Red-headed Woodpecker

One of the frustration of a Big Year is looking for the same bird day after day after day. It takes on a Captain Ahab mentality where you hate the bird but become obsessed with finding it.

Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!

Ok, ok . . . quoting Melville is a little over the top but I’m pretty sick of chasing the Red-headed Woodpecker. In a quest to find one, I’ve taken the ferry out to Monhegan Island for a day, made multiple trips to a Waterville sewage treatment plant, walked the perimeter of a half dozen cemeteries and watched a bird feeder in Hiram for four hours. And thats not mentioning the days of random searching.

The Red-headed Woodpecker is common in the American South and migrates into central Canada during breeding season . . . but they are rarely seen in the Northeast. But each autumn a few stray birds will wander into Maine, appearing on bird feeders or pounding on trees in public parks. These beautiful birds (bright red head, black back and white rump) often are one day wonders, disappearing the same day they are sighted . . . but sometimes they stay for a week or two before hitting the road again.

This morning, after a frustrating few months, Ingrid and I got our binoculars on the White Whale. A stunning Red-headed Woodpecker was stashing sunflower seeds in an oak tree. For me it was Maine Big Year Bird #321 and was Ingrid’s 299th bird of the year. She needs one more bird to join the 300 club with its secret handshakes, fine wines and sparkling chandeliers!!!

1 comment

  1. By Mark -

    Another great find and good week for redhead birds. What’s the story of the Redhead duck you added this week?

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