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Creek Running North
May 30, 2003
Hearing the Nuttall's
As Zeke and I headed down toward the creek this morning, we were greeted by a woodpecker's drumming. I imagine it was a Nuttall's. When we first moved in to the neighborhood a year ago, a Nuttall's was one of the first neighbors to introduce itself, clinging boldly to the trunk of a jacaranda tree on the corner, staying at about cat eye level.
I go through a bit of a mental disconnect when I see a Nuttall's woodpecker. I'm used to seeing their close kin, the ladderbacks, when I camp in the Mojave, and I wonder for a moment if I'm not actually in Ivanpah rather than Pinole.
Not this morning, though. All I heard was the drumming. My sense of geographical integrity was safe, for the moment.
For an urbanizing former suburb - not a bad description of the whole county, come to think of it - our block hosts a lot of bird diversity. A list of birds seen from our yard in the last year would include, just off the top of my head, the everpresent crows, jays of scrub and Steller's variety, an occasional raven, mockingbirds to harass the crows and jays, bushtits and housefunches and towhees, turkey vultures and red tails and sharp-shinned hawks, the white-tailed kites that nest in the pines across the way, the barn owl in the palm at the Karate dojo, doves and song- and golden-crowned sparrows, rufous-sided and California towhees, western tanagers and orioles and warblers (don't ask me which ones), Say's phoebe, one kingfisher, and the exotics: house sparrows and starlings and if you count birding by ear, chickens and a peacock or two. Not that I've kept track.
Part of the reason is the trees. From here to the Bay, along the ridgeline of which our hill is a minor component, runs a thick belt of trees, most of them natives. Coast live oak and California buckeye predominate, with a sizable minority of black walnut. Down the hill a piece, there's an as-yet-undeveloped lot that grows jungly thick, with marah vine and poison oak climbing up into the oak and buckeye canopy. It reminds me of the sticky-humid woods in Upstate New York, which formed my chief childhood image of the wild. I gaze into the tangle of vine and lose track of myself... until the dog pulls on his leash, anxious to get to the next bit of vertical squirrel habitat.