Saturday, February 28, 2015

Nuttall's Woodpecker at Horseshoe Pond on the Stanislaus River

I've been on somewhat of a tear with woodpeckers of late. There was the Northern Flicker along the Tuolumne River bluffs, as well as a Downy Woodpecker at Turlock Lake Reservoir, the first one I've seen on my bird travels (they're not rare; I've just not been observant). So, the other day we were exploring around Horseshoe Pond on the Stanislaus River, and one more kind of woodpecker made an appearance. It was a Nuttall's Woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii).
Horseshoe Pond appears to be an abandoned gravel quarry that is fed by groundwater. The Stanislaus River follows a bend on the south side of the pond. The site is shaded by cottonwoods and oak trees, with willow thickets as well. It was established as a park in the aftermath of the construction of New Melones Reservoir in the 1970s. The parks were to make up for the loss of a beautiful stretch of river upstream from the dam.
The Nuttall's Woodpecker is a California species, seen in oak woodlands from Northern California to Baja. According to Sierra Nevada Birds by David Lukas (my latest acquisition in the birding book department), the bird is not particularly well-known or well-studied, at least in the Sierra Nevada region. This is supported by the very limited information on the Cornell birding site, mostly single sentences about the bird's nesting feeding habits. Though the bird lives in oak habitat, it doesn't eat acorns. Instead it searches for insects in the bark of trees. Today's bird was a female; the male has a red spot on the head.

What will the next woodpecker be? The Stanislaus County bird list shows 3 more relative common ones (Lewis Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, and Hairy Woodpecker), and two more that have been seen, but only rarely (Red-naped Sapsucker, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker). I'll be watching!

No comments:

Post a Comment