I am most emphatically NOT a birdwatcher. I don’t even own a pair of those khaki safari shorts or a pith helmet. I can point out robins and bluejays and hummingbirds, but get beyond that and all I can say is “it has feathers. must be a bird.”

So when I heard a loud clacking behind me this morning, as I arrived in my driveway and got out of the car, I did not immediately think, “Ahhhh…the sound of a woodpecker hunting for bark bugs.” I thought someone was applauding loudly and turned around to watch.

On a pine tree across the street sat this huge red, black, and white bird, about two feet from the ground, pecking away at the bark. He was about 18-20 inches long, with a thin snaky neck and a bright red crest just like Woody Woodpecker. Most of him was a deep indigo, but he had bright white racing stripes starting at his beak.

He didn’t seem the least bit concerned about my presence, and whacked intently at the bark. Every so often he’d stop and inspect the holes he was making; it was clear that tree was his sole focus. He (or maybe it was a she) had this startingly loud “kaaakaaaakaaaakaaaaaaw” call that drowned out even the approaching mail truck.

I was on my mobile with Mom, the resident bird expert. “That’s probably a pileated woodpecker,” she said. I grabbed the pocket camera out of my purse, approached quietly and got the shot you see here (plus a few others).

I looked woodpeckers up when I got into the house, and Mom’s right. (You can learn more about it here.) Apparently PWs keep the trees healthy (although you wouldn’t know it to see the bark flying when they get going). According to experts, that cry is to tell their mates where they are. And they tend to stick close to home, which means they live around here somewhere. Given the number of neighborhood fir trees–their favorite–that sounds about right.

So I now have a pair of woodpeckers for neighbors, and I can recognize robins and bluejays and hummingbirds and pileated woodpeckers. Not bad for 5 minutes in the morning.