One of the most interesting things I like to do is to watch wildlife. Recently, our family has been treated to the privilege of watching this Pileated Woodpecker, who has decided to settle into a tree very near our garage. For hours, our new-found friend can be heard tapping, pecking, even hammering on the dead tree he has chosen. According to the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, this woodpecker likes to eat carpenter ants. It hammers holes into the dead wood, and then uses its extremely long tongue to get the ants out. After reading the description in the guide, I decided that this must be a male, because the male has more red on it then the female and is brighter, and more showy, as male birds often are. This bird is certainly bright and showy! His red crest shines out with a brilliance that is not equalled by the bright yellows and reds of the changing leaves that surround him during this time of year.
At first, the bird was wary, furtively scooting to the back of the tree whenever one of us came outside. Now, he is not so cautious, and just continues his staccato feast when we walk nearby. The only thing that seems to unsettle him anymore is when the cats creep too close. Somehow, he seems to be able to tell that we love the fact that he is eating carpenter ants, but the cats just want to eat him.
I don’t know how long he will stay. Probably until the ants run out or until he finds another dead tree loaded with insects. I hope it’s for a while, though, so I can continue to enjoy his presence and share it with the children. It’s a privilege, indeed, for them to grow up surrounded by such a sign of how the Creator made each animal and bird to fulfill its part in this world, and I’m glad we were treated to such a display.
Bird watching can be a good activity to do with kids. It helps if you can capture a photograph of the bird so the picture can be examined closely and compared to the descriptions and photos in the bird guide. It’s like a treasure hunt, each one searching for the right match, until one calls out “It’s this bird. I’m sure of it!” Then comes the inevitable arguments until everyone agrees on the name of the particular bird. This can take quite some time at our house.
It is helpful to have a bird guide, a digital camera or phone, and binoculars. If a child, or adult, wants to keep a list of birds they have found, an album could be made to put the pictures in. Also, there are books that are sold for people to list their “finds” in, if a list is what’s desired.
Our family would not be considered hard-core bird watchers. We occasionally try to identify birds that cross our path in our daily routine. It has been a fun, frugal and entertaining hobby for many years.