On my way from Brooklyn to Manhattan this afternoon I got stuck in some serious traffic. Over an hour of bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go up the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway so I could get to the Battery Tunnel to get to Manhattan to go up the West Side Highway to Riverside Drive and 92nd Street. Why was I so intent on that particular intersection? Because a Red-headed Woodpecker has been there since last year! Red-headed Woodpeckers are gorgeous birds, or so my field guide tells me, and I have long wanted to see one.

You can imagine how I was feeling after my normally fast-driving self was stuck in that kind of traffic. Frustrated. And I was even more frustrated when I got to the magical intersection and couldn’t find parking. Round and round I went, block to block, but every opening big enough for a car was off-limits because of fire hydrants or driveways. Eventually I made a right-hand turn that I didn’t realize crossed a service road, which unfortunately held a member of the NYPD. Flashing lights, “license and registration,” and a $90 ticket later I was still looking for parking (apparently the “I’m from upstate and I don’t know my way around” plea had been used on this particular cop before). I finally found a metered spot, put five quarters in the parking meter, walked three blocks and watched the woodpecker fly off into some distant trees. It stayed there for quite some time.

I had no picture. My meter was running. So I figured I had to get all of you nice blog-readers something to look at:

My nut!  But it can be yours for $91.25!

Gray Squirrel with nut

attempted squatter

European Starling

I started to despair. I had seen the bird, but not the look I wanted. And no picture. The meter was running. Then, out of nowhere, the Red-headed Woodpecker landed on the tree directly in front of me and drove away two starlings!

My hole!

Red-headed Woodpecker

I’m not sure that the hole pictured above is the woodpecker’s roosting (or maybe, eventually, nesting) spot or not, but it definitely did not want starlings anywhere near it. After about fifteen minutes of watching the woodpecker I hustled back to my car and headed homeward. What a wonderful bird! If you’re a “New Yawka” you have no excuse not to go see this bird. Go. Now. Unless it is dark out in which case you should set your alarm for dawn and go tomorrow.

pretty birdie!

For better pictures and another tale of this same bird go see Mike’s post. And what was I doing in Brooklyn before my woodpecker adventure? Come back tomorrow to find out!

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their indoor cat, B.B. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.