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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Northern Flicker

Red-shafted Northern Flicker

For the third year in a row, a pair of northern flicker woodpeckers have taken up residence in the hole in the tree in our backyard. Out of the blue, like clockwork, they arrive towards the end of May and get busy making a home for summer breeding.

While part of my mind wonders how deep the hole in the tree is, the rest of the major portion of my mind is thrilled about this opportunity for the kids (and me) to observe and record something beautiful in nature.

Last year, we spent some time studying backyard birds, which led me to share the beautiful birds I saw in the Springwater Corridor nearby.

The female in the picture above is the first one we noticed moving in. She seems sleek and slim in the picture above. The female in the picture below seems to be puffier, as if it is a different bird altogether - probably the fledgling as it was taken days later than the above.

Red-shafted Northern Flicker

And, here are the male Northern flickers, clicked on day 1 and day 6 of my record-keeping. Am guessing there are atleast half a dozen babies in there, judging by the pictures taken at different times.

Red-shafted Northern Flicker

I remember last year when I desperately tried to get a picture of the eggs - they are certainly well-concealed and well-protected in that hole. I woke up at the crack of dawn hearing the incessant calls to watch if they came out to practise flying, or to catch the parent feeding the young.

Well, they've been here for well over a fortnight now - from the time I started recording them, that is - and we catch ourselves being drawn to them when we are in the house.

They seem to fly in and out of the hole, rat-a-tatting on the patio roof and making the kleer-kleer-kleer noise, as recorded in WhatBird.com.

The male has this bright red cheek marks - moustache - and black neckband - he looks rather grand, with reddish/orangish parts in the wings and black spots all over. The female doesn't have the bright red moustache, but looks every bit as gorgeous with grey-brown-beige coloring, black neckband and dark spots all over.

Red-shafted Northern Flicker

I am guessing the little ones are getting lessons in finding the juicy worms and bugs before they take off on their own. I see quite a few of them around these days. One or the other is cautiously peeping out from the hole, then mustering up courage, takes flight and then soon heads back in, possibly after getting a luscious snack from our garden.

Sometimes one is at the base of the tree while the other is looking down from the hole. Perhaps it has been long enough for the young to fly out with a parent to find food and get back in the hole safely.

Red-shafted Northern Flicker

And sometimes I see the birds together by the hole briefly, just for an instant, as if to exchange a hello before one of them takes off in a flash, too fast for me to get the camera and catch them together.

But, other times, one is resting further up in the tree while another pokes out from the hole.

northern flicker woodpeckers

Og and Ana took turns looking at the birds through our sturdy old binoculars. We looked over and over at the pictures we took to study the birds' features. We talked about the male and the female and what they might be doing in the hole: laying eggs, incubating, raising babies. We noticed that as soon as they arrived they got busy with nest excavation, hammering and chucking out the scraps. We read about their migration, flying south to stay warm as the winter approaches.


Then, Ana was ready to make a book about our very own backyard Northern Flickers.



Having spent way more time than I budgeted on observing them, it seems like I am getting too fond of them, almost too attached and reluctant to let them go. I can see there are at least 3 different-looking females, and 2 different-looking male birds flying in and out of that hole. Between 34x zoom and cropping, some pictures are not as sharp as when seen via the binoculars, but, it certainly captures each bird's personality, me thinks...

Soon, they will fly away. I hope they come back next year.

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1 Comments:

At 10:19 PM, Blogger Vibha said...

Wow, a great opportunity to watch and study them so closely. I can totally understand how you feel about them flying off to another place soon. But I am sure a new birdie couple will arrive and start a new family in your backyard soon.

 

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