During the Great Backyard Bird Count an eBird report was submitted for a 
Red-headed Woodpecker visiting a feeder on West Hill in the Town of Ithaca. 
It’s a rare species, and fortunately the observer included a brief but adequate 
identifying description. Jay McGowan also personally verified the report on 
Sunday, as did I yesterday. This is an area which has had Red-headed 
Woodpeckers reported in past years from the southern part of Poole Rd, and from 
Elm St Extension east of the Coy Glen Gorge, so I think there must be some 
attractive habitat. I heard a “wheer“ call yesterday from woods on the N side 
of Elm St Extension in that area. I also heard rattle calls when the bird was 
at or near the feeder. 

The feeder is at the corner of Elm St Extension (a narrow road with rather fast 
traffic), and Valley View Rd (a one block long residential street). If you 
decide to drive there, I would recommend staying in your car with it stopped on 
the end of Valley View Rd near the intersection with Elm St Extension. I think 
there’s room for a single car on Valley View not to block traffic, the feeders 
are visible from there without staring at anyone’s house, and I think a stopped 
car with no one getting out would not disturb the bird. The owner of the house 
with the feeders is aware that people might stop by and is okay with that 
providing it doesn’t disturb the bird. 

For those of you who consider the carbon footprint of birding, I’m not sure 
whether driving to this location would be better than cruising out to 
Trumansburg or stopping there on the way to someplace else when those birds 
return, because Elm Street is a long steep ascent from downtown Ithaca. It is a 
pleasant walk though. 

As I said, Red-headed Woodpecker is rare in our area, but it is even more rare 
in winter. The other interesting bit of info provided on the original eBird 
report was that the Red-headed Woodpecker has been regularly seen at this 
feeder since 20 December. Most winter reports that I’ve seen have been unique 
or sporadic, but I believe this would be only the second documentation of 
Red-headed Woodpecker overwintering at one location in the basin. The first was 
several years ago in Cornell’s Parker Woods in Cayuga Heights next to North 
Campus. That bird had cached acorns into bark crevices. Presumably this bird 
has some additional food source than this suet feeder as well. 

The observer keeps a notebook and recorded seeing the Red-headed Woodpecker as 
early as 2 January this year (which would have made it a Count Week bird), so I 
have revised the 2022 Cayuga Lake Basin First Records list. 

- - Dave Nutter

Cayugabirds-L List Info:

1) http://www.mail-archive.com/cayugabirds-l@cornell.edu/maillist.html
2) http://www.surfbirds.com/birdingmail/Group/Cayugabirds
3) http://birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/CAYU.html

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