A Visit to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Sapsucker Woods and My First Pileated Woodpecker

Thursday night, a crescent moon glittered over New Jersey.

Splash of moon with your Hudson?

Up in Ithaca on Friday night, a child looked at the “tiny sliver slipper of a moon” hanging in the sky, and said triumphantly to his father, “See? I told you it would be a half-moon.”

“And what’s it going to be tomorrow?”

“I don’t know,” said the child in the tone of a great expert, trying to take seriously an undergraduate’s question.  “Probably full.”

I stopped by the legendary Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The great Cornell Lab of Ornithology

A friendly resident Canada goose seemed to be the chief greeter.

Lab of O. greeter

He marched right up to the glass doors, and stared inside.

Hey, let me in.

Mallards and a single common merganser swam about the pond. A great blue heron spent much of the afternoon standing on his huge twiggy nest atop a dead tree. Red-tailed hawks circled low time and again. Deep in Sapsucker Woods, nuthatches, hairy woodpeckers and a brown creeper hunted on tree trunks.

The woods looked like a Northeastern version of an East Texas mangrove swamp

Someone had unrolled a plush green carpet of moss in front of a perfect little doorway.

Elf home

Someone else had built a cairn or shrine, reminding me of Easter Island on the Hudson.

Balancing act

And a dream came true when a great dinosaur of a bird, a Pileated woodpecker, swooped over my head and landed on a tree trunk to hunt and drum.

Pileated woodpecker by New Jersey Birds http://www.flickr.com/photos/pazzani

The Lab and its woods are extraordinary places, full of birds, open and welcoming to all. They’ll even lend you binoculars, no questions asked.

I’m home in my beautiful city again, watching the drizzle and listening to pigeons lowing like cows. Thanks for having me, Sapsucker Woods.

Explore posts in the same categories: 2010, Birds, Flora, In the Country, March, Wildlife/Natural History

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9 Comments on “A Visit to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Sapsucker Woods and My First Pileated Woodpecker”


  1. […] And for other New York woodpeckers: A Visit To Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Sapsucker Woods: My First Pileated Woodpecker […]


  2. […] A Visit to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Sapsucker Woods and My First Pileated Woodpecker &laqu… […]

  3. mthew Says:

    Sweet! One of the species that you’re not very likely to see in NYC. I still await my life-sighting of one.

    • Melissa Says:

      I just found out we had pileateds in Connecticut, where I lived for several years as a little kid, but I have no memory of them whatsoever. So my Ithaca bird still counts as a first.

  4. Charlotte Says:

    That woodpecker does look like a dinosaur….i wonder when it was first spotted. and talking about that, does anyone know if they ever saw the ivory-billed woodpecker again after that first sighting a half dozen years ago?

  5. Joy K. Says:

    Pileated. Woodpecker.

    I am dying from jealousy here.

  6. retrieverman Says:

    I can’t remember my first pileated woodpecker. I grew up in the middle of forests that were full of them.

    The old-timers called them “Indian hens.”

    But I always knew the real animal behind Woody Woodpecker.


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