Before we moved to Vermont, I always thought of backyard birding as a fairly humble enterprise. My daughter, I think, had similar feelings. As much as we love a fat little chickadee or a busy sparrow, both of us have always had a fondness for particularly large birds, or those with a little extra flair. Storks, herons, eagles. Not your typical backyard feeders.
But, we have both also been long-time followers of the ongoing hunt for the Ivorybill Woodpecker in the Southern United States. I've read most of the books that have been written on the subject, and Mariam and I have listened to a number of interviews and podcasts about the search. The result has been a growing love for woodpeckers, both large and small. However, considering our predilection for the big and fancy birds, the pileated woodpecker (the largest woodpecker after the Ivorybill) quickly became a household favorite and the bird that we most wanted to see in our own yard.
So of course, the day that he showed up outside the living room window was an exciting one. Mariam was at school, so I quickly snapped this photo to share with her. And the experience made me realize that backyard birding can be a completely different experience when you approach it with patience and a watchful eye. I wasn't out in the yard with binoculars when our woodpecker came to call; I was sitting at the dining room table eating some toast. But I've become so accustomed to glancing around at the trees in the yard, just in case, that I made a pretty good find. And that is exactly what I've been trying to teach my girl. Be observant, take the time to look up. This has served us well. We add this pileated woodpecker sighting to a list that includes cardinals, yellow bellied sapsuckers and even a turkey vulture.
All spotted right outside our door.