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Parental Instinct

During our summer camping season (2008) at our favorite camp ground we had the pleasure watching a pair of Woodpeckers prepare a tree that they had selected to raise their young. Weekend after weekend we returned to the same spot down by the playground to see how our new friends were making out. Much to our delight one weekend we could hear the chirping of a new born chick coming from inside the tree.

This one particular weekend though our enjoyment turned to distress. I recall it was mid afternoon when my wife said that she and her friend from the campsite across the road were going for a walk. When they returned she was visually upset. I quickly asked her what was wrong. With tears in her eyes she told me that someone had dragged a picnic table over to the tree and forcefully put a stick into the hold the woodpecker were using as a door. The chick was inside crying and the adults birds were nowhere insight. They were successful in removing the stick. They quickly left the area in the hope that the parents would return and had not abandoned the chick.

Every half hour or so she would return to the area to see if the parents had returned, much to her disappointment they were nowhere to be seen. As the daylight gave way to the onset of darkness she pleaded with me to go visit the baby to see if the parents had returned. Several trips on foot and several drive byes in the van, shining flashlights towards the tree; we were pretty sure that if the parents didn’t return by morning that the baby would not survive.

First thing in the morning she looked at me and said please check on the baby for me. As I approached the playground I thought I could see a bird leaving the area around the tree, but the closer I got the quietness of the morning became the only sound I could hear. Fearing that the chick was no longer with us, thoughts of how to break the news to my wife and kids raced through my mind. I slowly walked up to the tree and just as I got close enough to touch the tree another bird came out of the tree and flew away. As I turned quickly to remove myself from the area I could hear the baby chirping loudly once again. What an up lifting feeling, I could not wait to return to the camper and give my wife the good news.

Once back to the campsite, the first thing I did was congratulate my wife by saying, “congratulations sweetheart, the parents have returned, you saved the baby’s life.” Although she said that she was relieved, she needed to see for herself. So off she went to investigate the return of the parents. What started out to be a very depressing weekend, turned out to be a pleasant one!

Every time we walked by that tree after that day we took even more pleasure in seeing and hearing the birds. One day while walking with the kids we could see a little head peeking out the hole. Oh, what excitement was felt by all! Quickly preparing the camera and scratching as the side of the tree, the little one stuck its head up and I managed to get a picture for my wife’s photo album. The rest of the summer was spent watching the young bird grow until it left the nest. I wonder if that woodpecker knows how lucky it was to have a very special human friend looking out for its well being?