Regular readers of these postings will by now be all too familiar with my frequent avian searches that come up empty-handed. Taken together, these accounts resemble nothing so much as love unrequited. Tufted ducks in Charlotte, VT? Wintering bald eagles along the Connecticut River? Greater white-fronted geese in Vernon, VT? How about Bicknell’s thrushes in the White Mountains? Those are just a few of the quests where my passionate yearning to find the objects of my desire was spurned.
Well, it has happened again. I regularly walk a stretch of River Rd. running from Lyme’s Edgell Covered Bridge to River Road’s junction with NH Rt. 10 at “Tullando Farm” in Orford. Most of the sightings on this route are generated by the half dozen or so feeders at houses scattered along the strip. Many are species one would expect to see at feeders during the winter season, but woods and agricultural fields located nearby occasionally provide some variety. Today’s walk included hearing but not seeing a pileated woodpecker.
Then there is my specialty, “The one that got away.” The latest addition to that list is the red-bellied woodpecker. Readers may remember, the red-bellied has been a personal quest bird since sighting reports began appearing for the Upper Valley about three years ago, a function of a steady northward movement from the mid-Atlantic that began back in the 1990s. I saw the species when I lived just north of Boston, so it is not a missing entry on my life list. But I have not seen one since moving to Lyme in 2005. It is a missing piece of my work in progress lists for NH and VT.
One can imagine my chagrin, then, when last Friday birding colleague Jeff McQueen of Orford posted a red-bellied woodpecker sighting at Lyme’s Moses Kent Farm that is on my River Rd. route. Particularly galling was the fact that an hour earlier I had been at that very same spot. Talk about timing is everything! It is not the first time Jeff has unwittingly tormented me in such fashion. You may recall that my Mid-winter Bald Eagle Survey (see Eagle Scouting 2015-01-14) produced no bald eagle sightings. But Jeff had one, and it was around 1:30 P.M. at Orford’s “Bunten Farm.” “Where was I at that time? I was on the Orford/Fairlee Bridge which is three miles south of Bunten Farm. Aaargh!
I have since been back twice to my River Rd. route in search of that elusive woodpecker but to no avail. Today I did hear a tantalizing, unfamiliar call. But it was a one-time occurrence, and I could not locate its source. Will I go back again? Of course! As for any suitor, “Faint heart never won fair lady.”
Photo credit: The illusive, at least for me, red-bellied woodpecker.© Christopher L. Wood