Lewis's Woodpecker,
Wichita Mountains

November 23, 2003
Story (c) copyrighted by Cyndie Browning 2003
    Phil Floyd and I trekked out to the Wichita Mountains in SW Oklahoma on Saturday to try to find the Lewis's Woodpeckers reported by Kurt Meisenzahl on November 20th.

     Our first stop was Quanah Lake where I hoped to find at least one Canvasback, the only one of the common duck species in Oklahoma that I hadn't seen yet this year (and I've seen Canvasbacks on Quanah Lake in the past).  I needn't have worried, tho'; we found more than a dozen
Canvasbacks mingled in with tons o' Gadwall, as well as Mallards, Shovelers, Green-winged Teal, a few Pintails (my favorite!), and one Ruddy Duck.  Also found a Vesper Sparrow, a large flock of American Pipits wheeling and whirling over our heads and along the lakeshore, ONE Gr. Yellowlegs, and _6_ Wilson's Snipe, more snipe than I've ever seen at one time before.  Phil got out the scope and we took up-close-and-personal looks at the Snipe:  bee-YOOO-tiful birds---the plumage on their backs absolutely stunning---despite those great long bills!  "What a honker!" Phil kept saying.  But when you're havin' a 6-Snipe day, you know it's a good one!

     We made another stop when Phil thought he saw some ducks on a small pond near the road, but the ducks turned out to be ol' dried-out pond lilies.  However, we soon noticed we'd stumbled onto a "sweet spot" of bird activity, with TWO
Spotted Towhees, Red-bellied Woodpecker, chickadees, bluebirds, and Chipping, Field, and Song Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos flitting all about.

     From there, we drove directly to the Sunset parking lot, not wanting to miss the woodpeckers as it was moving on toward mid-day now and we didn't want to have to wait until late in the day when the birds might return to the area from their daytime foraging.  Again, we needn't have worried.  I had just stepped over the log in the path to Charon's Gardens and begun looking into the dead trees on the right, when Phil---right behind me---announced, "there it is!!" and sure enough, we found one Lewis's Woodpecker, right where Kurt said we would.  We hadn't seen Lewis's WP since April 2000 when the OOS held its spring meeting out at
Black Mesa.  The bird seemed kinda skittish and didn't stay perched in any one tree more than a few minutes, but we got really good looks at it.  Then we decided to back-track to another favorite Wichita Mtns. haunt for a hike, and walked back toward the parking lot.  On the way, we found more sparrows---Harris's and White-throated this time, more Bluebirds than you can shake a stick at, our first Hermit Thrush of the season, and Red-headed, Red-bellied, and Downy Woodpeckers and Flickers, bringing our woodpecker species count for the trip to 5.  You KNOW you're havin' a good day when you find 6 Snipe AND 5 woodpeckers in the same day!!

     When we reached the part of the path where you cross the stones of the creekbed, we got several more looks at either another Lewis's or the same one, just as Kurt did the other day.  It seemed to me there were at least _3_ different Lewis's in and around that area, but that may have been because the same bird left the tree where it would perch ever-so-briefly and then came back again from another direction multiple times.

     As we drove back toward Lawton for lunch, I noticed two V's of large birds flying pretty far off in the distance and asked Phil to stop the van so I could get a better look.  They turned out to be
Sandhill Cranes, at least 50 of 'em, and our third yearbird for the trip.  And a brief stop at the Medicine Park Sewage Lagoons added Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, and Bufflehead to our yield of ducks for the day.  Yeppers, it WAS a good day!!
Lewis's Woodpecker by Steve Metz