Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Woodpecker attack

Am feeling a bit like Job. As if it weren't enough that the garden's been slimed this year by more fungus and bad-actor insects than I've seen in its five-year existence altogether, now comes what I believe is the downy woodpecker to set up housekeeping in our cedar pergola. This came to light at breakfast the other day. My husband said, "Oh, look! There's a beautiful woodpecker." So cute. Not long after, we discovered why this guy was hammering away - carpenter bees have moved into the pergola, causing deep holes and gouges that I guess they take naps in. If you look closely at this picture, you'll see the woodpecker - and he is beautiful - attached to the pergola with his strong claws. He pecks with a bill that's been compared to a chisel - sharp, pointed, able to penetrate not just cedar, but redwood, stucco siding, metal gutters, TV antennae and other materials. He likes to hear himself drill and, in spring, uses this "drumming" or pecking to attract a mate, defend or establish territory. Well, spring's over, pal, and from what I read, you're supposed to be gone by July 1. That is, unless you're feeding on the carpenter bees, extracting them from their beds and squishing them with your long, bristly, sticky tongue. What a way to go. So we filled up the holes with putty, only to find the woodpecker had returned the next day and dug 'em out again. Now I understand we need to attack with shaving mirrors and hawk silhouette mobiles, black plastic strips and aluminum pie tins PLUS gas cannons and air guns and loud music and banging pots and pans. Good grief! Even my super-tolerant neighbors might object to such a sensory onslaught. Or maybe not. I live in the city, where pots and pans and air guns and loud music and bone-rattling car stereos for that matter are no big whoop. But woodpeckers? What the heck do I do about them?

Woodpecker attack

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Rosa 'All Ablaze' blazes cherry red in Burke Brothers' Tuscany exhibit, accenting classic Italian elements with bright flowers. (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)
Rosa 'All Ablaze' blazes cherry red in Burke Brothers' Tuscany exhibit, accenting classic Italian elements with bright flowers. (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)

Am feeling a bit like Job. As if it weren't enough that the garden's been slimed this year by more fungus and bad-actor insects than I've seen in its five-year existence altogether, now comes what I believe is the downy woodpecker to set up housekeeping in our cedar pergola. This came to light at breakfast the other day. My husband said, "Oh, look! There's a beautiful woodpecker." So cute. Not long after, we discovered why this guy was hammering away - carpenter bees have moved into the pergola, causing deep holes and gouges that I guess they take naps in. If you look closely at this picture, you'll see the woodpecker - and he is beautiful - attached to the pergola with his strong claws. He pecks with a bill that's been compared to a chisel - sharp, pointed, able to penetrate not just cedar, but redwood, stucco siding, metal gutters, TV antennae and other materials. He likes to hear himself drill and, in spring, uses this "drumming" or pecking to attract a mate, defend or establish territory. Well, spring's over, pal, and from what I read, you're supposed to be gone by July 1. That is, unless you're feeding on the carpenter bees, extracting them from their beds and squishing them with your long, bristly, sticky tongue. What a way to go. So we filled up the holes with putty, only to find the woodpecker had returned the next day and dug 'em out again. Now I understand we need to attack with shaving mirrors and hawk silhouette mobiles, black plastic strips and aluminum pie tins PLUS gas cannons and air guns and loud music and banging pots and pans. Good grief! Even my super-tolerant neighbors might object to such a sensory onslaught. Or maybe not. I live in the city, where pots and pans and air guns and loud music and bone-rattling car stereos for that matter are no big whoop. But woodpeckers? What the heck do I do about them?  

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About this blog
Ginny Smith, a Philadelphia native, joined the Inquirer at 1985. After stints as both reporter and editor in the city and suburbs, she’s been happily writing – and learning - about gardening full time since 2006. She’s won two silver medals of achievement from the national Garden Writers Association and in 2011, Bartram’s Garden honored her with its Green Exemplar award for her stories about “the region’s deeply rooted horticultural history, cultural attractions and bountiful gardens.” She plays in her own – mostly - bountiful garden in East Falls. Reach Virginia A. at vsmith@phillynews.com .

Virginia A. Smith Inquirer Staff Writer
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