It started right outside my window, about 50 feet away, where there are two half-dead cottonwood trees. The taller, more westward trunk had a bark-free area close to the top at the place the tree-man had sawed off a dead section. Several inches below the top, a perfectly round hole started to appear. No, it wasn’t magic let alone a massive rear-end invasion by a swarm of angry bees. But in a way it was magic and flying critters were involved. I doubt, though, that they were angry. What happened is that a pair of persistent flickers, wood-pecking birds, had decided on making a nest there.
All this happened last spring. The magic for me was that, taking turns, they managed to peck a perfectly round hole. Now how did they figure out how to do that with their minute birdbrains? And cooperatively! Eventually they hollowed out enough space for the two of them to enter the nest and turn around. Like professional carpenters, they had pecked out the inside with their jack-hammer beaks and from time to time would spit out the sawdust remains from their work. Soon enough, two flicker chicks appeared at the hole entrance with open beaklets for the forager parents to feed. Then, once the little ones had learned to fly, the whole family decamped (de-treed?!). When the same or another flicker pair returned to the tree-hole this spring, a squirrel had taken over. While my wife and I rooted from below, the flickers drove the intruder out, only to be evicted themselves by a smaller, more aggressive black bird. Undaunted, they pecked another hole in our second sawed-off backyard trunk. This time a squirrel—the same one?—kicked them out, and the flicker pair left our backyard, apparently for good.
Flickers, to be sure, are not the only natural magicians. Michael, one of our housemates, a beekeeper, brought home a heart-shaped beginner honeycomb. This creation was still fairly two-dimensional, with perfectly symmetrical small hexagonal holes on either flat side meant to accommodate bees, their larvae, and honey. Each tiny hole was paired with an exactly similar one on the other side of the flat comb. Now a bird’s brain, contrasted with theirs, is Einsteinian. Yet these little honeybees, working cooperatively like Star Trek’s Borg, pulled off symmetrical perfection. How did they do that? Maybe Divinity reflects itself in the creativity of even its smallest creatures, and we have yet to mention ants.
Now come on! Really! How did they do that?