Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Red-Headed Woodpecker - Patsy Pond Nature Trail, North Carolina

I visited my son in Chapel Hill, North Carolina while my other son from New York was also there visiting. We drove southeast from Chapel Hill toward the Atlantic Coast to Patsy Pond Nature Trail ("Patsy Pond") about 170 miles and a 3 hour drive. Patsy Pond is in the Croatan National Forest and located near Croatan High School off Hwy 24 between Cape Carteret and Morehead City. It is quite close to the Bogue Sound which is protected by a barrier island known as Emerald Isle, one of the Outer Banks. 

Patsy Pond has several trails and I think we did a combination of all three, starting on the green .75 mile trail, then switching to the orange 1.9 mile trail, then switching to the blue 1.75 mile travel before coming out on the green trail. We never did see Patsy Pond, the largest water feature, but we saw some smaller ones. It goes through an area called the Longleaf Pine Flat Woods which is longleaf pines with herbs and shrubs in the understory. There are only 3.3 million acres of longleaf pine forest remaining in the U.S. out of the original 90 million acres along the eastern and gulf coasts. There are small ponds that get their water supply from the ground and are dark with tannic acid from peat, which is decaying matter and pine needles. 

The most exciting find for me was the red-headed woodpecker, the first ones I've ever seen. The red-headed woodpecker has a black back and tail, a white belly and rump and a red head and neck. 
The black wings have white secondary remiges. Males and females are identical and juveniles have brownish gray heads. They keep food caches, like our California acorn woodpeckers. They are very distinctive and stand out like they are wearing florescent clothing while standing on the sides of the pine trees. I saw three of them. 

I saw a couple of Canada geese in a small pond. 
I also saw an eastern bluebird, only the second one I've ever seen. 
My sons were primarily interested in carnivorous plants which I spent less time looking at because of my interest in looking for woodpeckers, including the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker which is found there, but which we did not see. Trees marked with white bands by the U.S. Forest Service, which are quite prevalent, have nest cavities for the red-cockaded woodpecker, but no lock that day.
The tree in the background to the far right is marked with a white band, but the woodpecker is a red-headed woodpecker.