Over the years, we have had many woodpeckers visit the suet feeder in our backyard. Mostly, they have been hairies and downies: both male and female.
Now and again, we have seen northern flickers around the place. They look to me like large doves with partridge markings. The Audubon Society books, on the other hand, insist upon putting them with woodpeckers rather than game birds, so the small roaster goes back on the shelf.
A couple of years ago, while out goose hunting, I was standing camo-clad in the corner of a field where a gap in the fence gave entry to the woods. Surrounded by brush on three sides and looking out on to the field on the fourth, I stood as tree-like as I could. Over to my left began the whoosh of wings alternating with rhythmic knocking. The noise was getting closer. Then it came: a piliated woodpecker flying close enough to me that I could have hit it with the muzzle of my shotgun. It landed on a tree a few yards to my right. It was a big bird compared to the downies and hairies to which I was used, and amazing to see at such close quarters.
Some time after this, my in-laws were visiting our home. My father-in-law is a keen birdwatcher; and when he is here, he and the children keep an eye on our yard. Of course, we had told him of our encounter. He mentioned, in his downcast way, that he hadn’t seen one. Then, one morning, after breakfast, we were visited by a large male piliated woodpecker. It examined the old spruce in our yard at leasure, giving us time for a good look, before it flew off.
This year, while out deer hunting, I saw, at close hand, a red headed woodpecker. Yes, a few days later, it, or one very like it, appeared in our garden. Grandpa wasn’t here to see it; but the children told him all about it on the phone.