When Woodpeckers Attack

Todd and I live out in the woods and share space with wildlife like deer, wild turkeys, and loads of different types of birds.  Included among those birds are woodpeckers, and with the help of Google I’ve been able to identify a few different kinds.  We have a pair of downy woodpeckers—the black and white pattern on their feathers makes them look elegant, like they are clothed in lace.  Due to this elegance, we’ve named the pair the Baron and the Baroness.

It was the Baron who decided that our house was a snack a few years ago.  He pecked away at the northwest corner and destroyed the trim molding around the large window in our living room and on the corner of the house.  I learned that placing something shiny in the area where they are pecking will deter them.  So I used the mylar wrap from when I ran my marathon.  I cut it into strips and thumbtacked it to the side of the house, and thus discouraged the Baron.

Years ago we weren’t so woodpecker savvy.  We lived in Warwick, RI, across the street from a tidal flat.  There we saw seagulls and egrets.  Never even occurred to us that a woodpecker would hang out in that hood.  One morning our furnace made a loud BRRRRRRT noise.  I ran downstairs and cocked an ear beside it.  BRRRRRT!  BRRRRRT!  I switched off the emergency switch and listened as the fan inside ceased.  BRRRRT!  BRRRRRT!

I called a furnace repair company.  The repairman came, disassembled the furnace, inspected it, found nothing wrong and charged me $60.  He was gone in under an hour.   The sound stopped for a while.  Maybe the furnace repairman knocked something back into place when he was in there.  Then one Sunday morning there it was again.  BRRRRRT!

“Maybe it’s construction?  Are they jack hammering on Post Road?” Todd asked.

“It’s Easter Sunday.  Nobody’s jack hammering today,” I replied. 

BRRRRRT!  The furnace agreed.  Ain’t nobody jack hammering that day.  Except for my furnace.

It happened intermittently.  I tried to log when it was happening.  Was the temperature set to a particular setting?  Was it happening at a specific time of day?  I couldn’t detect any patterns.

It happened one morning before I left for work.  Todd was still home.  I’d just fed the dogs and was about to let them outside.  BRRRRRTTT!!!

“Dammit!  There it is again!” Todd grumbled. 

“I’m running late, I have to get these guys out,” I said back to him.  I stepped out on the deck, and heard it again.  BRRRRRTTT!  I looked up at the roof of my house.  Perched on the metal cap of the chimney was a woodpecker, jack hammering away at the cap.  I doubled over with laughter.  Todd came out to see what I was laughing at.  I couldn’t speak.  I just pointed. 

The really funny part is that since we discovered that it was a woodpecker making all that racket, it never happened again.  It’s like he just wanted to torture us for a year and then fly off once we figured out the mystery.

The Baron and Baroness have been visiting the feeders lately.  There’s also a red bellied woodpecker that is very elusive, he shows up on occasion too.  I was sitting at my desk yesterday when I heard the familiar muffled BRRRRRT of a woodpecker hammering at some part of my house.  I haven’t been able to yet figure out where it’s happening. 

Here we go again.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.

added on 02.24.16

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