Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Looking for the Red-headed's Roost Hole

Having been in the middle of being scandalized that my fifteen-year old daughter, who blew the top off the New York City Biology Regents exam, thinks that Red-headed Woodpeckers roost in a tangle of twigs, and explaining that what we were looking for, wasn't a tangle of twigs but rather a cavity, no matter what Samantha thought the directions were telling her, I missed getting us off the A train at 59th, expressed to 125th and then had to go back downtown again.

Little did I know that the "tangle of twigs" was going to be a lesser problem than what she thought a Red-headed Woodpecker looked like. Though I had said they were about nine inches long and didn't have a bright red head at this time of year, somehow that hadn't quite sunk in.
The image of Woody the Woodpecker was ever so much stronger.

4:23PM Riverside Drive, and we're cutting it extremely close. Marie Winn's directions and Ben Cacace's Nova Hunter map in hand (See LINKS for their sites.) we start searching.

Unfortunately not having frequented this park much, we're rather at a loss to match the topography with the names in the directions right away. After briefly looking around, I realize that these trees are completely riddled with holes and I haven't actually seen a photo of the hole we're after. Drat. I can see four holes from where I stand on the sidewalk.

I have an epiphany. I just know this is going to turn into Laurel and Hardy Try to Find the Woodpecker.

4:29PM Up near the top of the trees, dark against a dim sky, one bird who is about the right size and shape is chasing another bird north. I point, Sam looks. That could be our woodpecker. I stay with my view of the holes and Samantha heads north.

Newly excavated, but shouldn't it be round?
Of course it should.

This one is round but not newly excavated...

And such was the case with the numerous holes, I found in that area. Every one had something definitely wrong with it. And as I'm waiting for Sam to come back and have her able to find me, I don't want to go too far afield.

4:35PM Where in the world has Sam gotten to? The sun has sunk and I can't see her as I peer north. Certainly she would have screamed if someone grabbed her, right? My phone rings. "Sam, where are you?"

She replies,"Ahhhh, I'm looking for a street sign. I haven't seen one in ages. (pause) I'm at 95th."

"SAM! The hole is between 92nd and 91st. Did you see where the bird went?"

She asks, "What bird?"

Told you it was going to turn into Laurel and Hardy.

4:53PM We wait and watch but it's birdless. We pack up and exit.

Come to find out Sam had gone north to look for other holes. Why? The bird I'd pointed to had no relation to what in her mind the bird we'd been searching for looked like. It came out later, rather sad and hilarious at the same time, that this poor city child, thought that a Red-headed Woodpecker had a crest because Woody the Woodpecker did and they looked a lot like a Pileated. And she tutors other students in biology. Looks to me like the NYC school system could use a little more hands on experience in their science courses and she and I should get away from the Hawk Bench and into the Ramble a little more often.

To see what the hole and the winter coloring of the woodpecker look like, use the link below to go to nature photographer Cal Vornberger's site. (By the way, to get over not finding the hole, and having the bus pass us by on top of it, we went to see the movie, Night At The Museum. In that film there is a scene in which Cal's book, Birds Of Central Park is very prominently placed. )

Donegal Browne


Ben C. said...

Thanks for the enjoyable read.

Sorry you didn't get to see the woodpecker. This was your best bet to find the hole since it visited it a few times before the roosting hour when I was there on the 24th. I hope it's still around.

Donegal Browne said...

Ben, glad you enjoyed it. As you can tell from reading our "adventure", our lack of seeing the Woodpecker by no means puts it among the missing.

My current guess is that we were just a touch too far south as the bird chase I saw was to the north.

Though if anyone is going up that way who knows where the hole is, we'd be more than relieved to tag along and avoid a replay. Last trip, all we were missing was the bowler hats.