Lewis's Woodpeckers

George Chaniot

In early October there was a series of posts to Calbirds about Lewis's
Woodpeckers, Acorn Woodpeckers, and Pinyon Jays showing up in widespread
places in central California where they usually do not occur. I was
thinking of following up with a post about the absence of Lewis's
Woodpeckers in places where they usually do occur. Where I live in Potter
Valley, Mendocino Co., there is usually a small population of several dozen
every winter from about mid September through late April, easy to find. So
far this fall I have seen exactly one (on September 24). In this region
there has been a massive failure of the acorn crop of Interior Live Oak,
Blue Oak, and Valley Oak this year. I wonder if this could be due to the
very rainy April this year which was about 325% normal here.
Today, Sep 22, on an annual Peregrine Audubon field trip to Round
Valley, MEN, we visited a stand of large Valley Oaks where we usually see
several dozen Lewis's at this time of year. They were conspicuous in their
absence. Chuck Vaughn and I decided to return to Ukiah via the high country
of the Mendocino National Forest, and, to our surprise, we found a group of
Lewis's Woodpeckers on Etsel Ridge in the Brewer's Oak zone at about 5200
feet elevation between Grizzly Flat and Coffee Mill Flat. We saw at least
14 easily from road M1. We do not remember ever seeing them here before,
although, admitedly, we do not venture up here often in November. We also
saw some Band-tailed Pigeons which have also been sparse at lower
elevations. Acorns were abundant under every Brewer's Oak I checked, and
quite a few were still on the twigs. On a trip on May 31 we noted that the
phenology of the Brewer's Oaks seemed several weeks behind. Could they have
produced a good mast crop this year by blooming later than the other
So it seems that some Lewis's Woodpeckers have found a food source at
a higher elevation than they usually frequent at this time of year. Will
they be moving downslope as the winter progresses?

George Chaniot
Potter Valley, MEN, CA

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