In addition to owls, I’m a sucker for woodpeckers. It’s a broad class, woodpecker. The woodpecker family, Picidae, has 240 species. In North America, we get to see 17 woodpecker species, 7 Flicker species, and 4 Sapsuckers. 28 species out of 240. A little more than 10% of the total. I need to travel more.
Around north-central Washington, we see Downy and Hairy woodpeckers fairly frequently. I’ve seen one Red-breasted Sapsucker along the Columbia River here in town. Beyond that, I need to travel to see other species. I could head to most of the areas burned by forest fires in the recent years to see Black-backed Woodpeckers. If I wander into forested areas around Leavenworth I can find White-headed Woodpeckers. I hear that Pileated Woodpeckers are fairly common around Lake Wenatchee. All three of these species are on my woodpecker bucket list. I’ve seen all three species but have no photos to prove it. A bit of dedicated exploration will fill that void.
Trips to the Medford, Oregon area in the past have allowed me to see and photograph both Lewis’s and Acorn Woodpeckers. None of the images are worthy of showing publicly but they testify to my seeing the birds. I am, however, always anxious to improve photo quality and try to stay alert to opportunities to get good photos.
We recently traveled to Medford again to see long-time friends. Barb and Jon have appeared in previous posts about birding and always accommodate my requests for more time out with the birds in their area. One species that is almost a sure thing to see in the Medford area is the Acorn Woodpecker. The place to be is the TouVelle State Recreation Site. Jon and Barb have taken me there at least 2 other times and I’m always amazed at the action in the park. An abundance of soft pine trees and oaks provide both a place to cache acorns and a bottomless supply of the nuts. This trip was no exception. A park ranger estimated that there were 30-40 Acorn Woodpeckers in the area.
We got out of the car and found a bird busy sizing a hole in a Ponderosa Pine to fit another nut. It was the first of many photo opportunities.
Jon and I went back the next day to shoot some movies. My goal was to get at least 30 seconds of video to use in an Audubon presentation I will make in a couple of weeks. I set up at the aforementioned pine tree and waited for the birds to return. They did, but stayed high in the tree, avoiding the perfect habitat shot of them working on holes on the bole of the tree. Jon wandered off to scout areas that had been productive the day before. He saw several birds in good photo areas and let me know. We walked to the edge of the forested area and saw birds preening on an old snag and hammering away at holes on another tree as they moved nuts around and secured them with vigorous taps. I now have several nice images of Acorn Woodpeckers in ideal habitat. I got the video footage that I wanted. I’m content. Sort of. I’m sure that the next time I visit Medford I will visit TouVelle Park to see if the Acorn Woodpeckers are doing well and if they might just land in sweet light on a gallery tree, pose nicely and let me grab a few more images.