I've often said that my students seem to be better writers when I read their papers while sitting out on the deck on a beautiful day like today: 72 degrees, no humidity, sunshine and a pleasant breeze. The problem is that it's hard to concentrate on their paper when a pair of big bold beautiful pileated woodpeckers keep pecking on trees along the fringe of the property, coming just close enough to inspire me to run inside and grab the camera and run down the hillside to get a closer shot, but I'm wearing shoes unmatched to the challenge posed by the swampy muddy spot so I have to back up and go around the long way so that I'm just in time to see the male pileated woodpecker fly off with that distinctive motion as if he's swimming across the sky, and then I'm back to work reading papers but alert for the sounds of the woodpeckers and I hear them downstream and then upstream, slow pecks and then that distinctive chattering, and then there's the female pecking on a tree just down the hill from me but the minute I pick up the camera she's gone again and then along comes a hawk and everything is still and quiet.
I know they're out there and I hope they'll come back, but I'm having a hard time reading student drafts while waiting. What will I tell my students? "Sorry, the birds ate your papers!"