Posted by: atowhee | March 13, 2012


The Lewis & Clark Expedition (1803-5) was the first American military venture to the Pacific Coast of the continent.  At the time President Jefferson had just completed the Louisiana Purchase, officially extending the U.S. territory west of the Mississippi River.  The final war against the British, in 1812-14, lay ahead.  The nation had just more than doubled its size.  Yet, few knew much of anything about what Jefferson had bought.  Lewis & Clark were sent out to determine what lay along the Missouri River and along the mountains that were somewhere west of St. Louis.

They discovered dozens of new plants and animals, but Lewis’s untimely death left their detailed journals unedited until they were boiled down by a Philadelphia lawyer.  He left out most of the boring stuff about natural history.  He was far more interested in trade with the Indian tribes, gold, minerals and fur.  Many of Lewis’s fine, detailed observations of animals and flora lay unrecognized for decades longer.  But some of their discoveries, including bird species, did make it into public awareness.  Alexander Wilson got to depict and describe 3 species discovered by L&C.   Clark’s Crow (now Nutcracker).  Louisiana (now Western) Tanager.   And, of course, Lewis’s Woodpecker.  The only known bird specimen to survive from the L&C collection over 200 years ago; a lone Lewis’s Woodpecker skin now at Harvard University.  So here are some fine pictures of living Lewis’s, all taken at their Agate Lake wintering grounds by Peter Thiemann.The glossy pluamge of this bird shows no white but does have hints of green or pink or rose, depending on light conditions and the viewer’s angle. In the air the Lewis’s can resemble a small crow.


  1. Great birds all!

  2. Nice pictures, Peter!

  3. Beautiful! These are such lovely birds – especially for woodpeckers, which are usually so starkly and strongly colored. Wonderful photos!

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