Monday, March 6, 2017

A California Endemic, Nuttall's Woodpecker on the Tuolumne River

The Tuolumne River Parkway Trail has been closed for a couple of weeks while the operators of Don Pedro Reservoir try to build up some storage space by flooding the lower river. The waters have been flowing at around 10,000 cubic feet per second since early January. The emergency spillway was open for several days, increasing flows to 18,000 cfs, and putting portions of the trail underwater, but the spillway closed a few days ago, so the river level has fallen a little. I got down to the trail this afternoon, and except for one makeshift detour past a flooded stretch, I was able to follow the whole trail. And no one else was there. Except for lots of birds.
The most striking discovery of the day were several Nuttall's Woodpeckers (Picoides nuttallii) exploring the old cottonwood trees above the river. I haven't seen any since May of last year, so it was a bit of a delight. I wasted a lot of shots trying to hit fast-moving targets.
Along with the Yellow-billed Magpies and the Santa Cruz Island Scrub Jay, the Nuttall's Woodpecker is endemic to California (at least as long as you count Baja; about 1% of the population is found there). They live in the oak woodlands and chaparral zones of the state, although they don't consume acorns. They mostly spend their time search the crevices in tree bark for insects.

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