The first harvest of summer produce is in full swing with tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, green beans and wheat all ready for harvesting at Gibson House.


I was harvesting dill seed when movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention. Fluttering across the shady grass was a fledgling bird of some sort.


Looking up, I noticed that one of the visiting neighborhood cats had also spied the bird and was getting into position to pounce.


Springing into action, I loudly clapped my hands and averted the cats pounce and gently scooped up the bird into my hand.


The cat, obviously dismayed at his foiled attack, was watching my every move. He knew that I’d gotten to the bird first and was just waiting for me to set it down again.


So I walked around the front of the house and onto the front porch with the bird in my hand. That was when I realized that this was a bird that I have never seen this close before.


The bird was a young downy woodpecker! All the telltale black and white feathers were there on the wings, with a tail that had some growing yet to do. The downy sat calmly in my hand, watching me closely but not struggling.


Downy woodpeckers are the smallest species of woodpecker in North America. In size, they are bigger than a sparrow, yet smaller than a robin.


The bold black and white wings and tail are shared by both the male and female birds, but the adult male bird sports a bright red patch at the crown of his head.


This little downy didn’t have that patch, so it was either an immature male or a female.


Dead and dying trees are where the Downy woodpecker chooses to chisel out a nest hole, anywhere from 5 to 30 feet up.


After laying up to six eggs, both the male and female birds take turns sitting on the eggs until they hatch. After that, it’s a steady back-and-forth to the nest with insects for the young birds.


Young Downies stay in the nest from 3 weeks to a month before they are capable of leaving. After that, they tend to follow the parent birds around for a few weeks before they are truly out on their own.


The young Downy woodpecker now sitting calmly in the palm of my hand looked nearly full-grown.


Carefully walking around and into the Timber Garden, I watched the young bird show interest in the trees above as we walked into the shadow of the dying elm tree high above the timber garden.


None of the visiting neighbor cats were anywhere to be seen, so this was the perfect getaway time for the fledgling. It sat still in the palm of my hand and as we got closer to the trunk of the big elm tree, the bird hopped onto the trunk and continued upward until it disappeared behind some leafy branches.