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Never say never

December 4, 2016
Kevin Williams - Grundy County Conservation Director , Reinbeck Courier

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Barred Owls that I heard from my tree stand. And if you will recall, how excited I was to hear these "old friends" back in the woods after a number of years' absence. Well, this past week I was treated to a "new friend" that I just had to report to you.

I was sitting in the stand watching squirrels chase each other around in the noisy leaf covered floor of the woods. Then, I was jolted out of my daydreaming by this strange call. As I looked in the direction of the sound, I could see the form of a bird fly down to the base of a tree about 20 yards away. It was nearing dusk so a bit difficult to make out the bird at that distance. In a few minutes it had move closer and my first thought was "that's a pileated woodpecker".

It was gone about as quickly has it had come. I sat there first talking myself into the fact that it was a pileated and then talking myself out of it. The reason being, I have never seen a pileated woodpecker in Grundy County. Along the Iowa River corridor yes. Along the Cedar River corridor definitely. But not along the scattered forested area of the Wolf Creek!

Two days later, however, my doubts were eliminated. It was early morning this time and I heard the same call that I had heard the couple of evenings before. Quickly I had the eyeful of that bird again. This time confirming my first impression in the dim light of that evening. It was a pileated woodpecker.

This is a big deal for me. In that list of animals that I would have bet against ever seeing in Grundy County, the pileated woodpecker was near the top of the list. It is a bird of larger, almost deep woods kind of habitat. And yet, here it was flying around the timber. Maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised. A couple of other birds that once occupied that list are wild turkeys and nesting bald eagles. And both of those have now been checked off that list.

It just further reinforces my "never say never" statement when I'm talking about wildlife.

The pileated woodpecker is the largest of our woodpeckers growing to near crow size. It has a call that is the size of its body, as well. Each of the days following its discovery, I have heard it before I saw it. And I have been treated to several sightings this past two weeks. It has a large red crest and distinctive white patches against the black feathers of the body.

I don't have a "Big Buck Down" experience to report this year - YET. But I have had a couple of neat things to report to you from the tree stand. And that is a big part of spending time in the tree. The many and varied things that I get to experience.



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