Friday, March 22, 2013

Red-Headed Woodpecker at Sandy Point State Park

Last Sunday I went hiking at Sandy Point State Park with my oldest brother. Just like when we went hiking at Terrapin Nature Park the previous day, it was just the two of us exploring a nice nature area without a huge amount of other people around (the wind blowing off the bay was probably too cold for most people). There was some guy with his dog (who couldn't believe that the park ranger person told him to leash his dog) and a couple other people, but otherwise it was just us walking around and seeing birds (though it took at least a good hour and a half before we saw something besides black or turkey vultures).

It was a good trip, fun to be out in, and I got some new birds for my list (see my update at the end of the week for details!). One thing I thought I might see was a pileated woodpecker, and I might have from a distance, but it didn't count because for us at The Year of Birds it has to be a real, complete identification to count. A shame, but one woodpecker I did see was a red-headed woodpecker.

Except eBird doesn't believe me.

You see, I started to use eBird the other day, and I went and inputted a couple birding trips I took over the last week or so (Sandy Point, Terrapin Nature Park, Tyler Arboretum) plus my birding time at my work the other day. Relatively boring stuff with most all the birds I inputted already being birds that are commonly seen and already on the checklist for that location, with two exceptions: chipping sparrow at Tyler Arboretum and red-headed woodpecker at Sandy Point.  I already talked about my chipping sparrow sighting, so today I'll talk about the woodpecker.

I'll just email back the person on eBird with a link to this, that way everyone can come and read this and also it will drum up viewership to The Year of Birds!

So here is my red-headed woodpecker story:

My brother Jamison and I were walking back from the beach area at Sandy Point after about four hours of hiking and birding and walking to my car, which was parked at the picnic at the end of the side road that runs parallel to the main entrance road. We both heard an odd sound; a sound that was definitely a woodpecker. It wasn't a downy (and, lord knows, we'd seen dozens of those already that day), so we looked around for it hoping something good (I can't do my woodpecker calls by ear).

We didn't have to look long, because there it was, on the trunk of one of the old trees that line the side road calling: a red-headed woodpecker. We got close enough to see it without binoculars, and it flew to another tree, and another, but remaining conspicuous the whole time. Here is a map of Sandy Point that I downloaded from the sight with me obnoxiously circling and indicating with arrows where we saw it (sorry to red-green colorblind people about my color choices):

Original map via Maryland Department of Natural Resources
It was without a doubt a red-headed woodpecker. Not only could it be nothing else, I positively identified it. This wasn't just a brief sighting; we watched it for at least a minute and had a great view of it. Hey, I know my red-headed woodpeckers and not just because one is the main picture that is the background of this blog!

I realize it is rare to see one in that area because I grew up in that area and never saw one (though I was not a birder as a kid, so who knows if it was due to non-abundance or just my ignorance). Though, honestly, I was more excited about earlier identifying a hermit thrush (which isn't rare, but new for me).

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