Meet “Almost,” the Acorn Woodpecker — Virginia Biologists research a Cali reservation.

By: Theresa Coates Ellis — It was the east meeting the west — for the love of birds. Kathryn, my middle daughter, was eager to catch up with her buddy — Toni — they met in their local High School Nursing program years ago.

After Kathryn graduated Osbourn High School, they became Old Dominion University (ODU) roommates and expanded their interests to study Biology.  Now as Scientists, their passion for animals are their careers.

When Kathryn had a break from grad school and her east coast Indiana Univ. of PA Biology adjunct professor job — we decided to see what the west coast had to offer.

Taking a team of outdoor enthusiasts, we first camped near the Big Basin Redwood Park.  Later we drove down the Pacific coast to bunk with Toni, now doing research for ODU at the Hastings Natural History Reservation in California. We toured, interacted and learned about “Almost,” an Acorn Woodpecker.

Found injured as a baby, Almost can’t fly and is tolerant of people so he is almost a woodpecker.

The Carmel, California hills are massive and dry with wild boars, deer, mountain lions, quayle, black widow spiders and families of woodpeckers.

These birds can peck a tree for acorn hiding places to store their nuts for future food. A 40 year study of this woodpecker species has been ongoing at Hastings. Toni is committed to a 7 month term at this location.

We were welcome to stay at the lodge in the old school house built in the 1930s by two Massachusetts teachers who educated children from all over the country.  The historic boarding school was a maze of rooms and halls with many, many bunk beds and an instruction meeting area.

The views were breathtaking and Almost was a friendly bird that pecked us to catch our attention.

It’s wonderful to see how far these two Northern Virginia science gals have evolved. I look forward to following their future adventures!