An Acorn Woodpecker in...Minnesota?

I was in Minnesota to pick up my new Scamp travel trailer in Backus. After stopping at the Scamp factory and getting that all taken care of, I headed south on Highway 371 with no particular plans other than finding a place to camp for the night and test my new camper. Just past Brainerd, I saw a sign for Crow Wing State Park. I had never been there but it sounded good so I pulled in and paid for a campsite. The campground was nearly empty, I had the place to myself. Hoping to find some Pileated Woodpeckers to photograph, I began hiking around the area. No luck with the Pileated Woodpeckers, I returned to the campsite and was sitting at a picnic table when a woodpecker flew overhead, all I had time to see were large white wing patches. Although it didn't look right, I passed it off as a Red-bellied Woodpecker. Indeed, a few minutes later I saw a Red-bellied Woopecker. But then I noticed another woodpecker working on the end of broken branch. In my initial views  I could see red on the head and a dark back. In my mind I was thinking Red-headed Woodpecker, but no, it was something else. Lewis's???? I worked my way closer, then I got a great look through my binos, and was shocked to realize that this was an ACORN WOODPECKER! I quickly switched modes to photography and it was a good thing I did, because after snapping half a dozen shots, I checked my LCD to see if I had some decent images. When I looked back the woodpecker was gone.  I searched the area for awhile but could not find it again, so I made a made a phone call to get the word out to the Minnesota Ornithologists Union listserve. Then I continued searching but with no luck. Within an hour, my cell phone started ringing. By the end of the evening I had taken eight phone calls and had two voice mails. It was too late in the day for anyone to make the trip, but by the following morning, well before sunrise, the first cars rolled in. By 9 am, I think there were at least 25 birders looking for the Acorn Woodpecker.  The woodpecker was no where to be found.

I have two regrets from this experience. One, no one else got to see the Acorn Woodpecker (as of today, Nov. 10). Two, since I don't keep a Minnesota life list, why couldn't I find a great bird like this in South Dakota, where I do keep a life list? Otherwise, it was a great experience and apparently a new state record for Minnesota. It was great to meet the Minnesota birders!

Here are some photos. The light wasn't very good and I had to work with low shutter speed while hand holding a 500mm, but they are good enough!



A flock of birders. My new Scamp camper is in the background.
The other vehicles all belong to Minnesota birders.
The Acorn Woodpecker was
seen behind the Scamp (to the left).
 Campsite #6, Crow Wing State Park, on November 9th, 2009.