’s beak is hitting that trunk at a significantly higher speed than Ian’s head was going when it hit the pavement—closer to 19 feet per second.


An Anthropologist’s Take on Birders: Part 3

birding_venetucci_20090916_lah_0667This is the third and last part on how my daughter the anthropologist looks at birders. Don’t miss Part 1 or Part 2!

The Code of Birding Ethics is essential reading for every birder. Some topics covered include the excessive playing of recorded bird sounds (or playing these recordings at all, in many places), disturbing nesting birds, trespassing, and other ways of being considerate to the birds and to one another.

birders_burntmillrd_20090905_lah_0126I’ve already mentioned clothing, but in general, wearing white is frowned upon. It scares many birds, thus annoying many birders. The same thing applies to loud noises. Most birders talk in hushed voices, at least while on the trail.


A Lewis and Clark Day

lewiss-woodpecker_turkeycreek-ftcarson-co_lah_0107For the first time in recent memory a flock of Lewis’s Woodpeckers has taken up residence near Colorado Springs.  Only 11 miles south of Colorado Springs, they are busy harvesting acorns in the picnic area at Fort Carson’s Turkey Creek Recreation Area. These uncommon (at least along the Front Range) woodpeckers are attracting every birder in town. A couple of friends and I made our migration at dawn two weeks ago, hauling binoculars, spotting scopes, and at least 50 pounds of camera gear. We weren’t disappointed.


Ghost Bird

ghost_bird_01-1This Friday, the Aiken Audubon Society and Bear Creek Nature Center will be airing “Ghost Bird.” If you live anywhere near Colorado Springs, Colorado, I highly urge you to come learn more about the elusive Ivory-billed Woodpecker, believed to be extinct since the 1940s. Does it still exist? Here’s what the movie’s creators have to say:

Ghost Bird wades into a murky swamp of belief and obsession in this cautionary tale about birders, ornithologists and the citizens of Brinkley, Arkansas who are certain they keep seeing a giant woodpecker that’s been extinct for over half a century.


Family Birds

broad-tail-hummingbird-on-nest_bcnc_lah_6418If Spring brings courting birds, claiming territories and wooing mates with beautiful songs, July is the month of nestlings. Nature, in her efforts to reproduce herself, takes advantage of the abundance of food produced by a fruitful summer. A recent trip to the southwest parts of El Paso county (Colorado) confirmed that this has been a fruitful summer indeed. Everywhere we looked yielded an abundance of hungry nestlings and frenetic parents trying to keep up with the demand for food.

Our first stop, at Bear Creek county park, took us to a patient Broad-tailed Hummingbird, sitting dutifully on her nest. While the branch was over our heads—too high for a peek into the tiny cup-like nest—we guessed that the eggs hadn’t hatched yet. Perhaps this was a second attempt to reproduce, somewhat late in the season.


Foiling Flickers

BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM! My story about flickers was fictionalized, but based on personal experience. Last spring, flickers really did invade our home.

By August, my husband and I realized we’d nailed scraps of wood across 15 large flicker-sized holes. Piles of fluffy insulation littered the ground beneath each one. That fall we replaced much of the cedar siding on our house, to the tune of over a thousand dollars. The question became critical: What could we do to prevent the birds from drilling into our new wood?

A lot of people must be having the same problem. A quick web search turned up plenty of suggestions, but not much in the way of success stories. Inflatable owls don’t work—the birds are smarter than that. Flickers quickly become accustomed to hanging strips of aluminum, Mylar balloons, and small colored windmills. What else could we do?


What’s that bird that’s driving me crazy?

BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM. I was awakened early this morning by insistently loud hammering on the metal chimney guard on our roof. Yup, it’s that time again. Our resident Northern Flicker is announcing his ownership of our property. This year we’re ready. But last year we had a major issue with these woodpeckers. They drove my husband crazy, and inspired me to write the following story:

Not even the cat is awake before 5 am. Soft snoring comes from the bedroom, darkened by shades against the early appearance of the sun this time of year. It’s a lazy Saturday morning in mid-March. Nothing important is scheduled for hours. Later there will be errands to run, chores to catch up on, phones ringing and dishes. Right now, all is peaceful, all is calm.


Like a staccato burst of machine gun fire, the noise reverberates off the metal gutters directly outside our bedroom window.