While visiting my brother and his wife this summer in East Aurora, New York, we experienced a truly wonderful and unexpected visit from three pileated woodpeckers at the suet feeder Jim had filled. His wife, Paulett, said the woodpeckers were frequent visitors to their lovely back garden. This was a first for me. Although I’ve been an on again, off again birdwatcher for most of my adult life, I’ve only seen one pileated woodpecker in person before. Seeing three at the same time was simply brilliant. Watching their acrobatics as they fed on the suet, flew back and forth to peck at a tree, and generally manoeuvered their rather large bodies in amazinglying agile ways was pure delight. After a feeding frenzy, they flew away and it felt amazingly still and empty where they had been. Much like a visit with beloved family and friends, the ‘after’ part comes all too soon and leaves a void in our hearts. This poem is dedicated to Jim and Paulett, two of the kindest and most caring people I know. Thank you for sharing your home, your family and your amazing woodpeckers with us.
Dining with the Woodpeckers
In the late August garden
The quiet afternoon now
Comes to a languorous close.
Out of nowhere, a flash of red,
Bright scarlet crests crowning
Three Pileated woodpeckers
Begin to feast at the suet feeder,
Fluttering, flying tree to tree,
Tree to feeder, alternately
Pecking at thick maple bark,
Then shifting to soft silky suet.
The youngest, now the size of its parents,
Joins in to grab his share, and father
And mother dutifully give way.
For a few Cirque des Oiseaux moments
All three woodpeckers hang right side up
And upside down, their brilliant red heads
Flash like stop lights in the early evening sun.
We sit around the table eating an early supper
And sipping local wine. Conversation drifts
As we watch in these avian acrobatics.
Just as quickly as they arrived, so soon are
They are gone. More wine is poured,
Seconds of hot buttered corn and fresh
Heirloom garden tomatoes are passed
From one to the other. Like the birds,
We share this meal together, enjoying
The richness of what the day has given.
A light wind blows the leaves outside,
A beautiful evening for us to be together
Knowing that summer will end all too soon.