Today confirmed for me that Chipmunk Ridge has officially become a Wildlife Refuge (and not just an unkempt mess). Yes, we've had skunks and squirrels and chipmunks since we moved in on Labor Day weekend in 2009, but today brought the second sighting of a pileated woodpecker feeding on one of the pine snags we left when some too-close-to-each-other trees had to be taken down. Downies are common here, and it's not unusual to see red-bellied woodpeckers at the suet feeder, but there is just something about the big, red-crested pileated that is especially exciting.
Maybe it was too many Woody-the-woodpecker cartoons when I was a child. (You can hear the vocalizations that gave rise to Woody's famous call in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds site.) Maybe it's the pileated's resemblance to the ivory-billed woodpecker, a bird that, even if it still exists, I am unlikely ever to see as slogging through southern swamps is not one of my favorite activities. Maybe it's the fact that the pileated is generally a forest bird, so that its choosing our yard for foraging feels as if we are giving something back to the non-human neighborhood. For whatever reason, big, gaudy birds make me happy.
Unfortunately, the pileated is much more skittish than its suet-hogging downy cousins. Every time our visitor hears the sound of my camera being turned on, it flies away.
A little mystery is a good thing.