White-headed Woodpeckers – Inspirational Life Birds!

27 Jun


White-headed woodpecker swoops
Clings to corneous bark of stump
Disappears before my eyes

White-headed Woodpecker nest

When Amy of WildBirdontheFly asked for Twittered bird-related poems that included the word “corneous” I thought of the bark of this tree and the White-headed Woodpeckers I saw there.  I’m thrilled that my poem won her contest and I’ll be getting a new book: The Armchair Birder: Discovering the Secret Lives of Familiar Birds.  Very cool!  Thanks so much, Amy!  And, if you use Twitter and aren’t subscribing to Amy’s tweets, why not?  More to the point, if you love birds and you aren’t subscribing to WildBird magazine, why not?

White-headed Woodpecker

I promised, upon winning, to share the story behind the poem.  When we arrived at our campsite in Sequoia National Forest, we got the motorhome settled and then did a little exploring around the site.  Directly behind our motorhome was a small pine tree and behind that was a stump of a much larger tree.  As I watched, a woodpecker swooped in and landed.  It hopped up and down and then around the tree out of my site.  I sent my son around the other side so he could see it.  And, there was nothing there.  I’d been watching the whole time and never saw it leave.  Shrugging, I finished setting up the camp.

It wasn’t until later that I realized that the only answer was that it went into a hole in the stump.  A nest.

So, later that day, I checked it out and it was there.  I watched for quite a while and the mother and father flew in and out regularly, showing no concern about our being nearby.  I got a decent picture and pulled out my Sibley Guide.  They are White-headed Woodpeckers.


White-headed Woodpeckers tend their young together.  They are very attentive to each other during the incubation (according to All About Birds).  I like that I captured the two of them sharing a moment.

White-headed Woodpecker

When I finally got a chance to be alone, I set up my tripod and took some better shots.  I love the combination of a tripod and rapid shot mode.I’d never seen a White-headed Woodpecker before so my thrill was doubled.  A lifer!  And catching one of them in-flight is almost as thrilling as seeing them to begin with — look at that action!

White-headed Woodpecker

After I took the pictures, I did sneak up to the nest and take a quick video of the babies.  I could hear them chirping in there.  I didn’t want to worry them or distress the parents so Ireally did make it quick but I wanted to share it.

The first sound you hear is not a bird.  It’s a marmot.  I’ll share more about the marmots in a future post.    Enjoy!

All content written by Liza Lee Miller unless otherwise noted.
© 2009, Liza Lee Miller. Creative Commons License

9 Responses to “White-headed Woodpeckers – Inspirational Life Birds!”

  1. Lynne at Hasty Brook 27 June, 2009 at 3:26 am #

    Terrific lifer and congratulations on winning the Twitter poem!

  2. Mike 27 June, 2009 at 5:53 am #

    Brilliant, Liza Lee. And I love those woodpecker pics!

  3. Wren 27 June, 2009 at 6:20 am #

    I could not have risen to the challenge of writing a poem including the word “corneous,” but I admire both your ingenuity and your poetry. And I am beyond admiration for the in-flight photos. I hadn’t thought to use the tripod with the continuous photo mode but it’s on my list to play with now.

  4. Vickie Henderson 27 June, 2009 at 6:58 am #

    Wonderful encounter and images. I love the in flight shots too, they amaze me, always! Love your twitter poem!

  5. robin andrea 27 June, 2009 at 7:13 am #

    Wow, those white-headed woodpeckers are beautiful. What a great find in your campsite. It doesn’t get much better than that.

  6. KGMom 27 June, 2009 at 6:39 pm #

    All around a wonderful post. Yay on winning anything through poetry.
    Who knew you could use corneous in a poem?
    Who knew there was Twitter poetry? Not me–jeez, I am falling behind the times.
    And the white-headed woodpecker. Oh my–so cool.
    By the way, I like your new blog title and photo. Maybe you have had it up a bit, and I just missed it. After all, I didn’t know about Twitter poetry.

  7. Val 30 June, 2009 at 3:07 pm #

    Great in flight picture! Love to hear the babies too.

  8. Jayne 4 July, 2009 at 3:53 pm #

    Holy cow… I can’t believe I’ve missed so many great posts Liza! For whatever reason, I’m not getting your RSS feed on Bloglines, and haven’t since 6/16. :c(
    As I was going over my blogs list on my sidebar, I said to myself, “Hmmm… wonder what’s up with Liza” as it dawned on me I’d not seen a recent post. And here they all are.

    Excuse me while I play catch up and drool over this White-headed woodpecker!! Welcome home, uh, two weeks ago. :c)


  1. Twitter-friendly I and the bird #104 – part 2. | A birding blog by Gunnar Engblom - 9 July, 2009

    […] White-headed woodpecker swoops Clings to corneous bark of stump Disappears before my eyes – Excellen… […]

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