Years ago I met some birders at King Ranch who were extending their Texas trip to drive north and try to see the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. Up to that point, I thought they were over in the Carolinas and other southern states; apparently I had never really studied their distribution map. However, as soon as I learned I would be going on a business trip to Houston, I started yearning after them. Not really remembering exactly where to find them, I did the sensible thing and asked my blogging and Twitter buddies. TexKyle responded right away and was incredibly helpful working his local birding network. He sent along a map, which was key when planning the trip. BirdingBetty responded to my many emails with specific directions, suggestions of other birdy locales and hot tips from the local ListServ. She also recommended Finding Birds on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail which was much better than the 20 year old Texas birding book I had.
So, no doubt you are thinking will you shut-up already and get to the point.
I drove from Houston to Conroe (ugly Rte 45 constuction nightmare, happening for the next 8 months, BTW) stopping to bird WG Jones State Forest. I saw a Red-cockaded Woodpecker sign and several trees with the white or green painted band around them. I even had a Downy false alarm. But in the end did not see any there. So bright and early the next morning, I drove up to Sam Houston Forest.
At the intrepretive sign and pull off, I padded along a pine needle strewn path into the quiet woods. Spotting the color-banded trees, I went to stand among them. I looked up, way up, neck-craningly up. I saw Pine Warblers, Orange-crowned Warblers, Carolina Chickadees, had another Downy false alarm and heard a Red-bellied and Pileated Woodpecker. But it was not until I saw a flake of pine bark float down from a tree that I spotted a woodpecker with a black and white barred back. Dashing over to the tree I struggled to refind it. Then I saw 2 of them chasing one another. After watching another piece of bark float down, I realized that there were many, I had been hearing them, but didn’t know the call. (Note to self-will you please do your homework!) In the end I saw 8.
If you are ever in Houston for a business meeting, try to carve out some time to pop up and see them. It is totally worth it!