Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lewis's Woodpecker

Here are some more recent photos of the Lewis's Woodpecker that's residing at Encanto Park. He's still pretty skittish, but I was able to get close enough to see him stretching a scratching a bit in the morning light.

*Original Post:
For at least the last week or so, there's been a solitary Lewis's Woodpecker residing at the Encanto Park in central Phoenix. Lewis's Woodpeckers are typically found at higher altitudes, amid the pine and oak scrub woodlands in Northern Arizona and the like. It's pretty unusual to see them flying amidst the palm trees down here in Phoenix, or at least you don't hear about it as much.

I've stopped by Encanto now several times to try and get some decent pictures, and it has not been an easy task. It hasn't help that it's been an overcast and rainy week, but this Lewis' Woodpecker is amazingly skittish. He's easy enough to see, and flies a fairly predictable circuit between several palm trees and the 3 oak trees bordering the west side of Encanto lake. However, I haven't been able to get within 40 feet of the bird before it takes off.

It'll be an arduous and ongoing project to come away with some nice Lewis's photos, but it's just such a beautiful bird and a unique woodpecker that it'll be well worth the trouble. In the mean time, it's a lot of fun to observe him flying from tree to tree guarding his nuts. Other Gila Woodpeckers, Starlings, and Thrashers have found some of his acorn stashes, and he's on a constant alert. At one point, Pops and I observed him laying into a Starling that had wedged itself into one of his larders. He just started hammering away, and when the bird finally forced its exit, the Starling had a noticeable limp.

Since he seems to be storing up food, and has already withstood at least one week with average temperatures oscillating between 40s and 50s, I'm hoping he'll stick around through the winter. If not, it has still been a privilege and a pleasure to see this cool bird inside the urban bubble.