Daybreak Close Encounter - Iowa Wildlife Federation

Daybreak Close Encounter

Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.

Pileated Female CGord Jan. 2017

Local coffee shops don’t seem quite as cheery as they did a couple weeks ago.  Following several days of dark and gloomy overcast, folks are getting grouchy.  People are apparently in need of some sunlight; or at least should consider some vitamin-D supplements.    No change in weather is predicted.  By the time daybreak arrived this morning, it was obvious that we were in for more of the same.  Even the local woodlands appeared void and dreary.  Resident squirrels weren’t out of bed yet.  There were no browsing deer to watch, no yelping turkeys coming off roost.  Even the chickadees seemed to have gone AWOL.  All in all, the late January timber seemed as dead as last year’s oak leaves.   

And then I heard it.  The loud, clear, and unmistakable call of a pileated woodpecker.  The vocalizations steadily increased in volume until the treetops reverberated with the sound.  There was a sudden flash of movement as the huge crow-sized woodpecker came flying in.  Landing nearby, the bird – a female —  immediately began to hammer away at the tree bark.  Although it was still much too dark for a decent photo, I couldn’t resist.  A dark grainy photo would make a better souvenir than no photo at all, I determined.   Opening the camera’s settings all the way, I fired off a few shots just to get it out of my system. 

Although the wood chips continued to fly, the bird’s impressive chisel-shaped bill failed to locate breakfast.  Deciding to look elsewhere, the woodpecker moved on — it’s exit as noisily boisterous as its entrance had been.  With the bird gone, the somber landscape suddenly seemed more vacant than ever.  On the other hand, it would seem hard to complain after having an opportunity to begin your day with a pileated close encounter.


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