Female Pileated Woodpecker
Recently, I spent three consecutive days on Hermit Island from six forty-five to ten AM. Hermit Island is on the end of the Phippsburg peninsula. Because it juts far out into the Atlantic ocean, it is a haven for migrating birds. They don't like crossing expanses of water any more than I like getting up early. So, they congregate building their numbers for the inevitable crossing. To catch the birds as they began to move with the rising sun's heat, I had to rise at 6, which makes me absolutely nauseous. I'm not crabby when I get up, but I am logy and have to fight back the spins. This is just how it is for me; I'm accustomed to plowing my way toward wakefulness. As soon as I start moving, I'm okay and I really do love the light in the morning and the soft silence.
Hermit Island is privately owned. It's an undeveloped campground with 275 sites. Columbus Day weekend was the last hurrah. There were many die hard campers, none of whom were awake when I arrived. As I walked the two miles of dirt road to the end of the island, I could hear breathing and snoring from the tents. Picnic tables were littered with beer bottles and cans, debris from partying. A Red squirrel toppled a few to the ground, scaring itself, then scampering away. The only other sounds were rustling leaves, and the birds, thousands of them. Chirring, chipping and whirring mingled with the scratching sounds of tiny claws on bark. As I walked, no matter how carefully I placed each step, rocks skidded and gravel crunched. By comparison, my own foot steps were clunky, until I heard the Pileated woodpeckers.
Pileateds are noisy. They bash, hammer and tear at trees and their call rips the air. I saw five in one day, four of them near one another. I'm sure they were the Pileated family group I had written about this past spring. It was a thrill to see them all grown up and out tearing up the forest. Their raucous screeching and drumming must have been a delight for hung-over campers' headaches. When I was a child, my father was often hung over. To roust him out and torment him, my mother would bang together pots and pans and tell him she was serving him a glass full of cold pork gravey. This formula usually worked, too. He would probably have preferred a Pileated cure.