Downy WoodpeckerOr “A Mini-road-trip through the forest near home”

Cabin Fever is that ailment that forces one, eventually, to either leave the house or kill everyone too slow to escape. I opted for the former.

“Where are you going?” She Who Must Be Loved queried.

“Up on the mountain,” I replied.

It’s not much of a mountain, compared to some I’ve hiked or driven on, but it’s reasonably close to home, and not unenjoyably populated. Time being a little short, I drove, stopping a few times to get out and look closer at various eye-catchers.

A male turkey wandered just out of camera range, close enough I could see his bright red head, but too much brush between us thwarted my ability to focus the camera. I tried to follow him, in hopes of a clearer shot. He toddled off, staying ever the same distance, until one time I looked away, distracted by a flutter, and when I looked back, Mr. Turkey was gone.

A large bird, a flash of black and white in the corner of my eye, lit high in a partially dead oak. I stopped to look for it, employing a trick I learned long ago: Look in a general direction, but at nothing in particular, and wait for something to move.

There! In the fork of the next tree to the right, a Pileated Woodpecker, black and white with a bright red, crested beret sweeping off the back of his head. Woody Woodpecker was a Pileated Woodpecker. He was smaller than the one I saw.

As I tried to maneuver for a shot, the rascal launched through the treetops, across the road, and gone.

Easier to track was a Downy Woodpecker, high up in a deader tree, tapping away, trying to scare up lunch. He must have been successful; he allowed me several frames before deciding the snacks would be better at the next diner.

The trip was partly spoiled by a pile of trash. A scattering of stuff someone didn’t want anymore – a couple television sets in varied disassembly; a recliner chair that apparently no longer reclines, or maybe no longer un-reclines; boxes of rags and a pile of plastic bottles.

I’d like to say I don’t understand how anyone could do that, but we humans have been dumping our trash out of sight for years. Some of us own the land we use as depository; most of us pay someone else to own the land. And our trash haulers usually charge us to make our trash disappear. Most of us do not know or care where it goes. “Out of sight, out of mind.”

But two things are frustrating with the kind of dumping I found on my wander across the mountain. First, I wonder how the depositors would feel if someone were to pull up to their front yard and dump a truck load of trash. I’m betting there would be shotguns and calls to the police. Rightfully so.

Maybe if we waited until after midnight, drove up in a dump truck, spilled the trash and made off before we could be caught – which is pretty much how that pile of waste got dumped out in our woods.

Second, someone has to clean it up, usually workers in the employ of the state forestry bureau. Funny how people grouse about their contribution when they’re paying taxes, then somehow think what those taxes pay for is free.

It was too short, and only a partial cure for what ailed me. But I am happy to report there is plenty of wild in the life on South Mountain.

Come on out. But please, take your trash home with you.