Bird #319 — Black-backed Woodpecker

picoides (from picus, a woodpecker, and eidos appearance) arcticus (Arctic)

Monday, December 26, 1988 — 10:50 am

McNaughton, Wisconsin — Fort Wilderness

Sally’s parents and Jonathan came up to McNaughton to spend Christmas with my family at Mom and Dad’s house.  Most of the time, everybody sat around the house.  I was getting bored with this, so I took a walk.  Jeff, Jonathan and Abbey tailed along.  Fortunately, I brought my binoculars along.  We wandered down Spider Lake Road to the landing where we flushed a Ruffed Grouse.  We then walked across Spider Lake on the ice to Fort Wilderness.  We went back by the stables to see the horses.

We were behind the stables by the corral when I heard a woodpecker knocking.  I spotted it about 20 feet up in a 40 foot spruce and identified it as a Black-backed Woodpecker.  The tree was dead and the bird was knocking off bits of bark as it pecked.  It stayed in the same general place, although it occasionally hiked up, down or sideways a few inches.

The three of us had good looks (the dog didn’t care), and when we left it was still in the same spot, doing the same thing.  I went back the next summer, but it was gone.

Anyway, I had to move around some and wait a while, but I got a good view of one foot and saw the three toes.  This was the first lifer I’d seen in a long time when I wasn’t officially birding.

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