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Solano (but very near Yolo) Pileated's

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  • Stephen Long
    NB & CV Birders, (Cross-posted since sighting was 20 yards into Solano from Yolo -- well, maybe 50 yards) Yesterday at the Lake Solano campground I found an
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2006
      NB & CV Birders,

      (Cross-posted since sighting was 20 yards into Solano from Yolo -- well, maybe 50 yards)

      Yesterday at the Lake Solano campground I found an easily observed Pileated Woodpecker
      nest. The precise location is a large snag at the northeast corner of campsite #12. My
      attention was first drawn to the snag by the observation of a female Wood Duck perched
      on the pinnacle of the snag. Directly below her were a couple of holes, which I presumed
      to be entrances to a potential (or actual) Wood Duck nest.

      I turned to continue on my birding stroll through the campground, but was stopped short
      by a loud woodpecker-like hammering. My first thought was that a flicker had found a
      particularly resonant snag to use for territorial advertisement. But it only sounded once --
      and I already had flicker for the morning, so again I turned to stroll away.

      But, again my progress was arrested by now a slow, methodical, yet loud tapping --
      perhaps 2 or 3 taps every ten seconds. And it was coming from the Wood Duck snag. I
      pondered the vision of the hen Wood Duck using her bill like a woodpecker's, but rejected
      the idea -- although the concept did amuse. So, okay, what could it be? Already observed
      in the vicinity had been Nuttall's Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, the aforementioned
      Northern Flicker, Acorn Woodpeckers -- and in past times here, Hairy Woodpecker. None
      of the Dendrocops made aural sense (well, maybe Hairy, but I didn't really expect Hairy),
      but neither did the tempo match my experience for Acorn or flicker.

      Frustratingly, the hammering was coming from the north side of the Wood Duck snag --
      naturally, the OTHER side of the tree visible from the campsite. But I caught a tantalizing
      glimpse of movement, so at least I knew where the bird was. Now if it would only stay
      there while I made my way down the small slope from the campsite...

      And there it was! I was shocked to be looking at an industrious male Pileated Woodpecker
      excavating a cavity in the Wood Duck tree. (She was looking down at the 'pecker, and I
      projected an emotion of disdain on her: "Look what's happened to the neighborhood!"). I
      spent a couple of minutes watching the chips fly off the tree, when all of a sudden, the
      female Pileated stuck her head out of a hole about three feet above where her mate was
      working. (This suggested to me an "escape" hole from the nesting cavity, which I have
      observed in the Magellanic Woodpecker.) Timing seems a little late for nest construction;
      perhaps the March-April monsoon this year delayed them.

      This sighting constituted a new county bird for me. (I harbored only briefly the idea of
      flushing him across Putah Creek for a new Yolo county bird.)

      If you are unfamiliar with Lake Solano County Park, it is at the junction of Pleasants Valley
      Road and State Route 128 -- the actual junction of the roads is in Yolo County, but the
      park is on the Solano County side of Putah Creek. Parking is available on the east side of
      Pleasants Valley Road in the Day Use section of the park ($5.00). On the west side of the
      road is the campground, and site #12 is only a short ways into the campground area.

      Good birding,
      Stephen Long
      Museum of Vertebrate Zoology
      University of California
      Berkeley, CA 94720-3160
      510-642-8299
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