When the bird with black-and-white–flecked feathers and a poinsettia-red head swooped into our yard, I didn’t need binoculars to observe it. North America’s largest woodpecker, the pileated is notorious for clinging to trees and hammering with its beak, sending blonde splinters sprinkling onto the snow. Viewed up close, this avian air hammer strikes me as faintly spooky. So when this one latched on to my favorite silver maple and began its carpentry, I felt uneasy. We’d lost an ancient oak to lightning the year before, and I was averse to uninvited things alighting in our remaining trees. Pileateds can be beneficial, extracting insects and larvae lurking under the bark, even when the cavities they bore are wide and deep. Still, I wanted to preclude its excavation. Therefore, when the bird commenced to drill and a pile of bark chips began to accrue, I tried to shoo it off, hooting and waving my arms. But this only deterred it momentarily. So I opened my laptop to play a recording of its species at maximum volume. Did the digital voice express a curse or hex? Whatever it proclaimed halted the yard bird in midpeck. Then it trilled a reply, flapped off, and hasn’t been back.
About this Podcast
Welcome to the monthly Farmer’s Calendar podcast. These essays come from The Old Farmer’s Almanac annual publication. They are recorded by Julia Shipley, the author and poet. She draws from her life raising animals and vegetables on a small farm in Northern Vermont.