Shingle Springs, California
The Sierra Nevada Mountains west slope provides an excellent habitat for hundreds of species of bird and animals. The range stretching north to south is relatively gentle on the west slope while steep and cliff like on the east side on into the Nevada desert.
Some of the most beautiful spots in California are in the Central Sierra Nevada, on the western slope, just below the snowline where clean water is abundant and many varieties of fruits and vegetables thrive.
At 30 feet above sea level in Sacramento the elevation begins its rise to the 10,000 foot peaks that surround Lake Tahoe in a relatively short distance. Within the 85 miles lies hundreds of microclimates that nurture a wide variety of plants and animals. This altitude variety not only allows for the easy migration of deer and other animals in and out of snow and severe temperatures but creates sweet spots for sensitive and protected species such as the Red Headed Woodpecker.
With the increase of environmental protection and the desire to protect animal species, the co-existence of humans and wildlife in nature is making for creative solutions and interesting outcomes.
Judy Woodman is one example of using desire, need, and problem solving to create solutions that are mutually beneficial and harmonious in nature. Judy grew up on a farm in Michigan. She has lived in Minneapolis, Washington DC, and Los Angeles before making her move to the Sierra Foothills some 30 years ago. She loves the foothills and her raised bed gardens, small vineyard and apple orchard. Her fresh water well, seasonal stream, and ponds have provided hours of outdoor enjoyment immersing her deep in the sights smells and sounds of nature. Part of that enjoyment came from the wildlife. Spring meant ducks in the pond and Red Headed Woodpeckers building homes, gathering acorns and raising their young.
It was the unprecedented severe drought between December 2011 and March 2017 that began the disruption that nearly cost Judy her beloved Victorian home in the woods. The drought had already taken millions of trees up and down the Sierra Nevada that now stand dead and brown. As a steward of the land around her home Judy, her neighbors and friends began clearing dead trees in 2014. As the drought continued the cost of removal increased. While in the past the wood could usually be given away and used as firewood, the glut now caused the removal costs to rise. The prices escalated and the number of dead trees climbed. The size of the trees also became a factor as the drought continued. Four 100-year-old, 100 foot ponderosa pines died, turned brown and now hung over her driveway and outbuildings. As time went on the drought continued and the threat of wildfire was elevated, the need to cut down and remove dead wood from the five acres reached a critical point. That fall the trees were cut down. The brush was burned and thousands of dollars was spent on downing, cutting up and burning most dead trees with no injuries or incidences. It had been an expensive ordeal but no one was prepared for the next episode and threat.
As time passed and after the loggers had packed up and left the tat, tat ,tat on the house increased.
“Sometimes there were three or four woodpeckers chipping away on my house at one time. I tried stringing reflective tape, mylar balloons and owl and hawk decoys. The balloons worked best but once when I returned from a trip I found flat balloons and house damage estimated in the thousands of dollars. It was then I realized this was a serious problem”.
The tall dead trees had been keeping the colony safe and occupied for years. Judy had left a few standing that were away from the house on a back acre, but it seemed that wasn’t going to be enough. They were soon pecking through the siding and into the wall.
Solutions of netting and chemicals were suggested and rejected. Just after the elaborate repairs Judy decided to try various hanging, spinning, moving devices. Some made from fishing line and lead weights in conjunction with the ever present mylar balloons.
“That year we essentially eliminated 99% of the threat with well designed well placed reflective devices that swiveled, moved, cast light and shadows. We have evolved to a level of refinement where they are working 24/7 now without the mylar balloons”.
Judy’s line of woodpecker deterrents is now popular as Eave Ornaments. Her friends tell her they brighten up a boring home with sparkling, glimmering corners that create interest, intrigue and enjoyment as art… as well as keeping pests at bay.
Some of her ornaments are now adorned with Swarovski crystals, colorful gemstones, and mirrored beads and each one has a unique reflective sail. Judy has also developed a 360 twisted stainless steel piece usually near the top that looks as if it is “always on” even in the lowest of light.
“Now it is rare that I hear any tapping on the house. It has been nearly a year now and there has been no new damage. My family and friends use them not because they have a woodpecker problem but because they enjoy the art and dance of light. People tell me they keep away other unwanted pests like mice and rats but I can’t confirm. I do know they emanate good energy, joy and a reminder that there is always a solution in nature.”