Arlington, VA, USA
This Spring I was eager for breeding season to start. I began daily walks through the park less than a mile from my house. On April 2 I spotted a Pileated Woodpecker visiting a tree cavity and moments later the female emerged and the birds traded places on the nest. I discovered the birds did this routine about the same time each day. Their nest was near the top of a snag about 10 feet off a busy trail of dog-walkers and runners and older adults taking their daily stroll. Many people, seeing me with a fancy camera (and standing just a few feet from the nest), would ask if I had seen the “big bird” they had recently seen on the trail. I would answer, yes I think they have a nest in this park. It didn’t seem to occur to anyone to look up! I watched with anticipation over the next weeks as the adults started bringing food and carrying fecal sacs out of the nest. On April 29 I caught a glimpse of the first nestling at the hole. A few days later three heads emerged! I was surprised when I heard the first one calling from the nest, sounding just like the adults. A week later the first bird had fledged, and the next day the second. I found the family foraging together within earshot of the nest, where the last nestling took two days longer to fledge. I was there at that moment, heard the bird calling, saw the adult fly over to an adjacent tree, and seconds later the little one was gone. The nest was empty. Over the last five weeks I had developed an enormous sense of attachment to this new family, and I couldn’t have been happier to witness their success.