09 March 2009


Excuse me?

I looked out the window this morning and I was actually angry. I don't anger easily, but here's the view now, after I shoveled the walk and driveway and cleared off the car:

March. Vancouver. WTF?

This is Vancouver. In March. In contrast, here's what we were doing in your yard in February last year:


Or, for that matter, three weeks ago at the schoolyard:

Playgrounders 1

Even my kids looked out at the snow today and said, "Not again!"

I mean, WTF?

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08 March 2009


A match of wits

Our problem woodpecker has returned, a month later, and seems undeterred by our protective chimney cages. We thought weather or the bird itself might have disturbed them, but no, they are still firmly in place. So the first move is to make the cages bigger—our Northern flicker may be large enough to get its beak right between the mesh to the metal.

Whenever I've heard the hammering (around 7 a.m., or 8 now that we're in Daylight Saving Time), I've made a quick leap into my bathrobe and slippers and tossed some pebbles from our yard onto the roof, which seems to scare it away each time. But, clever as this bird is, it doesn't seem to learn from the experience. As my dad said, "it's a match of wits." So far, the woodpecker is outwitting us.

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07 February 2009


Return of the pecker

Remember this guy, the crazy Northern flicker woodpecker who used our kitchen stovepipe for a sounding board last March? Who woke us up every morning around 7 until we wrapped the metal chimney in bubble wrap? Who we thought was gone for good?

Well, he's back. Or was. Yesterday morning around 8 a.m., suddenly there was that familiar machine-gun metallic banging in the kitchen again. (The later hour makes sense, since it's over a month earlier in the season, so the sun is rising a bit later too, and I expect these guys time their noisemaking to the light.) I'm not sure if the bubble wrap fell off in the winter winds, or whether my dad, who lives in the other half of the duplex, removed it at some point.

PeckerscreenUPDATE: My dad set up a nice solution to the problem, as shown in the photo. Let's see if it works.

When the pecker started pecking, I was in the kitchen, so I immediately turned on the noisy stove fan again, and the banging stopped. Encouragingly, there was nothing today. But listen, flicker, I have my ear out for you. You'd best mosey along before we take action again.

This is not a purely Vancouver problem by any means, as I found out from the Bad Astronomer in Colorado last year.

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24 March 2008



Northern flicker at Flickr.comAccording to the provincial government, there are 12 species of woodpecker that appear at least occasionally in British Columbia, but only a few are common in the southern coastal areas outside the summer months. The one I've noticed most often is the pileated woodpecker, with its distinctive red swooshy head.

Right now, one of these guys is being a real goddamned pecker around our house.

UPDATE: I think I have unfairly maligned the pileated woodpecker. Although I still haven't spotted it directly, numerous reports from my readers and more careful listening to the infernal tapping tells me that our woodpecker is more likely to be a Northern flicker (I've updated the accompanying photo accordingly). In any case, a suggestion to burn some paper under our stove hood when we hear the tapping, so smoke sends the bird away, may be working. We'll see.

You see, it has decided that the metal chimney above our stove is an ideal target. I don't know why: if I were a woodpecker, I'd probably figure out fairly quickly that there aren't any tasty grubs living inside a kitchen vent. Then again, woodpecker skulls have evolved largely to withstand massive repeated impacts, not for smarts.

Now, imagine what it sounds like at, say 7:18 a.m. on Easter Monday, to have a woodpecker pounding away, Kalashnikov-like, on a highly-reverberant tube of metal that leads directly from the roof of your house into the amplifying stove hood in the middle of your kitchen, which is in the centre of the structure, right across the hall from the bedrooms. This has been going on intermittently for two or three weeks now at our place.

I stumbled out of bed and turned on the stove vent fan (which is very loud, being older than I am). No dice. So I wandered outside in bathrobe and bare feet and hucked a couple of small stones from our yard in the general direction of that part of the roof. I was surprised at my accuracy at such a bleary-eyed time of the morning.

There were some clattering noises, and I think I scared it off for now. It's likely pileated—the largest surviving woodpecker variety in North America, by the way—from the sound of its drumming, but I haven't actually seen it yet. I suppose if it persists in trying to find an insect colony in our kitchen chimney, it will eventually starve to death, but maybe it's clever enough to be working on some nearby trees too. I hope it avoids punching a bunch of holes in the aluminum, anyway, and that it gets the point (ha ha) eventually and moves on. Or I'll have to get better aim.

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