Seated on a high ladder stand, I was watching for a buck to visit a nearby scrape. My view of the hardwood slope was excellent and my hopes were high. I didn’t see the buck that hunt, but I had a memorable day on the stand. So many of our days afield, whether deer hunting, fishing, hiking or whatever reason draws us outdoors, the unexpected sights and experiences often turn out to be the highlights.
On this day I was enjoying the anticipation and the silence when a pileated woodpecker flashed by and grabbed hold of a slender poplar tree that was only a dozen feet away and at eye level with me as I sat still and well camouflaged. I got set to do some eavesdropping at close range.
The colorful bird with the red “Woody Woodpecker” crest turned his head from side to side a couple of times and adjusted his position, toe nails gripping the tree’s trunk with aplomb that I will never understand. He then punched an internal button and his head became a jackhammer with deliberate, powerful strokes
As soon as his purposeful pecking stopped the woodpecker did something I have never seen a woodpecker do. He thrust his head forward, extending it sideways with his lengthy neck. His head was turned so that he placed his ear beside the spot where he had just hammered! The bird was listening for movement of any bug he might have disturbed with his drilling!
I was astonished. Before I could consider the sight, the cunning bird moved up the tree trunk a few inches and resumed his strong hammering once more, immediately following the forceful tapping with the “ear to the ground” routine. He listened patiently for several seconds for any squirming morsel beneath the bark. Hearing none he moved yet again and repeated the sequence. After detecting no creeping larvae, the resourceful fowl flew away to another tree out of my sight, I presume to continue his sledge hammer and listen procedure. I didn’t know woodpeckers did that! Do they all? I don’t know. But I got to observe at least one that does.