Acorn Woodpecker Season

Acorn smallerFor my birthday yesterday, I headed to my redwood retreat, twin giants in the Santa Cruz Mountains that I described in a previous post here.

This is a busy time of the year for the acorn woodpeckers. They gather their stash of fallen acorns from the live oaks and tan oaks and hammer them into their granary trees for the coming months. While other birds are pretty quiet this time of year since it’s past nesting season, yesterday the raucous family groups of acorn woodpeckers chatted away as they flew above me in flashes of black and white wings.

I settled in leaning against one of the two ancient redwoods. The young tan oak that had been a footrest in recent years looked dead, most likely another victim of the sudden oak death that has been ravaging California in recent years. The trunk was only as wide as my foot, and I lightly pushed my toes against it to see if was in fact dead. To my surprise, the entire thing toppled over, with its trunk rotten where it broke at the bottom.

I nested in the hollow that the former oak tree occupied, with the slope creating a headrest above me and the tangle of fallen branches providing a place to prop up my feet. I curled up and watched and listened.

I wonder how much of nature I miss by moving through it instead of being still. In that one spot for a chunk of the afternoon, I became a part of the landscape for a while. A tiny spider tried to use my shoulder as an anchor for her web. I could hear what sounded like a small mammal moving around beneath the layer of dead leaves and twigs. I watched the leaves of the tan oaks above me and the redwood needles even higher move in the wind that preceded the fog, then watched their colors change as they became still again once the fog arrived. All to the accompaniment of the acorn woodpeckers, which you can listen to here.

The light would be fading soon. I reluctantly sat up, disentangled the pieces of redwood and tan oak duff from my hair, and retraced my steps back up the trail. I snapped this photo of a fallen leaf from a big-leaf maple, the one deciduous tree around here that provides fall color.

Big leaf maple leaf 9-2014


  1. Hi and Happy Birthday,

    Yours is the twentieth, and mine the eighteenth, Happy Birthday to us both!!! I enjoyed your piece below on your trip to S.C. It was quite enjoyable and it sounds as though you had a lovely time.

    I love the photograph of the acorn below, I have never seen one open. Truly a little beauty.


    • Thanks for the note, David. The image does look an open acorn, but it’s actually the acorn top that attaches to the tree and the acorn itself is missing. The one behind it in the image is a different acorn entirely. This is hard to explain, I hope what I’ve said isn’t confusing.


  2. Always a treat to read your writing. And so glad that you made it to your special place for your birthday! I was treated yesterday morning to something I’d never seen before either, and just in my backyard garden. Spider sex!! It was fascinating – though not much to see really when they finally got together. There was a whole lot of back and forth, arms reaching out, gauging interest (she seemed at best disinterested, at worst hostile). But ultimately they clung together in a ball for a short while, then separated. My breakfast guest had to leave, so I missed whether or not the fabled post-coital feast of father by mother happened, but it didn’t seem so. There were no remains in the web. She was busy building her perfect geometry, alone, when I was able to go out and see how things had wrapped up.

    So, I hear you about having the time to sit and be still.

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