An English In Kentucky


















Monday June 30th 2014  Tim Candler


    If my old friend the Close Mockingbird was still around there would be no Downy pecking at each and every bit of wood within fifty yards of the domicile.  It was a behavior he'd not tolerate. And I'd forgotten quite how insane Woodpeckers are, particularly the Downy who can become so engrossed by wood pecking he'll not see you creeping around, closer and closer, and when you go "Boo" at him, he'll make the noise of outrage, before flying to a branch where he'll chatter in your direction.  It's the Downy that'll take the grub of Bumble Borer from right under your nose, and he'll leave a post looking  pretty much as though someone's been at it with a Gatling Gun.  The Big Woodpecker, the Pileated Woodpecker is also dangerous to posts, his peck is like an axe. He's like a Dinosaur, but shy and wary when put beside a Downy. But it's the Hairy Woodpecker and the Yellow Sapsucker that a Gardener has to be more wary of, because without the Close Mockingbird to protect them, the gentler, sweeter trees when their sap rises, can get ringed.  A collar of perfectly placed holes all the way around the trunk. Not very polite or nice. Years ago, we lost a tufted Holly to that sort of completely unnecessary behavior.

     In moments of reverie I have often recalled that Holly. The girdle of holes around her trunk was geometrically perfect. Mind you I didn't use calipers to judge the perfection, more of a visual feast within the context of a set of emotions that combined depression, irritation, reaching for the shotgun and admiration of Sapsuckers. The Holly herself had been acquired vicariously, and as is often the case with such rescues she had struggled long and hard to maintain her grip on life. Success for her came with berries and freshness until someone engaged by geometry decided to put an end to her. I guess too there has to be a dimensional content to the thinking of Woodpeckers as they respond to visual clues. Their model of the world must include an understanding of likely places to peck, which once found require them to have an understanding of where to peck.  Now, if this understanding in the Sapsucker is a geometrically perfect girdle around the trunk of a Holly, one might be tempted to give Woodpeckers an A plus for mechanical thinking.  But, as the tree dies and stands it becomes home to the insect grubs that Woodpeckers feast upon. And I reckon it's the case the community of Bumble Borers also enjoyed the Close Mockingbird's protection.