Monday, September 28, 2015

I’m writing this blog as Staff Naturalist for Shoshone Village, California 92384. Shoshone is a very small town.

 I'm from Maine. My father, who still lives in Maine, thinks that it’s the funniest to send me mail this way!



The Ladder-backed Woodpecker is the only breeding woodpecker along the Amargosa River. Their local range appears to be restricted. I have never seen one in Shoshone, but they are regulars all year round at nearby  China Ranch, and in the Amargosa Canyon south of the Tecopa post office. They have very large territories, at least the ones that I have observed. I have observed territories that were almost a kilometer long. They need dead trees. Their nests are excavated in old Gooding’s Willows, Cottonwood, and sometimes phone poles. They are permanent year round residents of the southern Amargosa. The Nuttal’s Woodpecker, a very close look-alike of Ladder-backed that breeds in cooler habitats has a range that’ Where the two species meet their ranges fit together like pieces of a puzzle” (Backhouse 2005) In nearby areas, the Eastern Sierras, Owens River, Kern and San Bernardino. There has been hybridization recorded.


Nuttal's Woodpecker Owens River


Northern Flickers seem to arrive first  in the fall, and their “keer” call can be heard throughout the day. They will be present all winter into early spring. Often seen on the ground, and a major predator of ants, they’re known as Red-shafted Flickers for the display of red feathers from the underside when the wings opened. They must be more commonly preyed upon by hawks during the winter than other birds, because each spring, in my travels I’ll find the orange-red feathers in shady places. I’ve found many almost full sets of red  flight feathers in such “kill spots”.

The Northern Flicker has a huge range in North America. From  Newfoundland to Alaska, in the north and from Cuba to  the Pacific Coast  and as for south as CostasRica, , Flickers are common and prolific.

 In the east they are Yellow-shafted Flickers. In the midwest the flight and tail feathers begin to be more orange, then more red in the west. They are all of the same species. Occasionally, a Northern Flicker yellow-shafted is reported in this area.  I was really jealous last winter when, while working at Shoshone’s Crowbar Restaurant, my friend Terri showed me in a plastic bag, a set of yellows that she had found! Finally in spring of 2015, I finally  found a set of yellows!! 

         Notice how the shafts of the feathers have been clipped by the beak of a hawk. Also here you can see the special shape of the “designed for strength” tail feather. (Black tipped)


Red-naped Sapsuckers and 

Red-breasted Sapsuckers are both found around Shoshone in fall and winter. The trees around Shoshone Village, Shoshone Campground, the Death Valley Academy, and Shoshone Birding Trails and China Ranch, are all good spots for wintering woodpeckers. 


  These two-species were formerly assumed to be western sub-species of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and have subsequently been designated as separate species by those who decide such things. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is common in the Eastern North America, but occasionally is reported in this area. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker are very difficult to tell apart from Red-naped as juveniles in fall migration. They breed at higher elevations, such as the Spring Mountains, locally to the east of Shoshone. Although I don't have a photo of a Williamson's Sapsucker, it's been seen here before and is always a possibility.

                                   LEWIS'S WOODPECKER

It’s always special to see a Lewis’s Woodpecker. A pink-breasted iridescent black-bodied woodpecker whose behavior and flight patterns seem different than the others.

 The only woodpecker known  to do “flycatching” , a mid air grab of an insect , then returning to the original perch, they are also the only woodpecker known to perch on a wire! They are occasionally found in surprising numbers. Although I have only ever seen individual Lewis’s Woodpeckers, I have heard a credible first hand report of 35-40 of them in one tree during migration in Furnace Creek in nearby Death Valley National Park. 

           I recently got these great shots of Lewis’s Woodpecker at nearby (90 miles is nearby for around here!) Spicer Ranch in Beatty, NV.

Thanks to Dave Spicer for showing me the great birds there. 

 More on Woodpeckers later.

References:    Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Nevada 2007 University of Nevada Press , Reno

                          Frances Backhouse,   Woodpeckers of North America,Firefly Publishing, 2005

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