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Mon, Oct. 14

Woodpeckers, walks and Willow Lake

Lewis’ woodpecker

Lewis’ woodpecker

On my day off last week I headed west on Thumb Butte road into the National Forest to see if I could find a flock of Lewis' woodpeckers that had been reported a day or two earlier. Lewis' woodpeckers are considered a "casual" visitor to the Prescott area, meaning they have been seen more than five times over the last 30 plus years, but they do not occur in this area on an annual basis.

An interesting side-note on Lewis' woodpeckers is some background on how this species was named. Lewis' woodpeckers were originally discovered in the early 1800s by members of the Lewis and Clark expedition and was named after Meriwether Lewis. Another species that received its name as a result of the Lewis and Clark expedition is the Clark's nutcracker. Many bird species in North America bear the name of the individual who originally discovered the species.

About two miles after the pavement ended, I found my target species - there were actually quite a few Lewis' woodpeckers visible on both sides of the road for a mile or two. The habitat between Thumb Butte and the community of Dearing Park is primarily ponderosa pine, with a fair amount of scrub live oak.

The area where I saw the Lewis' woodpecker is prime habitat for woodpeckers in general. In less than an hour's time, I saw six different woodpecker species including Lewis', acorn woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, northern flicker, Williamson's sapsucker and red-naped sapsucker.

Earlier in the week, I saw a ladder-backed woodpecker in my yard at one of my many suet feeders, so for the year I have already observed seven different woodpecker species in the state of Arizona! I suspect most people are surprised to learn that there are so many different woodpecker species that occur here.

On a rare occasion we receive reports of Gila woodpeckers in the area. In December of 2010, I saw a Gila woodpecker in Granite Basin when I was participating in the Prescott Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count. It is unusual to see Gila woodpeckers in this area because their preferred habitat is the Sonoran Desert, particularly where there are saguaros.

I continue to work on my Centennial Challenge 2012 bird list. I am attempting to sneak in a few minutes of bird-watching here and there when I can. I visited Willow Lake late in the day this past Saturday. The sun was setting as I arrived, so my birding time was limited - but it was productive. I added several species to my year list including spotted sandpiper, rock wren, Canada hoose, canvasback and ruddy duck.

Earlier in the day, Micah Riegner led a free guided bird walk to Willow Lake, and the group had a super morning. They saw 42 bird species in about a four-hour time period. What a great start to the year!

Some of the highlights of the bird walk included seeing the pair of white-winged scoters and numerous birds of prey including bald eagle, northern harrier, red-tailed hawk and sharp-shinned hawk. If you are interested in participating in one of our free weekly bird walks, call the store at 443-5900 to sign up.

I have finished formulating all of the guidelines for the Jay's Bird Barn Centennial Challenge contest. All of the pertinent information regarding participation will be posted on the Jay's Bird Barn website in the next few day, or you can pick up a copy of the guidelines at either store location. Registration is required to participate.

Until next week, happy birding!

Eric M. Moore is the owner of Jay's Bird Barn, with two locations to serve northern Arizona - 1046 Willow Creek Road in Prescott, and 2370 State Highway 89A in Sedona. Eric has been an avid birder for more than 45 years. If you have specific questions related to wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email eric@jaysbirdbarn.com.

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