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My Life’s Birds: #116

August 13, 2008

December 24, 1993 – Christian Co, Mo – A pause from reminiscing about Wyoming to remember a time a good deal further back in years and a good deal colder in season.

I’m something of a holiday nomad. I grew up celebrating Christmas in my family’s house, but since my marriage to a jewish woman I’ve set aside the tree for the menorah, not that a tree could even fit in our little condo anyway. I figure the spirit of giving is universal anyway, and doesn’t need a particular religious affiliation to mean something to someone. It’s a philosophy that’s served me well as a spiritual chameleon.

So we give gifts to those we care about, and in turn are given gifts. Sometimes those gifts are from loved ones, and sometimes from the cosmos. And what better gift for an aspiring birder than a life bird? From the house in Linden, in the massive Mulberry tree that so often was the staging point for the feeder runs of particularly shy birds, was a Pileated Woodpecker. While not the rarest bird seen thus far for my list, it’s arguably the most spectacular. A bird even non-birders will stop and stare at, the true heir to the Lord God Bird throne, and far more accessible to the previous holder besides.

Most Pileateds I see anymore are flybys, over highways, bridges, and through clearings. Flushed birds that take off, bounding through the woods too quickly to get glass on. I can count on two hands the number of drop dead, spectacular, lingering looks I’ve had at them, though perhaps that’s because the Pileated always seems to leave you wanting more. Perhaps I’ve only had the misfortune of being around especially flighty birds, because I know the more approachable ones exist. In any case, I was fortunate my first was one of the good ones, a true Christmas gift, and if I ever get tired of that, I know I’ll be tired of birding.

photo from wikipedia


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