Lewis’s Woodpecker (Texas Hill Country Trip Day 2)

by Dave Dolan on February 26, 2012

I woke up to a cooler day at Neal’s Lodges than I expected. I decided to walk down to the river to see if I could find a Black Phoebe or a kingfisher. I was unsuccessful on that goal, but I heard a funny sounding bird. Its call sounded like somebody trying to keep on singing when there was not enough air in the lungs to finish the song. It was a Canyon Wren, but I could not get a picture of it. Check out the song and pictures of it here.

I headed up to Junction, which was about an hour and a half drive, and got to the fairgrounds at about 9:00. There were three people there, including Stephan Lorenz of BirdingonaShoestring fame, and they were looking at something through their scope. I got out with my scope and started setting up. They said that they had the Lewis’s Woodpecker and offered a view. I looked and saw a gorgeous bird that was like the Painted Bunting of woodpecker family. It was green and red and pink… and in the top of the trees across the river. It also flew out of sight 15 seconds after I got my camera set up on the tripod.

Lewis's Woodpecker

A cold front had come through and the clear skies at Neal’s turned into cloudy, misty skies with much colder temperatures. That was not what the weathermen had said. This was supposed to be the nice day of the weekend. After 45 minutes of waiting and looking for our bird, I decided to run around to some other Junction birding sites to see what else was that I could find. The first stop was Easter Pageant Hill, where I only saw one bird flying in the distance. Next stop was the Tennis Courts next to the airport. I didn’t see the orioles that can be found there, but I did get to see Pyrrhuloxia, which are some of my favorite birds.

Pyrrhuloxia

Next stop was the water treatment plant where I would see what water birds were there. I drove around to the back so that I could turn around and bird out of the drivers side window. In the field where I turned around, there was a lot of activity of Black-throated Sparrows in the grass. I spent some time photographing what I could find and then drove the ponds.

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

I spent some time photographing what I could find and then drove the ponds. There was not much exciting going on in the ponds, so I decided to head back to find the Lewis’s Woodpecker. I got back to the fairgrounds and was told “You just missed him”, which can be one of those half cup type situations. Either, I missed him and won’t get a chance to see him, or I just missed him and that means he has been here recently. I expected to find him again, so I headed parallel to the direction that he flew but did not have much success. While looking, Rhandy Helton, the birder who originally found the bird on, January 5, came looking for us to say that he found it again on it’s favorite tree. I rushed back over to the original site and started shooting pictures like mad. Once I calmed down about seeing this great bird, I looked at my pictures to find that they were not nearly as nice as my view in the scope. I have since ordered the equipment to start digiscoping and hope to have some nice examples of this new mode of photography soon.

Lewis's Woodpecker

While watching the activity of our Lewis’s, I noticed that the skies had cleared and the sun had come out. Some Raptors had also come out, including a Merlin and the American Kestrel seen below. The Lewis’s never acted concerned about the kestrel while they perched within 10 feet of each other.

Lewis's Woodpecker and American Kestrel

While the woodpecker made one of its’ several road trips, I got the chance to see a female Vermillion Flycatcher and a Rock Wren.

Vermillion Flycatcher

Rock Wren

When I got bored waiting for the Lewis’s to return, I decided to try for the kingfishers that Rhandy had been telling me about. He had seen all three species of kingfishers within 15 minutes of each other from a bridge just down the road. I saw the Belted Kingfisher, and may have seen the Green Kingfisher, but did not see or hear the Ringed Kingfisher. I was told about a Verdin at the South Llano River State Park, which was right around the corner, and decided to go look for it. I never found the Verdin but got a chance to see some of the western birds that we don’t see a couple hundred miles east of there.

Black-crested Titmouse

Dark-eyed Junco

Lessor Goldfinch

Western Scrub-JaySpotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee
Spotted Towhee
Spotted Towhee

I went back for more views of the Lewis’s, but did not get any better looks. What a great bird! Hopefully, I can take better pictures of this handsome bird next time I see it.

Share on Facebook

Previous post:

Next post: