Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Red-headed Woodpecker and some ancient history

An immature [not quite red-headed] Red-headed Woodpecker has been resident in the Locust Grove [the wooded strip just west of the Great Lawn]for more than a week. This is a most unusual bird for Central Park, indeed, for the entire Northeast, and its presence in the park is attracting birdwatchers from all over. Photographers too.

Photos by Lloyd Spitalnik -- 12/6/08

Lloyd writes:
As you can see from the photo above, the woodpecker was gathering acorns. It was very territorial and chased anything away that came close to its storage trees including other birds and squirrels.

Could this bird have been aggressive enough to chase away another visitor photographed on Saturday in the Locust Grove? See below:

Red-tailed Hawk photographed in the Locust Grove on 12/ 6 by David Speiser

Some ancient history:
On April 4, 1998 , Central Park birdwatcher Tom Fiore wrote a note in the Bird Register, a looseleaf volume of bird sightings that is kept in the Loeb Boathouse:

It's great to be back in Central Park again today -- showing the Red-headed Woodpecker to reporters for Colombian TV. We hope for the early and safe return of the 3 other birdwatchers still being held hostage in the mountains of Colombia...

Here's the story: Tom and his friends, while searching for a rare bird in the mountains not far from Bogota, had been kidnapped by a band of guerrillas and held for ransom. Incredibly, Tom escaped from his armed guard ["with the wherewithal that might do Indiana Jones proud", as the New York Times wrote] and made his way through the jungle to safety. His companions were released a week or so later.

Tom returned to New York from Colombia on April 3 and was in the park the very next day, eager to show Central Park's unusual avian visitor to a television crew covering his amazing story.

[Source: Red-tails in Love-- Afterword to the Vintage Edition]

Though there have been occasional brief sightings of Red-headed Woodpeckers during the last decade, none of that species has spent the winter in Central Park since 1998.