Red-Headed Woodpecker at Blackwater

Another bird we saw at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge was a Red-headed Woodpecker. There is a lot of standing dead wood in the refuge because of the water level changes in recent years. Trees less tolerant to wet roots or brackish (becoming saltier) water are dying. One area along the wildlife loom was almost all dead and the woodpeckers were having a heyday based on the numbers of holes we saw…and then we saw the red-headed woodpecker. It wasn’t at work…just looking around in the forest and didn’t notice when we got out of the car (quietly….didn’t turn the engine off or close the doors).

It posed very nicely on the snag – one that the tree top had already fallen from.

So many woodpeckers have some red on their head…but this is the one that gets the name. It is in this area for both breeding and wintering. This part of Blackwater is prime habitat for it…at least for now.

Three Kinds of Woodpeckers

The third day of the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival got off to an early start – on a bus at 5 AM heading to the rural area in central Florida for a day of birding (about 50 miles south of Orland). We arrived at our first stop in Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area just before sunrise and hiked into the longleaf pine forest.

Our guides took us off the trail and through the palmettos and other vegetation growing between the pines – and pointed out the woodpecker holes in the pines. We stood and watched the holes.

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Sure enough just as the day brightened a little – a red-cockaded woodpecker appeared in one of the longleaf pines (the only tree they use for nesting).

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The bird flew out to neighboring pines in search of breakfast. I never saw a red-cockade…but read that they are difficult to see in the field.

The long leaf pines are not as numerous as they once were. They don’t grow in dense stands so are not as commercially viable as other pines in the south. But they are a boon to wildlife and are resistant to wildfire.

As we walked back toward the bus we saw a brown-headed nuthatch – another bird of the longleaf pine forest (which I didn’t manage to get a picture of) and our second woodpecker of the day. I saw the typical holes first – the work of a yellow-bellied sapsucker.

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Soon we saw the birds themselves. They too were after breakfast.

Further down the country road we stopped at a stand of trees with some snags…and saw red-headed woodpeckers almost immediately. A lot of woodpeckers have red on their heads – but the name is reserved for this one. The head is red all over!

What a thrill to see three kinds of woodpeckers in one day of birding!