Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Real Woodpecker...

Yesterday I had the day off from work but I didn’t much feel like driving someplace to go birding – some days you just want to stay home. Plus, it was windy - the birds probably would have been pretty difficult to photograph. I spent part of the day repairing a wooden squirrel box feeder that was partially destroyed from them gnawing it up. Putting out food (peanuts and corn) for the squirrels is part of my strategy for keeping them off the bird feeders.

As for backyard birds, the usual suspects were present: Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Dark-eyed Juncos and Black-capped Chickadees. Relative newcomers included Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds. There haven’t been as many House Finches or American Goldfinches lately, but American Robins are very plentiful now.




This Hairy Woodpecker is a regular visitor to our suet feeders, making predictable visits around nine, noon and three. That’s sort of a joke between my friend Jesse and I, but there seems to be an element of truth to increased backyard bird activity around those particular times. They have their routine and we have ours, but the omni-mysterious Lord God Bird of the swamp has everyone a bit perplexed.

A few of my blog readers emailed me asking if I would comment on the most recent Ivory-billed Woodpecker news regarding the Sibley et al paper and the Cornell rebuttal, and I replied that I wouldn't. You may have noticed I removed every post mentioning the Ivory-billed Woodpecker rediscovery.

Why would I do this?

On one hand, a great portion of my blog is about photography of real, living birds and until there is a picture of one as good as this Hairy Woodpecker shot, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, as a real, living bird, will reside only in my imagination as a maybe bird. On the other hand, people on the extreme sides of the ivory-bill debate, whether irrational true believers or well-reasoned, hardened skeptics, seem to be using the issue just to draw attention to themselves.

I don’t mean to narrowly define the scope of my blog, but the ivory-bill debate is completely beyond me. I’ve read both papers and each seemed to effectively argue their key points, but I wouldn’t know if either made an error. I lack the knowledge, experience and credentials to challenge efforts and work by either camp.

Between the realm of the unknown and the known, there is the process of discovery. We can choose to believe or disbelieve based on whatever evidence there is – a lot, a little or none at all. I try to have as much respect for these two positions as I do for those who simply adopt the notion of I don’t know.

Does the Ivory-billed Woodpecker live? Heck, I don’t know.

Hairy Woodpecker image © 2006 Mike McDowell

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