Toad in the Hole

June 30, 2005

"I Forgot to Count Her Toes."

We made a break for Yuba Pass, a bit north of Tahoe/Truckee, on Sunday, and just got back tonight. Great trip -- birds, mammals, flora, weather, rocks -- and worth getting all stinky from camping in an officially not-open-yet campground with no water (we brought our own) or trash collection (packed it out) or pit-toilet pumping-out (ugh, gag). Saved us $18.00 a night, anyway. Insert rant about privatization here. It was almost as crappy a year or so ago when we did have to pay.

One good bit was a very conveniently located black-backed woodpecker nest. Understand: This species skunked us both for decades. I looked for some 20 years, and Joe looked for it even longer before we saw one flashing past some years back at Mt. Lassen. Then we saw one at Yuba Pass a year or two ago. This time, we had good long looks at the female for two evenings, as she entered and left the nest. Noisy, interestingly different, wary bird. Very gratifying. I swear she looked back at us, but not the way hawks and owls do; rather, out of the corner of her eye.

After the show each night, we bowed and thanked the birds -- the visible female and the audible male -- and strolled back to the campsite. "Damn," said Joe the first night, "I forgot to count her toes." And the second: "I forgot to count her toes again." You may construe this as sarcasm; that's a very distinctive bird, never mind the toes. (Three. Used to be called the "black-backed three-toed woodpecker." Now the former "northern three-toed woodpecker" is just the "three-toed woodpecker" and she's the "black-backed woodpecker." This is one of the more sensible nomenclature changes in the last few decades.)

And that wasn't even the high point of the trip. When I can reliably find my fingers again -- tomorrow, I hope -- I'll post about one mammalian surprise.

Posted at June 30, 2005 06:41 AM