On the evening of June 26th, I found myself wandering the woodland path in search of Daisy deer. I had not seen her in the early morning, but that was not unusual as she had developed a habit of showing up whenever she pleased. Daisy had been on her own since mid-January. She had tried to follow local herds but did not seem to be accepted. This is normal. She was probably considered a danger to a herd, being raised by humans and not knowing the way of deer. We sometimes watched from our back porch, where the wild deer would come to the feeder and water tub down below the slope. Daisy would try to come up to a doe, only to be hoofed away. She never gave up. I was proud, yet sad, that her attempts to join a herd were always met with hooves, lots of bruising and patches of hair missing. Our girl looked rough, and we felt for her, but we knew this was the way of the deer and that she would eventually learn their ways, though not without difficulty. In the meantime, FD and I did our best to let her know it was just fine with us that she chose to hang with her people herd any time she pleased!
Sure enough, I hadn’t walked far before Daisy caught my scent and emerged from the woods, looking rather sleepy. I had her apple snack with me and she smacked it down heartily. This was an evening ritual that we had started long ago. Once finished, I pulled the old, soft horse brush out and gave her a good brushing. Daisy had loved this brush since the first time FD massaged her with it. This too, had become an evening ritual. After her brushing, Daisy meandered off to the corn feeder and I fetched my camera from the fallen tree where I had set it down while tending to Daisy’s apple snack and brushing.
Whenever I head to the woods, I generally take my camera with me. One never knows what photo opportunity might come along! While I snapped a few photos of Daisy, I kept hearing a sound much like a whistling noise. It made me think of the first time I tried to whistle as a kid. I never was a good whistler. My attempts sounded weak, with plenty of air escaping my lips and not much sound. Whatever I was hearing sounded like these first, weak “whistles” of mine, “Tssssk, tssssssk, tsssssk”.
I continued to listen and follow. The sound seemed to be coming from the ground. I finally decided it was being made by something IN the dead grasses. Great. With”snake on the brain” every time I ventured into the woods, I hoped it wasn’t some creepy serpent waiting to bite me! But then, who ever heard of a whistling snake? As I pondered this mystery, I suddenly discovered the whistling critter right at my feet. I had stumbled upon a little bird and knew immediately it was a woodpecker fledgling. The feet and the beak left no question about that, but which species of woodpecker was it?
I took a couple of photos of this new discovery, then found a place to sit a distance away so I could just observe. Surely this little fledgling had parents nearby that were tending to it, feeding and encouraging flight. I sat for 30 minutes, with Daisy coming to me to lick and get her Mama’s love. I petted her and brushed her a little more while she licked my arms, chest and neck. It was a ritual of bonding between us carried on since she was a wee, speckled fawn.
Focusing my thoughts back to the little woodpecker now, I soon began to worry. It was getting dark and I’d seen no sign of its parents. FD called from San Francisco where he was on business. We discussed what to do with the little fledgling that had now hopped under a fallen, but still live, tree. We decided I should take it in the house for the night.
But, what humans feel is safe and necessary, isn’t always what nature would agree with. This little woodpecker fledgling would have no part of being brought indoors. It continued to make the whistling noise, and paced and hopped in effort to escape the little box that contained it. I tried putting a barrier over the top of the box so it would be dark and hopefully calm the fledgling, but this tactic only seemed to produce more attempts to escape. Finally, with a heavy heart, I took the little bird back down to the fallen tree. I found a place on a branch where the young woodpecker would be hidden by leaves. After placing him there, I said a prayer of protection and walked back up the slope. Of course I worried all night and didn’t sleep very well, feeling that I might not have done the right thing… but then, what WAS the right thing to do?
The next morning, I wasted no time getting back down the slope to see if my little friend was still there. But my heart sunk when I didn’t see it where I had last placed it on the branch of the fallen tree. I looked all around and, thinking it might have fallen, even crawled around on the ground looking for it. But, there was just no sign of it.
A little in despair at this point, I was suddenly aware of Daisy deer standing next to me, licking my shorts and nibbling on a button. Silly girl… she was always so quiet on approach. Daisy never doubted who her Mama was, and always seemed to show up when I needed her most. Feeling better from my dose of Daisy’s deer medicine, I ran up the slope to get her a morning treat of what else?? An apple!
After returning with her apple treat and delighting in Daisy’s happy crunching ritual, I sat down to enjoy my girl and wonder about my little friend of the night before. It was while I sat with Daisy that I heard, once again, the slight, “Tsssssssk, tsssssk, tssssssk” coming from a nearby tree. Sure enough, having relocated himself, there was the little woodpecker fledgling, hanging on the trunk of a slender tree. My little friend had made it through the night!
Suddenly, I heard the rolling “kwirr” call of an adult woodpecker. Maybe this was one if the little woodpecker’s parents. While I never did see them feeding the little fledgling, I did see the adult birds land nearby. And eventually, I spotted the hole in a dead tree top where I thought its siblings were being tended to. Seeing this, I surmised that this little fellow must have been the eldest and decided there just couldn’t be that much to this flying thing. Like the rookie skier tumbling down the black slopes at Vale, I’m thinking he should have waited for his lessons.
Back in the house, I researched the different species of woodpecker and discovered this little fellow was a Red-bellied Woodpecker, which lives year-around in Oklahoma. I believe the parent I photographed feeding the nestlings is the male. The best article on Red-bellied woodpeckers I found was online at “Chipperwoods Bird Observatory”. If you would like to hear the Red-bellied woodpecker calls, I recommend, “Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds”.
Later in the day, I could not find my fledgling friend again. Though I did a thorough search and I listened intently, I did not see the little fellow anywhere. The parents were still feeding the young in the tree above. They were obviously doing their best to care for all concerned, and I decided there was truly nothing more that I could do.
I find it is often that way in life. If we do our best and we have a clear conscience at the end of the day, knowing we gave it our all and acted in caring, compassion, and love, then we have done well. Many times we must trust, be it God, the Universe, or our own spirit or gut, to let go of worry and wonder, and simply allow life to be as it is. This is something Daisy deer taught me the day we set her free. There was no sense in looking back and wondering if we did the right thing the day we took her in. We trusted our instinct and spirit that day, raised her as best we could, then set her free.
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…