Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - Dec. 22, 2005)
Tangerines and woodpeckers
I heard the morning paper hit the end of the
driveway with a slap as the aged, tied-on-muffler of a car crept down the empty
street. As it stopped at each house, it idled in a rumble of metal clanking and
belts slipping and squealing.
|Photo by Rick Tremmel
|Rain drenched breakfast
cold, juicy tangerines hang in bunches ready for the
Although the sun hadnt revealed itself on the horizon yet, I put the kettle
on, started to run a bath and flicked on the power for my computer. In what seemed
like minutes to my sluggish mind, the kettle was announcing that its job was done
and tea would be ready soon. The sun was barely breaking through the leaves and
dappling shadowy light upon the kitchen table. I shook my head and rubbed my
Id really like a fresh tangerine, Hon. Do we have any in the
frig? my husband inquired.
After checking the refrigerator I realized that the only tangerines available were
growing on the trees outside. This ought to wake me up, I contemplated with a
The morning air was fresh and cool. Patches of fog lay close to the ground. A
mockingbird was singing her heart out atop the lamp post while male and female
cardinals played on the feeder. I took a deep breath, reflecting, this is why we
live in Florida, for here it is the middle of December, and Im picking
tropical fruit. Any place north of here is presumably covered deep in snow drifts
with roads sheer ice.
The juicy tangerines hung in heavy clumps dripping from the previous nights
heavy rain. As I approached the tree, I noticed a quick movement among the leaves,
and then came a loud drumming sound against one of the limbs. A woodpecker, I
thought, what a delight.
On closer inspection I could see a small black and white bird of about 6 inches
with a bright red patch at his crown, a downy woodpecker. Although similar, the
downy woodpecker can be readily distinguished from the hairy woodpecker by its size
which is approximately 9 inches in length, and the Hairy Woodpecker has a much
The tiny downy woodpecker is a year-round resident of Florida and is common
throughout most of North America. Theyre often attracted and can be observed
visiting suet feeders. The male and female appear similar except for the small red
patch at the back of the males head.
The breast of this woodpecker is white. The crown is black, with the addition of a
small red patch on the male, with a white line just above the eye. Underneath the
eye is another black line that runs to the back of the head. Their white cheeks are
separated by a thinner black line that runs from the edge of the bill almost to the
back of the neck. The white patch on their backs is quiet visible even from a
distance. The wings of the downy woodpecker remind me of black and white finely
In Florida, both woodpeckers are often seen in fruit trees excavating bark, soft
wood and holes in search for insects. They will often make their nests in the soft
wood of old, abandoned fruit trees. One of the most charming traits of this
woodpecker is its lack of fear of humans. If youre fortunate enough to have
an attractive habitat to offer to this woodpecker youll be able to observe
them at close range without the need for binoculars, delighting in the antics of
the Downy Woodpecker as it searches for dinner upside-down.
Florida residents should watch for them especially at this time of the year when
fruit is plentiful, attracting a good source of insects for this charming little
bird to eat.
I watched the little woodpecker as he scaled each limb and searched every tiny
crevice, then I heard the screen door squeak open.
Karen, are you going to stay out there all day? my husband questioned
I smiled to myself as I twisted off a night-cooled, moist tangerine and thought,
Well, I would if I could.
What a joy it is to live on the Suncoast of Florida at this time of year,
dont you agree?
Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.