On the road: Lewis’s in Junction Texas

grove of pecans favored by Lewis's Woodpecker across the Llano River, Photo Stephan Lorenz

Next to his mailbox stood a cowboy dressed in his Sunday’s best. A fine belt buckle, sharp boots, and a shirt that would have had Wayne leave the party to go change into something better. On a short leash a tiny dachshound wore a wine colored t-shirt against the cold snap. Just a few driveways down, a rotten goat skin, head, ears, tail and all, dangled from a bare branch. Junction, Texas is a bit of a misnomer, as I-10 just flies through town and there are no other major highways that intersect. In fact at the edge of town, roads quickly turn to dirt as these wind into the juniper covered hills. But then there are the rivers, the North Branch and South Branch of the Llano converge and spill over limestone bottoms and through low canyons. While the town itself had a pleasing feel amidst interesting landscape we had come for a bird, of course.

A Lewis’s Woodpecker had been present in Junction for over a month, gracing, appropriately, the rodeo grounds. I woke up dutifully just after sunrise, left Claudia in the warmth of the room, and headed across town to the rodeo. It was cold, downright freezing, as I shivered underneath a single sweater, yes a bit underdressed. It wasn’t long until three other birders arrived, but not the woodpecker. At least I now knew I had been staring at the right trees as we continued our vigil. Eventually I wandered off, not from boredom, more to keep hypothermia at bay. I found a house with a feeder across a small stream at the edge of the grounds and watched Spotted Towhees, House Finches, White-crowned Sparrows and Northern Cardinals mob the suet in the frigid air. Suddenly I head my name, no it wasn’t the cold getting to me, it was Bernd Gravenstein’s wife, who bravely had sacrificed herself to run after me to give me the news that the woodpecker had appeared. I hustled back to the spot only to hear the word it has just flown, oh there it is flying, and after a bit a bit of scope joggling I got decent views.

Claudia’s strategy panned out much better. I picked her up and after coffee, a quick breakfast, we returned to the rodeo grounds. Sun over a now clear sky softened the edges of the sharp morning cold and within minutes I spotted the Lewis’s again. This time we had lengthy scope views of the bird revealing all its color with sunlight flowing from the right direction. I had forgotten how large and corvid-like Lewis’s Woodpeckers look in flight, and the faded salmon on the belly. We watched the bird for over an hour before heading to the South Llano River Sate Park. Here the feeders were extremely busy given the weather and we enjoyed great views of several Pine Siskins among throngs of American Goldfinches. Dark-eyed Juncos, White-crowned, Field, Chipping, and some Rufous-crowned, Black-throated Sparrows.

I forgot my camera for the trip (as it was a last-minute affair), but we managed to get a blurry something with Claudia’s phone through the scope, if you look carefully Big Foot might be in the shot too.

very poor photo of Lewis's through scope, it was a long way off most of the time, Photo Claudia Cavazos

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