Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Hunt

The day before we arrived in South Carolina, as we were driving down from Pittsburgh, we decided to stop and try to find red-cockaded woodpecker. It would be a life bird for me and is a bird I have wanted to see for a while. The place we chose was Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge. They are apparently common there year round and the habitat is perfect for them.

It was about 11:00 when we arrived so it was a little late for birding but I was optimistic none the less. We pulled into the parking lot to get a map of the refuge before deciding to drive down the wildlife drive.

We began to drive slowly along the drive looking and listening for woodpecker. We quickly reached a trail though, and decided to get out and walk a bit. As we proceeded down the trail, we were greeted by the squeaky toy sound of brown-headed nuthatches calling from the long-leaf pines.

Further along, the nuthatches were joined by Carolina chickadees, Carolina wrens, eastern phoebe, and more. Then, much to my excitement, I heard the call note of a Picoides woodpecker. I soon saw a flash of movement as it moved up a tree. However, just as I got my binoculars on it, it flew to another tree. The dense foliage between me and the bird made it hard to locate as it flew from pine to pine. I retraced my steps back down the trail, trying to keep up with it. Soon however, it took to the air and flew off across the road and away through the woods. In flight, it had looked distinctly different from a downy or hairy, but I never got a look good enough to confirm it as a red-cockaded.

So, a little disappointed but still optimistic, we continued down the wildlife drive. Farther along, we had nothing but a few phoebe, juncos, and nuthatches. However, we soon came to yet another trail which we decided to walk. We were close to the end of the drive so this was likely to be our last chance for red-cockaded. The woods were quiet as we walked along the trail. That theme continued for the rest of the trail, except for a red-bellied woodpecker, and a lone phoebe.



Eastern Phoebe

We then returned to the trail head and proceeded to drive out of the refuge.

So, we were unsuccessful in the end, but it was great seeing such a cool refuge and was a good day none the less.

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