Today, the chipping sparrow pulled me out the door at just the right moment. A flicker landed on a nearby oak limb. Thinking he might be headed for the feeder, I froze in place, but it was the gazebo beside me that held his interest instead.
I always like to think I'm invisible when I'm photographing birds, but I guess not, especially with the camera shudder clicking. Certainly birds see us, even when we're very still, and from great distances long before we see them. So Mr. flicker paused to take a peek at me, too, and I was pleased that he continued right on with his exploration.
Right behind him came his mate, landing on the roof out of sight at first, then dropping down bringing a flurry of snow with her. Don't you just love all that brilliant yellow?!
Recent breeding surveys have shown the northern flicker to be declining. According to my Atlas of Breeding Birds in TN ed. by Chuck P. Nicholson, northern flickers begin courting in midwinter if they are nonmigratory. I haven't seen the nuptial displays that are described, but we certainly have a pair here that is investigating sites and foraging together. They like this gazebo and visited it more than once today.
My guess is it makes a sheltered roosting spot and a nice place to hang out. However, it's not unheard of for a flicker to use a human structure for nesting if it has the right height and other characteristics. Would that be a fun activity to witness! I might never leave home! Below, you see the female as she is landing on one of the gazebo side boards.
I couldn't have been more thrilled to be standing in that spot!
A little later in the day I saw them flying together among the trees in the lower yard. Once they landed, the male appeared to be foraging and the female sat quietly on a trunk close by. When the male departed, she moved to the spot where he had been and foraged in the same place. Sweet. And such a privilege for me to witness this series of behaviors, all happening only a few hours apart.
And that little chippie that enticed me out into the cold? A sweet ball of fluff with fire on his head (and a tiny bit of snow on his 'nose')!
To see more of my favorite encounters with woodpeckers, visit Berry Dining Sapsucker Style, Time Out for Woodpeckers, and Who's Boss? The northern flickers above are referred to as the yellow-shafted variety because of the yellow feather shafts. You may also enjoy seeing a red-shafted northern flicker that I encountered in New Mexico.
Linked to Bird Photography Weekly #125 at Birdfreak.com to promote the conservation of our world's birds.