Thursday, February 18, 2010


The hairy woodpecker female hammers at the opening of the great crested flycatcher box. Woodchips fly from the extra layer of wood placed around the opening to prevent, well, bigger birds from entering, as well as raccoons and opossums.

She hammers on, and the noise can be heard from inside our house. She swings forward into the opening, her tubby middle doesn't fit.

Like two nagging shut-ins, we offer inane advice from the inside of the house: Don't get stuck. Don't let the bluebird drive you away. There's no food there. Don't let the starling move in. We're bored of the winter, and we're yammering at the birds.

She works sporadically during the weekend. Hammer, hammer, hammer. Still can't fit.

On Wednesday, I come home from work with the usual routine, toss backpack next to the front door, shove lunch box into yesterday's pile of dishes, check for my camera, walk to back window to observe the feeders. One chickadee grips the bottom of the metal feeder. The hairy woodpecker hammers on the box. She pitches forward and is gone. The box is hers.

I wait 2 or 3 minutes, the sun is about an hour from setting. I ponder the alternatives - get binoculars/camera and potentially miss her exiting for the evening and mistakenly think she is sleeping over -or- stand in one spot for what could be an hour until sunset. She flies out, making the decision. I run for the camera. When I return she is still on a nearby branch, but soon returns to the box, goes in and remains inside.

I step out onto the side porch - she flies from the box immediately. She is very annoyed. Her calls are piercing. OK, OK I won't get kindling for the woodstove, HairyGirl. The backyard is yours. The winter will be over in a couple months. I'll be fine.

I head to the front yard, wincing at each call. I hope that she'll stay and fledge a brood, but also hope she'll find us less irritating soon.


Thursday afternoon, she sits inside the box and watches us while we move around the yard. Her feather patterning gives her a commanding, high-eyebrowed look. She tolerant of me even though I'm only 15 feet away and staring. I duck behind a ironwood tree with a fence hoop around it (not sure why I think a completely transparent fence will hide me) and raise the binoculars (which must be a terrifying to annoying pair of googely eyes). She ducks inside when I start fiddling with the camera.

Maybe she's roosting for the rest of the winter. Maybe she's moving in.

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