Wednesday, January 22, 2014

San Diego County Bird #211: Lewis's Woodpecker

Lewis's Woodpecker
Lewis's Woodpecker. Ramona, California. January 19, 2014. Greg Gillson.
Last weekend I decided to explore Pamo Valley, north of Ramona. It is about 15 miles to the east of San Marcos. The area is a lush oak valley on the edge of the dry wilderness area. It is owned by one large ranch with the county road transecting it.

There were scores of Acorn Woodpeckers in the valley--in fact, I tallied 45. Lark Sparrows were abundant. A large flock of Western Meadowlarks flew around. Western Bluebirds flitted among the tree tops. New for me in the County were Wild Turkeys (#210) and two Lewis's Woodpeckers (#211). This valley seems a good place to find these rather nomadic woodpeckers in winter.

As I was taking the photo above my camera seized up and gave me an Error 99. Do you know that sickening feeling of dread you get when an expensive piece of equipment malfunctions? Well, I tried to put that feeling behind me. But my photography was definitely over for the day. Fortunately, I later learned that this generic error is often caused by tarnish on the gold contacts between the camera and lens. Indeed, a pencil eraser to the contacts later seemed to fix the problem. Whew.

After visiting Pamo Valley I went over to Lake Hodges and added Rufous-crowned Sparrow (#212) to my San Diego County list. This rather common bird of chaparral was one I just kept missing since moving here in September.

I added a life bird here--Zone-tailed Hawk! (ABA bird #517; San Diego County Bird #213) Oh, if only my camera had still been working! This long-winged Buteo is shaped and colored just like a Turkey Vulture. It soars on dihedral wings just like a vulture, too! The adult male I saw has one white tail band; females have two and immatures have several bands on the tail. I had been keeping an eye out for this species, as one had been seen not too far from here regularly since October at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park east of Escondido, and there were a couple of reports from Lake Hodges. The photos I've seen look like the same bird I saw.