My Friend Flicker

Actually, he’s not my friend – he probably sees me as more of a stalker.

I was coming home from the grocery store and spotted some sparrows nesting behind the sign at the hardware store next door. I got some cool shots and loaded up my gear and wilting groceries and headed for home. As I started to pull out I spotted him across the parking lot in the median separating it from the highway. At first he caught my eye because he was large, then I saw the flash of red and the large spots. I slowly pulled over to a parking spot nearby because I noticed that he had no concern about passing cars as he fed…

20130528-121413.jpg As he dined curbside, I slowly opened the Jeep door and grabbed a couple of shots with his face buried in the grass, then I made a serious misstep. I moved from behind the door and he flew off. I jumped back in the Jeep and gave him chase across the highway and into a housing development where I lost him. I took out my iPhone birding app and made the identification and headed home to gaze at my photos of a bird with his nose in the grass, all along wishing that I had continued to snap until he had at least raised his head for me.

I get so excited when I spot a new species, and this time I had assumed he would be as calm as the woodpeckers I have cultivated relationships with at the Stone House. Having just come home from a trip where I shot lots of birds in park settings I just jumped the gun. He was gorgeous – Northern Flicker – a variety of woodpecker that often feeds on ants and forages on the ground. The black mustache marks on the sides of his face identify him as a male. His flight was stunning, the underside of his feathers are a gorgeous gold color. At first sight I mistook him for a mourning dove, but his movements were so much more deliberate, that’s what drew me from across the parking lot.

Later that afternoon, it struck me. My woodpeckers are creatures of habit. They fly from tree to tree in a pattern before approaching the feeder. I have found that most birds seem to have habits and like certain spots, so while there was still light I loaded up and headed back to the grocery store for another crack at the Flicker. When I pulled into the parking lot I came in from the side that would give me the best shooting angle and drove past the spot where he had been, but he wasn’t there. I shot a few blackbirds and starlings and headed around the corner for home when I spotted him 10 feet from that spot on the other side of the median. This time I got the car close and just stopped and shot. He tolerated me and flew towards the housing development – but then he stopped, not caring that I was there…

20130528-122530.jpgHe started at the curb again and worked his way up the hillside…

20130528-122631.jpgHe shot me a look back…

20130528-122725.jpgGlanced left…

20130528-122810.jpgLooked right…

20130528-122902.jpgAnd headed up the hill out of camera range.

You can bet I’ll be stalking him again real soon.