[Tweeters] A sad woodpecker

Deborah Hagerty 42psalm1 at comcast.net
Sun Mar 4 18:16:26 PST 2007

While we were on Whidbey Island Friday, we saw lots of eagles, but there
were two that stood out. One was a youngster who was just getting his first
year white pinfeathers on his (or her) otherwise dark head. Looked like it
must have itched (based on a pet cockatiel who longed to have his head
rubbed when the pinfeathers were coming out). The other one we remember was
an old fella who came casually flying over to a pond we were scoping. The
ducks" (there were mallards, American and Eurasian widgeons, buffleheads,
common Goldeneyes and Gadwalls) scattered. This huge, beautiful eagle was
brutal (or he was just an eagle doing what eagles do). He knocked a
bufflehead to the water with a violent splash. Then he hovered over the
place where the little bufflehead landed. The bufflehead had dove but three
different times we watched him come up for air and watched the eagle try to
snatch him when he came up for air. The fourth time the eagle got a hold on
him but the little bird kept struggling which made the eagle have a
difficult time flying. We watched them wing their way north toward the sea,
before the eagle turned around and flew back and past us to the south with
the now lifeless bufflehead's feet clearly dangling under the great predator
to a stand of trees where we assume he either ate his lunch or fed it to
chicks. It doesn't bother me nearly as much to see an eagle catch a fish. I
sort of struggle to not villainize the eagle.

-------Original Message-------

From: Rob Sandelin

Date: 03/04/07 17:25:24

To: 'tweets'

Subject: [Tweeters] A sad woodpecker

Just got back from a nice hike around Lord Hill Park. In a stand of alders
there was this odd call, kind of a drawn out, descending peeeeeek. I
skulked around the edges and found an accipiter (the light was bad so I am
not sure which one) and I thought that it was making the sound....But no,
the sound came lower, in salmonberry. It was such a different sound I was
sure it must be some new bird. Finally , after changing angles several times
I found a gory downy woodpecker. It was quite bloody and its wing was
severely damaged. I figure the accipter must have hit it, and it somehow
managed to crawl into the brush. Once I knew where the call was coming from
it was quite haunting, like a primal scream. The calls got weaker and weaker
and I overcame my urge to charge into the brush and put the bird out of its
misery (It was in very thick brush) and instead I walked away. I began
wondering how often prey birds escape wounded from predators and die later.
It would be easy on this day to hate the hawk, with its impersonal glare,
watching its victim die. But these things are outside the values of humans,
and I guess I was privileged to get a glimpse of that other, wild yet brutal

Rob Sandelin

Naturalist, Writer

The Environmental Science School



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