Back to Nature (Published on - Sept. 13, 2006)
It’s a beautiful time of year
Photo by Rick Tremmel
Baby’s first steps: Under the supervision of his parents close by, a red-bellied woodpecker learns to search for food.
It’s gorgeous out, a little bit cooler in the mornings and evenings. Everything is in full bloom. The landscape is green, rivers flowing and ponds bursting with lilies, faces turned upward to turquoise skies and billowing clouds.

My garden is luscious. So what’s the problem? Well, I can’t go out for more than a few minutes without plastering myself with layers of insect repellent. Nope it’s not the mosquitoes. I’ve developed a sensitivity to no-see-ums. Now tell me, how can something I can’t even see cause me multiple, huge red, burning stinging welts within minutes of stepping out into the fresh air?

I’ve camped with grizzlies and cougars in my camp, stepped over rattlesnakes (to my surprise), been stung by an assassin bug, treated for poisonous spider bites, and slid down a hoodoo, (What’s a hoodoo? That’s a story for another day). I’ve been backed down a mountain by an overprotective mother bobcat and let’s not even talk about how many times I’ve “gotten back up” onto a horse, so what’s with these nasty little creatures that are basically invisible? I’ve got shelves of promised remedies.

Nothing consistently works. Where’s a good scientist when I need one? Someone please invent something that halts these varmints in their tracks without also killing me, as well.

This is the way I began my morning, moaning and groaning, itching and scratching, but look, the trees are full of birds. Rick grabs his camera. (They don’t bite him.) The trees are alive with babies. We believed we had a mated pair of red-bellied woodpeckers, but could not locate any nesting cavity. Here was proof.

We could see Mom and Pop yelping and fussing over at least three little babies. They were almost fully feathered and being taught how to search for food. I quickly forget the pain. They were adorable, pecking indiscriminately up and down the trunks of the trees, and then looking back at their parents for reassurance. Like children in a newly discovered playground, they joyfully fluttered about testing their boundaries.

Red-bellied woodpeckers are beneficial residents. They seek out insects within the bark of trees consuming large numbers of wood-boring beetles, as well as grasshoppers and ants. Red-bellied woodpeckers also catch insects while in flight. Their diet includes: insects, nuts, acorns and fruit.

Ouch – as I rub on salve – but it was worth it, babies. As always – back to nature.

Let us take a moment out of our day in remembrance of a passionate crusader for nature, Steve Irwin. I personally feel I lost one of my heroes this week. He lived the life he dreamed. Irwin’s father said his son died doing what he loved. (

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