On rose-breasted grosbeak watch, a mighty fine surprise

We’re in the second week of May, and I’ve been watching the reports of rose-breasted grosbeaks roll in from other birders nearby. No such luck here at home, even as I’ve camped out with my coffee and camera each morning, hoping one of them will arrive at our feeders.

This afternoon as I passed by the bank of windows to the rear of our house, I was startled to spot a pileated woodpecker hacking away at one of the trees holding up our hammock.

What a creature!

This is only the third time I’ve spotted one of these magnificent birds at home. The first two came last year, once in a tree on the golf course just off the back of our lot, the second on one of our trees. Before that, my only other knowing sighting was of several on the wing in Vermont one fall a few years ago.

In the woods of New Jersey, I’ve heard them many times, their primeval ka-ka-ka-KA-KA-KA-KA cries taunting me from a distance.

A pileated woodpecker pauses before ripping into a tree May 10, 20221.

Today, as the bird traveled up and down one of our maples, I was able to grab my camera and take a few shots through a window, then step out onto the patio for a few more. The bird flew onto the golf course and lighted near the base of a tree, giving his thrilling call to claim his spot before tearing into the bark.

With camera and monopod, I followed onto the course, advancing in stages, getting closer and closer, stopping near a cart path and gently sidling westward to get more of the sun behind me.

I took several more shots, then switched to video. Although I’ve gotten a little better at shooting video with a monopod-mounted Canon DSLR, the video still looks as if it were shot by a goldfinch undulating in flight.

Thank you, Mr. Pileated — a name rooted in the Roman tradition of ex-slaves wearing the “pileus” brimless cap denoting they’d been freed — for stopping by. You made me forget about the grosbeaks. For a little while, anyway!

Published by Dan

University media executive by day, blogger by night, I am a well-traveled resident of New Jersey

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