My quest to see a Pileated Woodpecker…

Pileated Woodpeckers have fascinated me since I started birding. They are commonly sighted in one of my favorite birding spots, Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve near Southern Pines, NC. I have made the trip down there with my oldest several times and we fell in love with the area (more on Weymouth Woods in another post soon) and the preserve. It truly is one of my happy places. With each trip down there, I would have high hopes of seeing a Pileated! But it wasn’t until I was able to convince my husband to accompany me on a trip down that I finally got eyes on not one but 3 of them! I had been wanting to show him the area for quite some time; to me it has the potential of being our forever home when he finally retires. We didn’t get on the trails as early as I had hoped since we drove around town for awhile so he could see the area. He loved the area as much as I did!

We hiked around the preserve on many of the trails and saw many birds, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Robins, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, to name a few. We spent a few hours looking and enjoying the day but still now Pileated Woodpecker.

Red-headed Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Pine Warbler, and Brown Thrasher

We decided to give up, head back to the car, and start for home since it was starting to get dark…it was January after all. As the light was fading and we were making our way back towards the car I heard the distinct call of the Pileated Woodpecker and saw a large bird flying from tree to tree. I let out a small scream of excitement, probably did a dance as well, and did my best speed walk to get closer to the woodpecker without scaring him/her away. My sweet husband kindly asked the hikers behind us on the trail to stay back for a minute or two while I tried to get a shot, explaining to them how I had been on the “hunt” for a Pileated Woodpecker for a long time. Imagine my excitement when I discovered it wasn’t just one Pileated but 3 flying around! I got my shots, from a distance and in fading light, but I got my shots!

Not the best shots, but a start!

With a smile on my face we headed home! I have seen Pileateds in other parks on other birding adventures, sometimes I get a chance for a shot other times it is just a fleeting glimpse.

Pileated I ran into recently at Jordan Lake

Perhaps my favorite Pileated sighting was at Sandy Creek Park in Durham. I wasn’t expecting to see much of anything since it was the middle of the afternoon and birds are usually quiet during that time period. But as I was walking along the trail, I heard the distinct call of one and off I went. Quietly walking while scanning each tree looking for my target. Finally I saw him! He was working a pine tree looking for ants. I quietly crept a little closer and stood there taking pictures of my nemesis bird! I couldn’t have been happier that day. He totally cooperated and I got some good shots of a Pileated Woodpecker finally. I hope to get even better photos but for now I am happy.

My nemesis bird, Pileated Woodpecker at Sandy Creek Park in Durham

What’s your nemesis bird? I think my new nemesis is the Northern Flicker! I saw about 8 of them the other day while birding but couldn’t get close enough for any decent shots! Challenge on!

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