NORTHLAND NATURE JOURNAL: Wind, water, woodpeckers seep into spring nap

Columnist Dallas Hudson found this perch to enjoy nature during his annual spring nap. (Dallas Hudson/For the Enterprise)

Every year, on a nice, sunny late-winter day, when I come across a south-facing slope that has a patch of snow-free, dry grass, out of the wind, I clear away the deer poop and lay down to enjoy the warmth of the sun without any bothersome insects.

I first stare up through the treetops at the bright blue skies, and on this day, listen to the wind blow through the pine tops as it brings me that scent of pine, also the bubbling of the little creek that flows past.

Here, I just relax like I can nowhere else, just staring at the sky and listening. Besides the wind and water, I hear chickadees and nuthatches calling softly as they feed through the pine tops. Way off, I hear a crow and then one of our nine woodpeckers drumming on a tree. Soon after, all goes quiet as I take my spring nap.

As I mentioned, there are nine woodpeckers that live in our area. Six are year-round residents. One is the pileated woodpecker, who is by far our biggest. The other two common ones that look alike are the little downy woodpecker and its bigger cousin the hairy woodpecker. The red-bellied woodpecker is becoming fairly common at feeders as well as it expands its range north.

And if you're lucky and in a northern coniferous swamp, you may find a black-backed or a three-toed woodpecker. They both are about the same size as the hairy and have black backs. Soon we will be seeing the flickers and red-bellied sapsuckers as they return, and in the oak savannahs you will find the red-headed woodpecker, who is declining in numbers due to habitat loss.


So, hopefully, most of you have direct access to a trail and or woods near you to have by yourselves in these new goofy times we now live in and you can get out for a walk to see woodpeckers – or at least a nap in the sun.

An outdoorsman all his life, Dallas Hudson grew up in Akeley. He tracks the birds, animals, insects, plants of northern Minnesota in his daily journals. Hudson shares his nature observations and photos with KAXE’s Season Watch, the Minnesota Phenology Network and the Park Rapids Enterprise. He works at an official field camp of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on Shingobee Lake, near Akeley.

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