Woodpecker telephones and a curious robin

June 14. 2014 9:03PM

THERE IS a robin's nest under the protection of the front porch.

Oh, there he goes, getting maudlin about birds, grizzled veteran readers of this column are saying. Gone to the dark side, the Stacey Cole side, and a nod to you, Stacey, you so-gracious tie to the past, which I often am not.

Yeah, but I have a woodpecker that sounds uncannily like a telephone.

I was discussing this the other day with elder sister Susan, who must have woodpeckers in her head for living in the cacophony of Manhattan. Having been once interrupted during a telephone call by this phantom other call, perhaps on my cellphone, she asked, "Do you still have your woodpecker?" and then suddenly, right then, there it was, hammering its little brains out.

This morning, a crow paused in the garden (while trying to pull up corn I'm hoping to get, Sisyphus-like, three months from now after the bears and raccoons and frost get through, against time and calendar and tilt of the earth and all).

It was no small burden, even for a crow, among the larger birds. I watched it carefully as it flapped off across the road and into a bunch of spruce, doing the usual things birds flying to nests tend to do, which is flip and swerve and falter and soar, trying to defeat pursuing radar. I plan to sneak up there, on some soft light-footing rainy day, just to show the crow.

Finally, around the first week of June, a pair of hummingbirds showed up. Having nourished this couple of teenagers for a week or so, I watched their aerial acrobatics with interest.

I'll always be in awe of these little birds, somehow surviving the ongoing devastation of their Central American winter habitat to get across the vast Gulf of Mexico and arrive here at my front porch, where Vermont and New Hampshire and Maine pinch up, just shy of the Canadian border.

The mother robin has not quite known what to think of me. When I first went out onto the porch, on the first decent day (a week ago, June 8), she hopped around in front of me on the lawn, with a big fat worm, obviously meant for her babies. I yielded the field and went in to watch the Belmont Stakes and its aftermath, in which I agreed with the owner of California Chrome that only horses that have run the previous two should get to run in the third.

In this I cede favoritism because my younger sister Mary and her husband, Pat, both having grown up cleaning stables for other people, now have an Arabian horse boarding, training, breeding and showing enterprise (Trowbridges Arabians, second to none) in northern Connecticut. They see everything from the horse's point of view, and rightly so.

The mother robin eventually acclimated to my presence, and delivered food to her three kids even as I delved into the obituary section of the Sunday papers, which is increasingly unsettling.

This left me with this:

(A) I need more crow (raven, preferred, please) feathers for the front of my '47 Jeep; (B) woodpeckers are one hell of a lot better than telephones; (C) on a recent night, I got to emit a series of squawks and gurgles that called in a curious raven, which has absolutely nothing to do with anything except that I get to do this kind of stuff and write about it; (D) having seen those three gaping beaks waiting for Mother Robin, I'm glad that the worst she has to contend with is me.

John Harrigan's address is Box 39, Colebrook03576. Email him at campguyhooligan@gmail.com.

OutdoorsJohn HarriganNew Hampshire

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