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Fall into winter

Fall ferns, Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. Photo by April Strzelczyk.

The fall season in Minnesota has been spectacular this year and we've been lucky to have a couple of solid months of bright autumn hues and some beautiful days full of sunshine. As usual, the red-headed woodpeckers at Cedar Creek have been busy and some of our citizen science volunteers have been surveying to get an estimate of how many birds may be overwintering this year.

After our most recent count, about 60% of the birds that were present this May were still at Cedar Creek in late October. Many of these individuals overwintered at Cedar Creek last year, and given similar patterns in previous years, we expect that these birds will also try to overwinter this year. Many of the birds we have observed recently were still harvesting acorns and some were occasionally still flycatching for insects. One of the more interesting observations we have made this fall is the high number of juvenile red-headed woodpeckers that fledged this summer and remain at Cedar Creek this fall—perhaps the highest number on record. April Strzelczyk, research technician extraordinaire, captured some great photos of fledglings this fall.

We monitored 36 individual nest trees this year, 33 of which fledged at least one juvenile during the first nesting attempt. We recorded 6 second nest attempts later in the season, 5 of which fledged at least one juvenile. Productivity appears to be high this year, as evidenced by the number of juveniles we are still seeing at Cedar Creek. We observed a wide range of fledge dates this year—which we think is pretty typical of red-headed woodpeckers. Our first nest fledged in late June and the last nest fledged on September 9th. The photos below (taken by Siah St. Clair) show the adults at this last nest to fledge bringing food to their nestling in late August.

Here's to a wonderful 2019 field season full of great data collection and observations. Hats off to all of our citizen science volunteers, research technicians, and Cedar Creek staff. We're looking forward to sharing more details from our work in the coming months. Happy winter!


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