March 25th 2007, right here in Arcola. Congrats to Madcap Mum for solving the puzzle on the first guess.
Is there something about that yard across the street, where you can see the wild turkeys just rounding the corner of the hedge? Somewhere I have a picture of the wing-tip marks in the snow where a ring-necked pheasant jumped out of that same hedge last fall. This spring I was visiting over there, and as I walked back, I noticed movement on a spruce branch just above the walk. There was a woodpecker, and to my delight, she continued to peck at the bark just six feet or so away, giving me a great chance to look for all the marks that distinguish between downy and hairy woodpeckers. I couldn't figure her out at all. The field guide confirmed that she was neither; instead she was a black-backed woodpecker - the first one I had ever seen. True to the typical behaviour of her species, she was stripping bark off the smaller branches of a conifer.
I wonder if the remarkable bird sightings in that yard have something to do with the density and age of the trees there. There is a nearly complete border of trees and hedge, plus more trees inside. I hadn't noticed how aged those trees were until I happened upon an old aerial photo in the Arcola-Kisbey history book, showing the yard thickly treed back in 1954, while the yard that we now own was still essentially bald.
2 weeks ago