Kindling Neighborly Connections between People and Nature.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Florida Reflections: Red-cockaded woodpecker

I made a trip to the Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area with my Father-in-law, Lynn, on our third full-day in Florida. This was a quest. A quest for a very rare wild neighbor; the red-cockaded woodpecker.

Lynn and I arrived at Babcock-Webb WMA at about 8am on March 7th. After making four stops in the areas where longleaf pine trees are marked with white paint, signifying a potential nest cavity, we happened upon a flock of three red-cockaded woodpeckers off of Seaboard Grade Road. With them were at least two red-bellied woodpeckers and a couple of Northern flickers. There were some warblers in the area who seemed to be loosely associating. The whole flock moved slowly westward through the open pine forest, each bird foraging as it went.

It was an incredible experience to watch the three red-cockaded woodpeckers interact. Their very active nature reminded me of downy woodpeckers while their habit of flaking off bark reminded me of their relative in the far north, the black-backed woodpecker with whom I had the joy of making the acquaintance during my trip to the ADK's in December.

The red-cockaded woodpeckers chattered back and forth with short rhaspy notes, working the trunks as well as the outer-branches of longleaf pine as they went; from middle to top, then moving on to the next one. Sometimes each worked its own pine tree yet not too far off from the others, and in at least one moment during the thirty minutes of our observation all three red-cockaded woodpeckers were in the same tree picking for insects while two flickers worked the ground beneath them and a couple of red-bellied woodpeckers foraged on adjacent trees.

In addition to this amazing experience, some of the other wild neighbors we encountered at Babcock-Webb WMA included a great variety of bird species, alligators, deer, and fox squirrels as well as a very interesting carnivorous plant, the sundew.

Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area is another area with which I was very pleased and it's a place I'd recommend visiting if you ever get the chance.

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