Pileated Woodpeckers show off

On an early morning walk home from the gym, a sudden movement caught our eyes.  One large bird and then two flew across our paths, crossed over the avenue and explored their way from tree to tree.  One bird halted and began pecking a hole in a dead tree.  The other flew on, beyond our view.  They were a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers.  How excited we were. 

The Pileated Woodpecker is approximately 15 inches in length and is one of the largest woodpeckers found in North America.  It has a black body with a red crest and white stripes on its neck and black and white stripes on its face.  Males and females are similar, but males sport a red forehead and females, a gray to yellowish brown forehead.  You may learn more about this glorious woodpecker, hear its call, see photos, learn about its diet, habitat and habits at http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/pileatedwoodpecker.htm

We have encountered this red-headed bird on hikes away from home.  After 19 years of living in this neighborhood, this is the first time we have spotted this bird right outside our doorway.  One wonders why.

Coincidentally or not, since early summer 2010, there have been frequent sightings of large wild turkeys and deer in the neighborhood.  This is made strange only because this is an urban area of large rectangular blocks, homes, businesses and factories and wily traffic on the our main thoroughfare.  The nearest wooded area is a couple of miles away intersected by a busy, sunken expressway.  It is frightening to realize how dangerous driving could be here upon  encountering this unexpected wildlife on the road.

I am a true believer in climate change.  How often we realize the need to take care of our great Home and understand that change does happen and better prepare to take action to protect our resources and environment. 

Recent controversies are also fascinating surrounding expert climatologists being caught up in alleged fraud and fibs about the current condition of our planet and meddling with encroaching warnings about dire changes that can be happening within our lifetime only for their own selfish means to their ends or lack of careful scientific research skills.

I am also a strong foe of out-of-control urban and suburban sprawl and the diminishing habitats to support nature’s wild things.  These destructive practices remain out of control with no end in sight.

The summer has melded into fall and I have not enjoyed a second sighting of the woodpecker, only deer and wild turkey.  Out for a walk on a recent October day another sighting caught my eye.  White Irises in full bloom were glowing in the early morning sunlight.  Perhaps there is a species of late blooming Irises.  If so, they are unknown to me, but they were a treat to the eye.  Nature is always changing and rearranging.  Keeping our eyes peeled and our senses sharp, for whatever the reason or cause, nature’s surprises are revealed to us when least expected. 

Ann Carol Goldberg

Nosegay

Dateline Rochester, NY; 10/10/10;

Autumn in our town holds many surprises. That October Sunday offered just that, perfect weather, leaves in burning color and some time on our hands. Both of us had just celebrated our 50th High School reunion within two weeks time including concurrent visits from college friends woven into those eventful weekends. A hike in the woods was in order and I had clipped an article describing several area hikes with waterfalls that were new to us.

Throwing a proverbial thumb tack at the clipping, we selected a location near Phelps, NY called Ontario Pathways. The parking lot was empty upon our arrival. Finishing our picnic of cheese, crackers, hummus and apples we looked up to see another 3-4 cars pull into the lot. A good sign in my mind, that the hike held some promise.

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We donned our hiking boots but chose to leave our hiking sticks behind, learning that the trail was level and straight, built on an old Railroad line. Another couple had just started to hike, also finding the newspaper article of interest. Putting our heads together, we discerned that we were following Fulton Creek and anticipated the 2 waterfalls as promised, more rough water rapids perhaps, but treacherous in a kayak as described in the article.

The rapids were indeed .03 miles down the trail according to the carved sign hanging on a tree near a side trail leading us directly along the shore of the creek. We took our time on the trail, enjoying the warm sun, the luscious sound of the water lapping over the rapids, the sweet-smelling air, blessed with time on our hands.

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Satiated with our visit to the rough water, we returned to the main trail not expecting more adventure. There was movement in the distance. We both realized simultaneously what it was approaching, making our noses twitch and the adrenaline run. A full-grown skunk loped with a limp and a swagger toward us. We had no place to go accept to stay on the path. The skunk showed a bit of interest in us and gave us some definite pause.

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We feared the eau de skunk, but in keeping with the animal’s difficulty with locomotion, we worried more about the possibility of having encountered a Rabid creature. Our responses stood divided between staying frozen in place and shooting photos. We survived but had conjured up images of gallons of tomato juice, the alleged antidote to skunk stink.

The critter continued its way along the path continuing away from us. We continued in the opposite direction, taking in more sights and sounds, crossing old bridges and traversing an island. We approached Griffith Road and chose it as our turning point, joking about seeing our little critter once again on the return trip.

IMG_4227 As if on cue, once again, there was movement in the distance. Our black and white loping interloper headed our way. We did the same dance, maintained the same head images eliciting a flow of adrenaline and took more photos. The critter sniffed and hauntingly continued on its way, perhaps in pain but clearly in charge of its territory, the trail, just the same.

The parking lot was full of cars as we approached, but there was no one around to share the tale of the critter encounter or revel in the beauty of the sights and the day. We drove home into the coming sunset, happy, at peace and hoping that our little creature was not in pain and would survive to continue to keep watch on the Ontario Pathway and the splendor of the autumn array.

Ann Carol Goldberg