December 18, 2015

SUBJECT: Lewis's Woodpecker


Lewis's Woodpecker
Lewis's Woodpecker -- Will it be around for the Christmas Bird Count?

I have one bad case of Birder's Withdrawal.

It's been a busy year for Jo and I as we have been preparing for our move to Minnesota. My time this year has been divided between putting the finishing touches on our cordwood home and getting our house ready for sale in Illinois. It's amazing how much stuff can accumulate in a house for 30 years. (Our house in the burbs of Chicago was our first and only house until I built our home-to-be in Minnesota.) Between garage sales, donations and plain-old pitching we're finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. (Let's hope the light isn't an oil train!) Unfortunately this has left little time for fun stuff such as birding.

I've even gotten a few emails asking if I was okay. As relative as that is, I'm doing fine. The surgery to remove my camera from my face was a success, but I do have withdrawal symptoms now and then.

I am so looking forward to the day that I am no longer making trips to Illinois unless it's for a rare bird!

In any case, Jo and I were up in Minnesota for Thanksgiving and had gotten word that a Lewis's Woodpecker was being seen near Galesville, WI. Unfortunately, plans didn't work out and I missed the opportunity to see this rare-for-these-parts bird.

I thought I'd go visit the bird the following week when I learned the land owners wanted their privacy back and requested that birders steer clear. I can certainly understand their request. When rare birds appear, birders travel hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles to see a rare species. Those who open their doors to birders are sometimes in for a shock when they see tailgating parties of birders appear in their driveway.

Drats! I was too late.

Low and behold, I was browsing through the bird forums when I saw a report that the Lewis's Woodpecker was still being seen and it appeared the land owners were once again allowing birders on their property.

The planets aligned and today I went to look for the woodpecker and was not disappointed. It would seem that this woodpecker might be around for a while longer as long as it can survive the weather and sustain itself on bird feed. So far, it's been a fairly mild winter which I'm sure is a help to this bird.

The Lewis's Woodpecker is a species of woodpecker that is normally found in the western states. For whatever reason, Autumn sometimes brings western species to the Upper Midwest and this year brought the Lewis's Woodpecker to Galesville, WI and a Clark's Nutcracker to Winona, MN.

clarks nutcracker
Clark's Nutcracker acting a little squirrelly.

I'm not sure whatever became of the Nutcracker, but the Lewis's Woodpecker is still hanging out in Galesville, WI. It is a striking woodpecker to be sure. This is only the fourth occurance ever recorded in Wisconsin.

If you go to see it, please be respectful of the bird and the landowners too. I found while I was there that the woodpecker would come close to the bird-feeders but not feed. I was about 70' from the feeders, but it seemed reluctant. Whenever I encounter a bird like this, I do my best to take my shots and then get out of Dodge as quickly as possible. I'm sure the bird is having a rough go of it and it's important to minimize disruptions.


 Lewis's woodpecker

What a beautiful woodpecker!


Click above to see a short video of the bird.

I'm sorry I haven't had much time to write this year. I still have images to share from last spring! Egads!

Have a great holiday season and hope to see you next year birding the Upper Midwest.


—Alan Stankevitz


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