• Dale Bowman

Red-bellied woodpecker & other mysteries: Ramble with the Lady

Red-bellied woodpecker, black squirrels and yellow light hole.

Colors of our morning.

Yesterday, a strange bird called from the top our of maple in the backyard. At first I thought one of the young Cooper's hawks had come back and was making an odd sound.

Then the bird began hammering the dead part at the top of our maple. I found it, a red-bellied woodpecker.

I fear for our maple. It suffered some sort of damage during the drought summers of 2012 and '13. Now the top third is dead. If a woodpecker is hammering away at it, I suspect insects have also gotten into the maple now.

Might be time to take the maple down or at least top it out.

I had hoped it was a red-headed woodpecker, which will get in town occasionally. We live in one of the few areas in Illinois where red-headed woodpeckers occur, which is kind of cool.

The only cooler woodpecker locally is the pileated, what with its bawdy obnoxious calls and extravagant markings and colorings. We do not have pileated woodpeckers in town.

Even the red-bellied was cool.

It helped me relax. And I needed it. Tuesdays are my deadline day for the Sun-Times outdoors page on Wednesdays. I have started doing something physical to unwind after finishing work.

Yesterday, I watered my wife's flowers and my late plantings of mixed lettuce and spinach in late afternoon. There is something soothing about puttering around with a hose and a specific set of duties, it washes the mind.

While we are on mysteries, in the last week, I have counted three black squirrels running around the church yard across the street. Where they were all summer, I have no idea. But they are here now.

Black squirrels, which are gray squirrels with distinctive color, are my favorites.

Dark again when Lady, our family's mutt, and I set off this morning, even though it was after 6 a.m. Nothing moving. Not a thing.

The only of note was two hedge apples busted apart at two separate spots around the town pond. I suspect kids found them and had some destructive fun.

Even when we came out of the wilds around the town pond and back to the grit area by the grain elevators on the edge of town, there was nothing flying or moving.

Dawn was trying to kick its way in, but it was dark enough that the big light at the grain elevators bored a yellow hole in the collected fogs and mist. (Hello, Charles Demuth.)

A block from home, at the corner to the north. Lady ran a gray squirrel up the neighbor's red maple. It was the first wild thing of the morning that I noticed.

Then back home, another gray squirrel hopped around across the street and a few robins called. At the lakes south of town, I could hear a few Canada geese honking faintly.

Either I just noticed or the critters were just waking up.

The building light put more color in the morning.

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