I was inspired to write once again about the Red Cockaded Woodpecker by my blogger buddy Mrs. AL (Always Learning). All of us who are Marines are forced to deal with environmental Nazis whether we want to or not. It might be Least Terns in
San Diego, Desert Tortoises in Twenty-nine Palms, or Red Cockaded Woodpeckers in . No matter – we all face them eventually. Oh – and don’t get me started on vernal pools and surf thistles! Camp Lejeune
But the vaunted Red Cockaded Woodpecker is my greatest nemesis by far. I first encountered these little bastards as an infantry lieutenant in the training areas of
. I rarely saw a woodpecker, but constantly encountered the evidence left behind by the watermelons* who sought to protect them. You see, through the deep scientific study these lunatics determined that these birds needed to be protected from contact with humans in general and Marines in particular. Their solution? Every time they located a tree in which a pair of Red Cockaded Woodpeckers was cohabitating, they painted a double white band around the trunk of that tree. Then in a ten meter radius around that tree they painted trees with a single band thus creating a visual buffer zone to help them procreate in quiet privacy. We had to be quiet in those areas; we couldn’t camp or dig in those zones, nor use pyrotechnic devices. Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
I must point out that I never encountered such a privacy zone when I was ass-deep in a swamp or off the beaten path. All Red Cockaded Woodpecker procreation zones were immediately adjacent to a trail, path, or road. Over the years however these zones continued to blossom. While that should indicate an increase in nests and thus birds – the watermelons persisted in their demented tree anointing efforts.
We non-scientists began to understand what was going on. The
version of the Red Cockaded Woodpecker preferred dead trees as a homestead. As we drove our tracked and wheeled vehicles through the pine forests of North Carolina the sandy soil was compacted, the roots of the trees were crushed and the trees died. Bingo - Red Cockaded Woodpeckers would call those newly murdered trees home. The enviro-Nazis would appear (because there was now a convenient path to that tree) and daub the newly dead and occupied tree with red paint. Vehicles now had to detour around that path. If you are not an enviro-Nazis scientist you will see where this is going. Our new path killed new trees and . . . . . I’ll connect the dots for the watermelons . . . . . Red Cockaded Woodpeckers took up residence and the watermelons showed up with more paint. This made white paint suppliers ecstatic but was becoming a real pain-n-the-ass for Marines. Camp Lejeune
Then the most remarkable discovery of all. We had a demolition range where we could use large explosives. The largest thing I ever set off there was a 40-pound cratering charge, but I’m sure there were larger explosions. One bad aspect of the large scale and continuous use of explosives was that chemicals leeched into the surrounding soil and killed the trees immediately adjacent to this area where earth rending and ear splitting explosions went off nearly every day. Only an environmental scientist would be surprised at what they found ringing that noisy range. You guessed it - Red Cockaded Woodpecker nests. Those randy little birds didn’t seem to mind the occasional ear drum rupturing explosion – so why exactly were we tip-toeing through the woods skirting the love-zones created by the watermelons?
As Ron White says – “You can’t fix stupid.” That appears to be the problem with watermelons.
Note: *Watermelons – Eco-Nazis a reference to them being green on the outside and red on the inside.