Saturday 6 July 2019

Texas - Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Back when I was last in Texas with Henry we had planned to try for Red-cockaded Woodpecker at WG Jones State Forest on the north side of Houston but had run out of time. This is a properly hard species to catch up with, with a very limited distribution and range. They like a particular type of pine forest, and are very very fussy. WG Jones State Forest is just right it seems, and is probably the place most people see this bird. We arrived early morning, with about two hours to try and fine one. EBird news suggested that there were at least two pairs in the smaller part of the forest north of the road that bisects it, but beyond that I had no idea where to look. Happily the management had taken the guesswork out by closing a loop of path, which was strongly suggestive of birds that they didn't want disturbed. We took up position but the ropes but saw absolutely nothing and wandered off to do some actual birding. Brown-headed Nuthatch were numerous and vocal, but steadfastly at the top of very tall trees. Easier were Eastern Bluebird in purpose-built nest boxes, and Pine Siskin and Cedar Waxwing were everywhere. We found several Red-cockaded nest boxes within the trees - cleverly done - but they did not appear occupied.

It took a visiting birder to help us out, who immediately on arrival had seen a female Woodpecker from exactly where we had been standing. Naturally, I wouldn't have it any other way. We went back there and eventually saw it through a precise gap between numerous trees. It was relatively obvious where the nest hole probably was, but of course we couldn't go any closer. Eventually Mick spotted the bird, not sure if the same one, behind us and towards the parking area, but we didn't get much on it before it flew back into the closed area. Still, probably the best views we could have hoped for in the circumstances. There are more pairs south of the road, but that is a much larger area and it would have been a lot harder I suspect. Still, on the list.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker - best I got

By now it was mid-morning, and we had a mid-morning flight to Philadelphia for the next part of the adventure - Cape May, New Jersey. The trip list stood at 163.

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