Two male woodpeckers rattle at each other from 100 yards apart. A carpenter bee inspects the porch, its drone a perfect generator of unease.
Pausing every few minutes for a lightning-quick copulation, a pair of downy woodpeckers circle a walnut tree trunk and probe its bark.
This morning’s stillness is made of fresh snow, a distant jet, the quiet squeaks of a downy woodpecker and a dove’s whistling wings.
It’s very cold; the tall locust at the woods’ edge creaks with ice. A woodpecker taps on the topmost limb, silhouetted against pink clouds.
Snow piles up on branches, as if the white sky were descending on a chaos of ladders. Only a woodpecker’s soft tapping breaks the silence.
A downy woodpecker lands in the dead cherry tree. She trills and the rotten limbs tremble, taps and they make hardly a sound.
Wind from a distant storm blows the leaves backwards. In lieu of thunder, a downy woodpecker’s fast rattle on a hollow limb.
A downy woodpecker has found a loud limb to hammer. When the din stops, he’s with a female. That brief cloacal kiss that passes for sex.
Woodpeckers drumming at sunrise. It occurs to me that they might not be telegraphing “I am here” so much as verifying that the world is.
A downy woodpecker gleans breakfast from the dead cherry, chirping between taps. A mackerel sky. The smell of thawed earth.
Sun through a skim of clouds. A nuthatch and a downy woodpecker trade anxious, nasal notes between the faint shadows of the trees.
Bare ground in the herb bed has risen into spires—a city of frost. A downy woodpecker booms like a pileated on a hollow limb.
Mid-morning, and my feet are propped on the rail as usual. A female downy woodpecker lands on my right boot and taps at the worn-down sole.
A downy woodpecker lands on the dead elm, his black-and-white feathers against the barkless trunk as startling and dramatic as a totem pole.
Darkening sky. A downy woodpecker gleaning breakfast from the dead cherry’s flaking limbs pauses to scratch his face with one fast foot.
To the south, the hysterical-sounding whoops of a pileated woodpecker. To the north, the rapid taps of a downy, that tachycardia.