Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is overrun with acorn woodpeckers, and they're a beautiful sight ... colorful, sociable, raucous and simply entertaining as they zip from tree to tree, jamming holes with, or searching for stored acorns.
But capturing up-close woodpecker images can be tricky, especially for amateur photographers (like me) with limited lens-strength and patience.
(Typically, if I get close enough to photograph a woodpecker hammering away on the trunk of a tree, it will simply skitter to the opposite side of the trunk in what invariably becomes a frustrating game of cat-and-mouse.)
In fact, the bird shown in the accompanying images practically flew into my face before settling onto the tree trunk to single out one of hundreds of holes in its bark.
The woodpecker's purpose seemed so singular, at least for half a minute, that my presence was tolerated.
But I did make note, while shooting through a 300-millimeter lens, that other woodpeckers were squawking in what seemed a protest. Or maybe they were just going about their noisy business. I'll never know.
However, when I got home, I consulted Cornell University's "All About Birds" website and enjoyed its description of the species:
"Reminiscent of a troupe of wide-eyed clowns, Acorn Woodpeckers live in large groups in western oak woodlands. Their social lives are endlessly fascinating: they store thousands of acorns each year by jamming them into specially made holes in trees. A group member is always on alert to guard the hoard from thieves, while others race through the trees giving parrot-like waka-waka calls."
So it seemed that despite the uncharacteristic absence of people on the trails, it was a typically busy day as far as the local wildlife was concerned, and that's what made the day so special.