Chasing Nuthatches and Rare Woodpeckers

| March 17, 2016 | 0 Comments

Back in the South.  After my two year absence from the state of Florida, I had returned with a peaked sense of interest towards the avian community of the state.  My trip two years ago did yield quite a few interesting birds, but I had missed most of the specialties due to lack of research and preparation.  This time, however, I was ready.

I parked at the St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park early on a mid-March morning.  I stepped outside, stretched, and…boom.  Life bird #1.  A Bachman’s Sparrow was singing nearby.  It was a great first bird to trip out to the park.  In fact, as I continued to walk, I heard quite a few of the little guys singing from their hidden lairs within the scrubby undergrowth.  I continued to walk, for I still had two other species targeted for this location.

The intense Florida sun can put a damper on any birding trip that lingers into the afternoon, so I had to be focused and attentive, for I had about a 3-4 hour window of good morning bird activity.

The clock was ticking; as I walked I browsed the tree tops waiting for my second target to hopefully appear.  I heard a high pitched, interaction call from one of the pines.  Looking up, I had it.  Life bird #2, Brown-headed Nuthatch.  I enjoyed great views of the little guys as they danced up and down the pines in typical “nuthatch” fashion.

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Now for #3.  This could be a little less straight forward, for these birds were not very common within their limited range.  The search for this bird took me farther into the morning.  Closing in on the noon hour, I was nervous.  Time was against me at this point.  I could hear Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Downy Woodpeckers calling, but the elusive Red-cockaded Woodpecker was nowhere to be found.  As I hiked, I came upon several pines that had a painted, white ring on their trunks.  I had not a clue what these trees were marked for.  In my ignorance I assumed campsites*.  The bird activity picked up, so naturally I stopped to look.  There were a few Bachman’s Sparrows singing, a group of Palm Warblers flitting from tree to tree, a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers pecking at the pines…wait…what was that?  It looks “Hair Woodpecker ish” but not quite.  That bird with a prominent white cheek and black “moustache” stripe is a Red-cockaded Woodpecker!!!  Got him!  Life bird #3 of the day!  That’s a successful first birding venture!

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

*I later learned that these trees with the white markings were trees that Red-cockaded Woodpeckers used for nesting!

Kevin Vande Vusse
Growing up in the Grand Rapids area of Southern Michigan, Kevin always enjoyed spending time outdoors. Whether it be fishing or hunting with his father, or a family trip to the Lake Michigan shore, Kevin enjoyed being outside. Having an interest in nature from a young age, birds were not always the focal point of his love for wildlife. It wasn’t until traveling to Costa Rica in 2011 on a study abroad venture and seeing the Resplendent Quetzal for the first time in the wild that Kevin fell in love with our feathered friends. From that point on it was a slippery slope, and he fell in face first. Going back to Michigan with a new love and passion to learn the birds, Kevin bought his first field guide and just started walking around.

Graduating with a B.S. in Natural Resources Management from Grand Valley State University in 2012 and currently working towards his M.S. in Environmental Studies with a Science Teacher Certification, Kevin hopes to someday be a middle school science teacher. Incorporating his love and passion for avian life into the world of education and inspiring the minds of young people is only one of the many ways he hopes promote conservation through education of the next generation.


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