As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Thursday 29 May 2014

Rare woodpecker clings to existence in Virginia forest

There are only 13 pairs of these once-common woodpeckers left in the entire state.

Posted: Tuesday, May 27, 2014 11:10 pm

By Rex Springston | Richmond Times-Dispatch

WAVERLY — Flopping around on a towel on the floor of a pine forest, a tiny chick represented hope — if hope can be blind, pink and naked.
This object of optimism, no more than a blob with a beak, was a baby red-cockaded woodpecker, one of the rarest and most peculiar birds in Virginia.

Using climbing gear and an aluminum ladder that he stacked in three 10-foot sections, biologist Bryan Watts had reached the chick’s nest hole in an old-growth pine and extracted the bird with a snarelike tool.

Another biologist, Mike Wilson, put a series of leg bands on the 7-day-old chick. The scientists band the woodpeckers to identify individual birds and learn more about their habits in an effort to build the Virginia population.

“Hope for the future, that’s what you’ve got there,” Watts said.

There are just 13 pairs of these once-common woodpeckers in Virginia, all here in a Sussex County preserve about 55 miles southeast of Richmond.

The work of Watts, Wilson and others is part of an effort to bring back not just a little bird most people will never see but also to restore its majestic wild home — open, parklike pine savannas that once defined Eastern coastal regions but that, like the bird, have been devastated by human actions.

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