Friday, April 10, 2015

More Woodpeckers

Northern Flicker- Bob Moul
 We have always been interested in identifying a new bird but after a trip to Honduras with "real birders" and cataract surgery, it is a whole new game.  Spotting a bird flying into a tangle of branches and then finding it in the binoculars had previously been an exercise in frustration.

First, Brad Jacobs and Rick Thom taught me to stare at the bird's landing spot while bringing the binoculars up, never moving your eyes.  That was the most important lesson.  Next fix the cataract so you can actually see the bird's identifying markings.  (Learning bird calls is a whole other thing.)

This all came together last week up on the ridge when I heard three birds calling, announcing their territory.  The call was reminiscent of a red-bellied woodpecker that was in a hurry, the call higher pitched and compressed like a 33rpm record played at 45rpm.  That is a phonograph record for you kids.

I saw a bird fly to a distant snag tree and hang on the shady side like a woodpecker.  It was flying back and forth to another distant tree and I could hear it pecking at the wood.  I worked my way closer and could get brief glimpses of a white belly and a head that seemed more intensely red.  I got a couple of pictures at 45x before it flew away, confirming it was a red-headed woodpecker, a first for me.

Two days later I went on a mission to get a better photograph.  Starting out in the early afternoon when the light would be better, I sat at the base of a nearby tree with a good view of the snag.  After a brief nap in the afternoon sun, I heard the distant call repeated, just as I had heard on that morning.

This time the woodpecker flew in repeatedly, hanging on the shady side of the tree before flying off with its treasures.  The distant call of another red-head perked it up and it flew to the other side for a moment to look around and I got my shot.

Red-headed Woodpecker - finally!
On the way back home, I flushed a couple of birds in the field, tan colored but with the distinctive bobbing flight of a woodpecker.  One landed on a distant tree and Brad's lessons paid off again with a good view of a Northern flicker, seen above.

Flickers are woodpeckers with a little less wood.  They eat more beetles and ants, digging them out with their specialized bill, re-purposed with a slight curve for the dig.  I had seen woodpeckers frequently in the fields but had never had a good look before to see that these were woodpeckers of another color. mentions that you can find them by walking around the wooded edges of fields just like where we now see them.  They use their barbed tongue to pull out ants, a relatively messy meal compared to reaching into a pecked hole in wood. 

You can see more of the late Bob Moul's beautiful nature photography in these Pbase albums.

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