Posted by: atowhee | March 15, 2020


“Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue shriller than all the music. Cry “Caesar!” Speak, Caesar is turn’d to hear.
“Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
“Caesar: What man is that?
“Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.”

“Imprisonment of the body is bitter; imprisonment of the mind is worse”
― Thornton Wilder, The Ides of March

On this Ides of March there was no gathering of old Senators.  No gangly gang with sharp shives.  No old men clotted together, sharing mucous droplets and, perhaps, dread virus.  It Italy now there is certainly no gathering of old men.  Forbidden even on this day.  In our own venerable, antiquated Senate such restrictions are in suspension like the dread virus may be.  No rules on gathering yet promulgated by 78 year old Mitch McConnell.  Perhaps, a true believer in American exceptionalism, especially as applied to himself, Mitch fears nought and fears not. Aged American Senators may go where others fear to handshake?  I could find nothing online about how the US Capital is being deep cleaned for the sake of Congress.

Myself, not quite as old as Mitch himself, have no such faith in personal or cultural exceptionalism, so the dog and I went out birding, away from all other large mammals.  Trees, some wildflowers like yellow violet and dandelions, plenty of birds.  Our Ides proved exceptional.  We went again to bird and walk at Grenfell Park on Baker Creek Road.

Today I heard the loud, sharp voiced of a large bird, glimpsed a long, dark form go into a bare cottonwood.  With binoculars I found the vocalist.  A Pileated Woodpecker fifty feet up.  Before we left ear-shot he called four times—the spring-time series of stark notes that rise and then drop in volume, the middle notes loudest.  There are usually six to eight of those calls in any series.  About half of what you expect from a flicker calling.

I have birded there often, as I wrote above.  Checking my eBird records I find four previous Pileated records for all of Baker Creek Road. Those were in April, August and October. I am sure three of those were audible IDs at that park where I have never before seen a Pileated despite over a hundred visits.  This largest of our living woodpeckers in the US is not rare around here, but never abundant because each pair has a territory of several square miles so they are scarce at any one spot unless it is near an active nest.  Be aware for the Ides of March, I’d say.

Tree Swallows again today at large farm pond along Pheasant Hill Road.

Weather note: in the Coast Range foothills  the snow level mid-day was well below one thousand feet elevation.


  1. 1. Will the virus live on/in the hair of the dog? Say my hand carry contamination, I pet said animal, then another such as Mitch pets sam animal, will this spread contamination?

    2. What is the difference between “rare” and “never abundant” as in your description of Pileated Woodpecker?

    Always enjoy your writing and the information shared.


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