A Pileated Woodpecker photographed through the branches about 6o plus feet away with a Canon Mark II with a Canon 300 IS lens plus 1.4 teleconverter
Another shot of the same bird, taken from same place, cropped and enlarged. Notice the red dot to the right of the Pileated. It's the nearby head of a Red-bellied Woodpecker.
continued from 1/4/2007...
We continued to walk farther down the Sims Trail through the old growth woods at Congaree National Forest. The trail took us next to some large trees, some fallen, some standing. We were struck by the abundant birdlife, including lots of woodpeckers. We crossed over the boardwalk and continued down Sims Trail towards Wise Lake.
Several times we noticed trees whose bark had been scaled off. Most noticeably, we came to a large tree on the right that had the bark scaled off in several places, revealing shallow holes. See the photos above. The photos reminded us of some of the photos we had seen on Auburn University Ivory-billed Woodpecker researcher, Dr. Geoff Hill's website, given as possible evidence of Ivory-billed Woodpecker scaling.
There were several scaled places on this tree. The top of the tree was dead and broken off. There were mushrooms growing on the tree and on the lower portion, there was a section of removed bark that showed fanned out beetle tunnels. We do not know who scaled the bark off the tree. Ivory-billed Woodpeckers were known to forage by chiseling bark off recently dead trees to expose beetle larvae but also were reported to occasionally excavate in rotted wood like a Pileated Woodpecker. On the other hand, Pileated Woodpeckers, while foraging in a variety of ways, from gleaning to deep retangular excavations, have been reported to sometimes scale bark off trees.
We heard and saw Pileated Woopeckers several times. At one point, when we were close to a clearing before Wise Lake, we saw a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers in the trees. We were alerted to their presence by what sounded like muted pecking into bark. We then heard 4 very loud single knocks, spaced erratically, come from their vicinity. The knocks did not sound like anything that had been reported from Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. We were surprised by the loudness of the knocks, and they seemed different in quality from the softer feeding pecks that preceeded them. We walked into the forest, which was easy due to the lack of thick understory and got a little closer to one of them. We saw him feeding by pecking into a large dead rotted tree stub. See Lillian's photos. Interestingly, a Red-bellied Woodpecker lurked nearby, within seeming to watch the Pileated peck into the wood. Lillian photographed the male Pileated Woodpecker from about 60 feet away. The male Pileated fed for awhile by pecking, then sticking his bill further into the wood. He then flew off towards the female, his black and white wings barely through the trees.
Lillian's photo tip: If you are photographing through dense woods, move your body until you find a hole through the tangle in which the camera's autofocus sensor will lock onto the bird.
We crossed a bridge and looked into the Cypress forest realizing how dense the woods were. We came to Wise Lake, expecting a large body of water with better sight lines. The scene of water and large cypress trunks appeared ancient and serene. We stopped, watched and absorbed the quiet.
We returned back the way we had come, encountering Eastern Phoebes, a Blue-headed Vireo and a Hairy Woodpecker excavating a hole. Back near the visitor's center we saw a perky Winter Wren, with it's little tail cocked up in classic wren style.
Did we see an Ivory-billed Woodpecker? No. But it was enchanting and awe-inspiring to visit this truly magnificent forest, in the historic range of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker and experience a little, what it must have been like when Ivory-bills were there. It is well worth the trip.
Here is our trip list of birds:
Coming Monday....we visited the Choctawhatchee River Basin, FL home of recent Ivory-billed Woodpecker sightings