Pileated Woodpecker’s ‘snowflakes’


The Pileated Woodpecker is our largest local woodpecker. He was the inspiration for the cartoon drawing AND extremely loud voice of Woody Woodpecker. If you think you’re hearing Woody Woodpecker in the forest or even in a suburban backyard, it’s a Pileated. If you see a crow-size black bird with big white stripes and a dramatic bright red crest, it’s her. If it also has a red stripe on its cheek, it’s him.  They loudly whack and drum away with their mighty beaks on dead trees and logs in search of yummy insects. Carpenter ants are their favorite meal. pileated-1

The awesome pile of rectangular chips at the base of this dead maple is the closest thing we’ve seen this winter to remind us of snow. They are the work of a hungry pileated. The chips are easily identified because of their unique rectangular shape. (Sorry about the trash in the photo. I didn’t notice it this morning but I’ll pick it up this afternoon.)


I will also try to remember to take a photo of a chip next to my ‘measuring’ pocket knife. Many of these chips are 1.5 inches or longer.


This photo shows one of several locations where he or she chopped away at the dead maple to create the impressive’ snowfall’ at the base.

The pileated is easy to identify even if you don’t see it. Listen for its loud drumming and its crazy loud whinnying , laughing “Woody Woodpecker” voice. Watch for piles of rectangular chips at the base of dead trees. They are really obvious! Rectangular holes in trees indicate that a pileated has nested there. Once you find a nest hole, keep an eye on it. Even if you don’t see a piliated occupying it next Spring, you might discover other birds like swifts, owls, ducks or bats using it.

Please share this information with your friends!


Have yourself a Merry Christmas chigger


Have yourself a Merry Christmas chigger!  Never seen before! Climbed a blade of grass on Chapman Forest floor! (Sing to ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas’.)

Think of this as your Christmas card from a would-be entomologist. Sorry it’s a bit out of focus. I thought it was a berry. But the ‘stem’ looked so much like a blade of grass that I looked closer. This is an adult chigger. It won’t bite you, which makes it a more appropriate subject for a Christmas card.


Better focus photo. Photos taken 12/18/16 in Chapman Forest, MD.

Per Steve Tally at Perdue U: “Chiggers aren’t insects, but arachnids, just like spiders and scorpions. They are a type of mite related to ticks. “Chiggers is a common name we give to the larvae of several species of mite,” Tim Gibb quote.

• Sometimes tiny red mites (I didn’t think it was that tiny!) are seen, especially on light-colored concrete. These are adult chiggers, which don’t bite people, but instead feed on insect eggs and other insects. The chigger larvae are much smaller than the adults– half a dozen of them could fit on the period at the end of this sentence. Chigger larvae can scarcely be been seen without a magnifying glass.

• Although adult chiggers have eight legs, when they are in their biting larval stage they have just six. And unlike ticks, chiggers don’t carry Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

• Chiggers aren’t really good at biting, and can bite only thin skin, which is why they bite children or women more than men. They like to bite in soft, light and moist areas of the body where the sun and weather haven’t made the skin tough and dry. These are places where chiggers are least welcome.”

Per entomologist H.B. Hungerford:

The thing called a chigger,
is really no bigger,
than the smaller end of a pin,
but the bump that it raises,
just itches like blazes,
and that’s where the rub sets in.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL! Please send comments and share this blog. 

Mercury deserves more respect!


Please watch the southwestern sky right after sunset tonight. You may be able to see 3 planets at once: Mercury, Venus and Mars. In the Washington, DC area people often rely on the Washington Post Metro section’s back page for info about the Solar system. But the list does not include all planets visible to the naked eye. Last year the Post decided to eliminate Mercury from its list to save room!!!!  See 12/16/16 list below. See how much room they saved by eliminating Mercury!


Mercury rises at 8:49 AM and sets at 6:08 PM. Mercury is very faint and pretty close to the horizon. You’ll need a location that allows you a clear view from not too high above the horizon. Even if you can’t see Mercury, look for Venus which is higher and extremely bright. Mars is easy to identify because of its subtle red glow. If it’s cloudy, try another evening when the sky is clear. Remember planets rise and set at a slightly different time every day so Mercury won’t be visible for much longer.

Please help me choose a good name for my blog. I need a name that will help people find the blog. What about “Walk this way”?




Matisse started creating his wonderful paper cut out collages when he turned 70 and found scissors easier to handle than paint brushes. I decided to explore his concepts myself.


Here is my inspiration for the flower design. It is located in the newly renovated East Building of the National Gallery of Art.


This design appealed to me because of its simplicity of form and color.


You can do it too. Here are all the necessary supplies:


Nothing but scissors, blank greeting cards and adhesive-backed foam sheets. Not even any glue or pencils required! Can you imagine anything simpler?!


So now I’m happily making the world’s fastest homemade colorful, squishy Christmas cards! Please send photos of yours!




Per Wikileaks: Even a worm will turn is an expression used to convey the message that even the meekest or most docile of creatures will retaliate or get revenge if pushed too far. The phrase was first recorded in a 1546 collection of proverbs by John Heywood, in the form “Treade a worme on the tayle, and it must turne agayne.”

This particular worme was happily crossing the road when it was discovered by a couple 70-something-year-olds on a walk.


It was stretching and scrunching its way over the scratchy blacktop, heading to the right.


So we measured it.


Because its length kept changing, we measured it again… and again, eagerly attempting to record its longest stretch.  Please note we did not bump into it nor did we ever step on its tayle.


Provoked, the worme examined the 2.25″ measuring device.


Then it changed direction and backtracked to the left. But it did not turne!  The tayle became the heade!



I love to say good morning to the Moon as I walk back toward the house with an armload of daily newspapers!  Today’s blog is a reminder that this is that special time of  month when you get to greet the moon in the morning. For the next week or we can watch the Moon wane.

In case you’re wondering where the moon will be tomorrow, hold your arm out very straight. Flatten your hand horizontally. Set your thumb on the top edge of the moon. Same time tomorrow, the Moon will be at the top edge of where your little finger is today


Does this help?