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Sunday, June 10, 2018

A reliable site for Red-headed Woodpeckers

In our area, southeast Pennsylvania, finding a reliable location for Red-headed Woodpeckers can difficult. There is one area I visit that produces Red-headed Woodpeckers about 75-80% of my visits. The small town of Christiana, Lancaster Co., better known as a main stop on the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves heading north, has at least two pairs of resident Red-headed Woodpeckers and maybe more. Ninety percent of the time the woodpeckers can be found on Williams Run Road. This is a nice 2-3 mile gravel and paved road that winds through several farms of grazing cattle and free range chickens. 

Nearby areas to search for Red-headed Woodpeckers.

Patience is key here. My usual routine is to drive the road slowly checking the trees, utility poles and fence posts for perched woodpeckers or keeping an eye on the open fields for flybys. I have found the birds within five minutes of searching, but mostly it’s a slow hour or two process. Ideally, I would choose to walk the length of the road but there are several territorial dogs who aggressively challenge your right to walk past their farm. I would love to be able to say “just go to this tree or that pole” and the bird will be there but in reality I have found the birds from one end of the road to the other.    

Williams Run Rd. east of Gap Rd.

Williams Run Rd. west of Gap Rd.
Sometimes they can be found perched on fence posts (07/10/2016)

Or on dead snags (06/09/2018)

Red-headed Woodpeckers have a tendency sometimes to perch motionless for some time so one can easily drive past them. (Nest tree 07/10/2016)
Usually, the birds are first noticed as they fly by over the farm fields or from a flycatching perch.




This woodpecker is showing proficiency at nabbing flying insects. (06/09/2018)

While you’re watching out for the woodpeckers, there are plenty of other birds to see. In summer, Horned Larks and Grasshopper Sparrows can easily be found. Nearby Walker Lane is a great place to see Grasshopper Sparrows close. Eastern Kingbirds and Barn Swallows are usually perched along the fences, Willow Flycatchers breed near the creek areas, Great Blue Herons and Belted Kingfishers are usually working the creeks. Warbling Vireos, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles are fairly common. There is a small but active Purple Martin colony on one of the farms. In winter, there are a variety of sparrows along the roadside and the Horned Lark numbers increase. I haven’t seen a Rough-legged Hawk or Short-eared Owl here yet, but the habitat looks good. 

Young Eastern Kingbird (06/26/2012)
Grasshopper Sparrow (06/13/2010)
Grasshopper Sparrow on Walker Lane (06/26/2012)
I was surprised to see this Common Raven fly by (03/26/2016)
A Dickcissel was found near the intersection of Williams Run Rd. and Smyrna Rd. for three consecutive years (05/04/2012).
Young Horned Lark (06/26/2012)

Good Luck if you try!!

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