Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Lovely Patterns and a Bright Yellow Surprise

Northern, or Yellow-shafted Flicker - looks relatively plain, right?  You might even pass them by when walking in the woods.  Read on, my friends - you're in for a surprise :>)

The majority of our woodpeckers are black and white with touches in red.  They are all beautiful birds, but we rarely even notice one of the truly stunning woodpeckers that are common in our woods.  This is a posting just for Flickers.

The Flicker is a common bird but is know to be in a sharp and rapid decline in numbers.  My guess is that loss of habitat explains a whole lot - they are found where there are trees (and ants), and trees are one of the first things to go when buildings are put up.  It will be a less wonderful world if the Flickers disappear.

The Northern Flicker, also called the Yellow-shafted Flicker, is an unusual woodpecker in a few ways.  First, in my mind, is their patterning and colors - vibrant yellows, polka dots, a black moustache in the males - everything about their coloration is different from the rest of our woodpeckers and startling when we take notice.

Here is a link to the Cornell University page for the Northern Flicker.  Here you can listen to their call, if you like, and read more about them.  I am going to use both names interchangeably in this post.




These birds are a little chunkier than Blue Jays and about the same size.  They are common in the woods and feed regularly on the ground.  Ants and beetles are a favorite food.  Unlike their woodpecker cousins, the Flicker has a slightly curved bill made for digging in the ground for their meals.  They also can be seen in trees, and we often see them eating ants that are crawling on trees.

Female Yellow-shafted Flicker feeding on the ground.  Notice the lack of a black moustache.

Male Yellow-shafted Flicker feeding on the ground.  Notice the black moustache at the corner of his bill.




They take off from the ground with a bright patch of white on their rump being the most obvious thing you see - it looks like cotton.  I don't have images of the birds in flight, but these pictures show the bright white rump.

Here the white rump is bvious, and it's even more so when they are flying away from you.  This picture gives a hint as to why they are called yellow-shafted.

Same male as shown above but from a slightly different angle - again, note the moustace.



I looked through all my over 12,000 bird images and only found two with females;  strange, and it surprised me enough that I'm keeping an extra sharp eye out for more.  Both are old pictures, small in size from an Olympus point-and-shoot camera I used when first starting out taking pictures.  Apologies for the lack of quality but you can at least see the differences between male and female faces.

Northern Flickers do migrate to some extent, and perhaps this has an effect on how many females I see in late winter and early spring.

Female Northern Flicker - no moustache

Birds don't often sit still and they don't like to be too near me - I'm a big, scary creature with a big thing that gets pointed at them.  There are wonderful bird photographers who do this for a living and make awesome images.  I'm happy to get some nice pictures when I do, and these are such wonderfully colorful woodpeckers that I am compelled to keep trying for better and better photos.


The name "yellow-shafted" doesn't begin to tell you how beautiful these birds are when the yellow color is shown.  Take a look at these pictures!  How gorgeous is this male!

Stretching feels so good!


Those muscles just need to worked!

Flickers nest in tree cavities and sometimes in abandoned burrows in the ground.  Both parents work to make a suitable home for the young.

In the winter months we see Flickers at our suet.  Although they feed on the tree with other woodpeckers and songbirds, they prefer to be on the ground picking up the dropped pieces.

I hope to give you images from many angles so you will easily be able to identify them.

Happy bird-watching!  I hope you get to see some of these amazing woodpeckers in their natural home.  They've been known to live as long as 9 years, so if they like your area, they may stick around for a while:>)

Thank you so much for coming by to read this post.  As always, my blog is ad-free and will remain so!

Sunday, March 5, 2017




The Beauty of Winter


Finally!  I'm back.  There was a long string of months where computers were crashing and burning and life was crazy, but now I have images to post.  It's winter here in Pennsylvania, USA, and the season appears drab and lifeless if you only glance quickly.  I suggest you put on your walking shoes and  go outside.  I did this a couple times in the last week and was amazed at what I found.  

Winter is a time of sleep - I know that - but it also a time for renewal.  Many things are dormant until a warm day comes along then they stir to life.  Last week there were a few exceptionally warm days, and we even had Mourning Cloak butterflies flitting around the yard.  The last hatch of the year winters over, hiding under bark or finding another shelter, only to emerge during warm days.  They can be found flying in February, but at the first nip of cold they go back to shelter until another warm day comes along.



Mosses hunker down and look lifeless until a bit of moisture and warm sunshine hit them, then they green up and many begin "fruiting".  The moss makes spore packets that look like flower buds when you examine them closely.  The green is amazing against the browns of winter.



Shelf fungi are around, too, along with a few hearty mushrooms.  I found some as I walked the paths.

This called the Cedar Apple Rust Gall.  It's really a fungus, and this is how it over-winters.  The dots will grow into hanging tendrils that contain spores, and then it looks like a many-tentacled octopus.

Crust fungi look like a crust (DUH).

This is a shelf fungus long since dead.

I'm conflicted with the ID for these pretty shelf fungi.  It appears to be a turkey tail with the concentric bands, but it also could be the Mossy Maze Polypore because of the green algae.  The following two images are Mossy Maze Polypores and you'll note how different they look.

Mossy Maze Polypores

Mossy Maze Polypores

A rough, frilly kind of shelf fungi

These are Turkey Tail fungi.  Turkey Tails are so named because they resemble the tail of the wild turkey when spread open.  There are many colors you can find;  these happen to be brown.

Yet another type of shelf fungi

These tiny puffball mushrooms are growing on a dead log among the roots and mosses.  The holes in the tops are where the mushrooms popped open and released their spores.  The spores are like flowers seeds and they ride the wind to a new home where they settle and grow into the next generation of puffballs.

Spring is about five (5) weeks away at this point (when I walked the two open space areas), and there are signs that the natural world is preparing for the great awakening.  Birds are more active and vocal.  Some birds are traveling through the area on their way to nesting grounds;  others are showing signs of home building.  Some are in breeding colors, some are partly there, and some haven't even begun to change - quite a range!

We had a pair of Eastern Bluebirds come to one of our nest boxes (not on my walk but I'm including them here) and we were very surprised.  Bluebirds are creatures of open areas like fields and meadows, not woods.  Still we were hopeful they might set up housekeeping but, no, they were gone the next day.

Male Eastern Bluebird

Female Eastern Bluebird

Male Eastern Bluebird

Male Eastern Bluebird

Other birds that are usually around are making "nice" to their prospective mates.  Today a male cardinal was feeding his chosen one:>)  The picture didn't come out decent but I'll keep trying - very touching to see him gift her with food.

Woodpeckers are all through the woods, and they make a lot of noise!  Even tiny Downy Woodpeckers can be gossipy!

Female Downy Woodpecker - note the sort bill, unusual for a woodpecker

You have to look closely to see it, but there's a mockingbird standing on the upper end of the log.

Red-bellied Woodpecker.  This is a male with the full red cap.  Females have red but not all the way up to the forehead.

Yellow-shafted Flicker Woodpecker

There were quite a few birds' nests from last year.  Here are a couple showing how intricately they are woven from twigs and grasses.

Lichens are the most dependable of the woodland growing things.  They are everywhere - on rocks, on trees, on dead logs, even fences.  The colors are beautiful and so are the shapes.

Rocks are a favorite home for our lichens.  If you look at the tree in back of the highest part of the stone wall, you'll see the rectangular hole that Pileated Woodpeckers hammer out.

On these two walks here was plenty of water.  A good rain fell the day before and the ground was spongy;  the little pond and streams were full.  It's a good time for wetlands and I hope it stays that way!  So many things depend upon a healthy wetland environment.

For the second walk I pulled on my rubber boots.  My goal was to find and photograph some especially gorgeous examples of Skunk Cabbage plants in bloom.  These plant have a hood, called a spathe, which encloses and protects the mini-flowers on a spadix.  This is the bloom and it creates heat - enough heat to melt frozen earth and ice or snow to reach air and sun.  The plant gives off a fetid smell when bruised and when blooming.  Insects, like flies, come to feed on what they think is rotten meat and they are tricked into pollinating the plant.

Skunk Cabbage grows in rich damp locations, even directly in water, so I was walking in a little brook looking for the prize plants - found some!  After the blooms are done, the large, dark green leaves appear.  Everything about this plant is AWESOME!


Skunk Cabbage spathe and spadix

 The dried weeds and seed heads of wildflowers and grasses are lovely.  The details, if you stop and look, are amazing;  what a superb and fantastic world we live in!

Wetland Fern Spores Packets

Cattail - there are about 30 different types of cattails (who knew?).
Cattail - wetland plants

Dried Grass - graceful dancers

Dried Goldenrod

Maple Seeds - These maple wings didn't want to leave home, I guess!  This was at the end of February and here they are, still hanging around.

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne's Lace

Multiflora Rose Hips - I played with this image, as you can see.

Multiflora Rose Hips and Goldenrod

Dried Seed Heads that look like a bouquet.

Same batch as above - slightly different angle

A single seed head from the same kind of plant (?) as above  I think it looks like an aster, but I'm not at all sure.

Mystery seed head - I need to go back when these are blooming so I can figure out what they are.  Pretty nice looking, though!

Teasels, Goldenrod, and grasses

Teasels are a type of thistle with wicked spines!

Yarrow Seed Heads

Yarrow Seed Heads

Ground Cherry Seed Pod

Wandering through the landscape is soothing and refreshing.  The world is a beautiful place to roam.

American Holly

A new set of leaves for this plant so nicely tucked under fallen tree branches

An old pine tree

A dead tree still has life as sculpture

Winter Woods

A baby cedar tree grows within the protective roots of this large, old tree at the edge of the creek.  It found the perfect nursery to grow in.

It's twilight and time to head home.  This is a good way to say good-bye for now and to thank you, as always, for visiting my blog!  Happy MARCH - it's a great month!