Here is the promised follow-up to my first post on Los Angeles birding about the area's wonderful woodpeckers.
You may be wondering how the desert wasteland I described in the last post is able to support wood-bearing trees, not to mention the advertised 'peckers.
OK, I may have exaggerated the bleakness of the landscape a bit last time 'round. There are actually plenty of trees in Los Angeles County and the woodpecker diversity surprised me.
|Acorn Woodpecker, Los Angeles|
|Nuttall's Woodpecker, San Gabriel Mountains|
And then there are the underrated Nuttal's Woodpeckers. I would say they are like the western equivalent of Downy woodpecker except that Downies are in California too (we saw one in the San Gabriel Mountains).
Speaking of the San Gabiriel Mountains, the higher elevations are covered with some really pleasant parkland pine forests. The trees seem to jut straight out of the bare rock in places and there's lots of space to stroll and see between the trunks.
Up here we saw plenty of White-headed Woodpeckers.
|White-headed Woodpecker, San Gabriel Mountains|
|Clark's Nutcracker, San Gabriel Mountains|
But our best woodpecker moment came in one of those Los Angeles City Park, where we were able to sweep the North American sapsuckers. In addition to the expected Red-breasted Sapsucker, this park also had a vagrant, like me, from the east: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker...
|Yellow-bellied Sapsucker female, Veterans Memorial Park, Sylmar|
|Red-naped Sapsucker male, Veterans Memorial Park, Sylmar|
|there's the red nape, Veterans Memorial Park, Sylmar|
And the cherry on top was a female Williamson's Sapsucker.
|Williamson's Sapsucker female, Veterans Memorial Park, Sylmar|
Thus far I've omitted the most common woodpecker, partly because I didn't get a photo of it, but mainly because it will help segue into the next post. The Northern "Red-shafted" Flicker is dramatically different than our eastern "Yellow-shafted" version, what with it's rosier shafts. But these two superficially different birds are considered to make up one and the same "species," with intergrade/hybrids not all that difficult to find.
In this "sport" we call birding, points are awarded based upon contemporary lists of species. It's a flawed system to be sure and one of the tragic consequences is that subspecies often get ignored. And even when birders go to the trouble to try to pick out the ones that can be readily discerned in the field, it's often still a hedge against a potential future "split" that might one day turn into the beloved "armchair tick."
Western subspecies, those birds that clearly look different than the eastern versions with which I am familiar, but don't "count," will be the theme of the next post.