hiding its provisions (insects, acorns, fruit, or seeds) in crevices in wood, under bark, in fence posts, and even under roof shingles. An added twist is the occasional tendency of Red-headed
Woodpeckers to eat, or destroy, eggs and young of other bird species!
Birders are hard-pressed to find a Red-headed Woodpecker in Vermont nowadays. While never common in Vermont, recent sightings have been few and far between. The species has declined over most of its North American breeding range. A single adult observed on the east side of Cornwall Swamp on August 19-20 was the first individual reported in 2006. Although nesting was confirmed at several Champlain Valley
sites during the 1970s, reports of breeding have been very sporadic during the past decade or more. The species favors habitat edges, especially those lands in Vermont that feature a mix of agriculture, isolated woodlots, and hedgerows with scattered dead trees. Like other species of open habitats, Vermont's reforestation during the past century has probably contributed to the decline of Red-headed Woodpeckers. Loss of snags in farmlands is another likely factor. Addison County appears to constitute the last remaining stronghold of Red-headed Woodpeckers in Vermont. Birders are encouraged to report any observations of this species to VINS.
Other notable bird sightings during the past week included a merlin and a good smattering of migrant shorebirds at Dead Creek. Among these were a single Black-bellied Plover, a Greater Yellowlegs, several Least Sandpipers, two Short-billed Dowitchers, and four Red-necked Phaloropes. Two Caspian Terns, a species increasing in abundance on and near Lake Champlain, were sighted both at Dead Creek and Grand Isle. Another avian rarity of the past week was a
well-described Summer Tanager at the Gorham Bridge south of Pittsford on August 19-20th. This species is very similar in appearance to our resident Scarlet Tanager, but lacks its black wings. It inhabits the southern U.S. but occasionally wanders north to New England. Summer
Tanagers are unusual among songbirds in their specialization on bees and wasps as food items.
Chris Rimmer, Conservation Biologist