The cottonwood tree had been sick for years; this year Bill finally cut it down. He cut the trunk into two and three-foot pieces for me to use on the borders of my walk path and in the cactus bed. As I was poking through the pile of short logs for just the right one to finish the redo on the bed under the pinion pines, I came across the section that had a nice round hole in it, made and used by a woodpecker family for several years. I’m not sure what kind of woodpeckers they were, but we rather enjoyed listening to the rat-a-tat-tat when the birds were in residence at the old tree.
I don’t remember hearing or seeing the woodpeckers much, if at all, last year, and since their tree is no longer standing, I haven’t seen them this year, either. I felt a bit guilty when we cut down the tree, knowing they had a nest there, but thought surely they could make another one in another tree. Bill said he had heard and seen them, so I would like to think they fashioned another home close by.
But when I picked up the log with their nest in it, I was curious as to how they furnished their nest inside, so I looked. There, nestled inside was the body of a young little woodpecker, eyes closed, feathers dry but still intact. How sad to see the little baby curled up in there as if waiting for Mom or Dad to return. Or did they return, and it was too late? I’ll never know what happened, of course, but it broke my heart to see the little thing still waiting silently. And then I couldn’t help but think of human parents who have lost a child, and the hole that leaves in a life, in a heart.
I have no idea how long the little woodpecker has been there in its nest. The body doesn’t seem decomposed; our dry weather and the protection of being inside the tree trunk may protect it for years. I could have tried to take it out, but there was no reason to. And somehow, every reason not to. I am sorry the family left. I am sad the baby died. This was the only way I could think of to pay my respects. So there he shall stay.
Godspeed, little bird, and all little children who have left the world too soon.