Monday, February 4, 2013

Yard birds - Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flicker and Super Bowl carnivorous behavior

On Super Bowl Sunday, I was blessed with the visit of a bird I rarely see at my feeders! A Northern Flicker dropped by for some suet. And then ... another!!! The flicker is a very rare visitor here at the feeders, and I never saw two at the same time!!! Wow! It made my day!

Kindly they visited several times and fed long enough for me to get photos!

My favorite pic is the one that the birds books do not seem to have. It is a pic of the yellow underside of the tail. Normally all I see is a bright flash of yellow as a flicker flies away. It is always breath-taking. I always hoped I could get a shot of the bird flying just to capture it. I guess they are a tad more hungry now and they did not spook as they normally do, so I got a great shot of the underside of the tail! Cool!

It was actually quite a revelation to capture this, because normally by the time I get my binocs on the bird, it is gone. This time I grabbed the camera first! Certainly it is my best ever photo of the species!!!

Yellow-shaft? How about a yellow underside of tail? That is what impressed me.

So continuing to be lucky, another photo told the story. When viewed from the backside - as one might see in the field when the bird is on a tree - you do not see the yellow underside. But, you clearly can see the yellow shafts (the main rib of the feathers) of the wings if the bird will sit long enough. OK. Yellow-shafted.

Notice I said wings, and not tail. Here you clearly see shafts on the wings. I do not see yellow shafts on what I can see of the tail. So now where is all that bright stuff I see when they are flying off? Hidden from this side! Interesting. The birds books talk about yellow underwings as well as the tail - no wonder I have seen a great yellow flash! (... now just to shoot the bird flying ...!) The books also talk about a white rump (on dorsal - i.e., upper side) seen when flying. It is another thing you do not see when the bird is perched. Maybe I will get lucky if they come back? I can only hope. But I did get the yellow shafts! (as well as a pic of the underside of tail not in bird books!!!)

To top off this blog, in looking at my pics tonight, I realized I also caught the female flicker. OK, so the two were a couple? Geez! Just one flicker in a year is great! These are large birds - they are larger than a Blue Jay -  and a commanding presence at the feeders. But, two in one day? First time in a dozen years! WOW! Super Sunday!!!

Here is the lovely lady:

Can you tell the difference?

OK. Go back and compare. The gal is different!

The male has a "moustache"! In the books, Sibley calls it a "black malar", but Kenn Kaufman just lays it out and calls it a "moustache" (not a formal bird part term, but more meaningful ...)! Come on! Am I going to look up malar? Well, sure, but I am weird like that ... but, I will go with moustache!

It was interesting that the female was feeding on a packaged suet cake - and obviously preferring imbedded seeds - while the male preferred the beef suet from Meijer. OK, I have a new hypothesis. Female flickers tend to be vegans, and males are carnivores! Hey, it WAS Superbowl Sunday and I had my pork ribs in the oven ...

(Often I make up my own hypotheses just so I can test them by future observations ... it makes me focus ...)

Now, having set up a hypothesis, I need lots of observations. Geez! I hope they both come back! The male did so twice today - each time taking large beakfuls of beef suet. Maybe the gal did not like the meat taste around the seeds? (Yes, I know it is anthropomorphic WRT humans, but that is how I start. Don't we all? We certainly do not think like birds... at least not as novices...). I know for sure that it is really hard for a pointy-long-beaked bird like this to pick up (meat-free) seeds from the feeders or deck - gotta cock their head weird. Better to peck and grab. Only time will tell ...

I mention the two suet types for another reason.A couple years ago, I stocked up on two dozen suet cakes and kept them out all winter. I had few visitors except occasional flocks of Starlings. Money wasted. Once the Red-winged Blackbirds came to town, I managed to quickly use them up between the RWBB and Starlings. Even House Sparrows rarely visit to pick out a few seeds when nothing is left at the feeders. Last year, I bought some beef suet - far cheaper and lasts longer (!) - about a buck a hunk! - and had regular vistits of Downy Woodpeckers all winter. The Downys are daily visitors this year as well. Interesting! Cakes just do not "sell" at my feeders in winter!

OK, I am done "rambling". I am very satisfied that I spent the time to share my great pics (if I do say so myself ...) and my ramble.

I should note that I am encouraged to try to better maintain my blog in the new year for several reasons.

I see my friend Kim Smith working much harder at her blog that is birding-heavy, but also explores what it means to be a highly sensitive person (as I suspect many birders are ...):

I know I have many "fans" from Hiking Michigan, where Rob Golda regularly posts my rambles. Rob is really famous for his great maps of parks with hiking trails. Check out the amazing links on his site!
Rob just put up bird ID sheets. This is from a person who loves outdoors and is not a birder.

And, to top it off, tonight I just discovered that my friend and mentor Jerry Jourdan included a reference to my blog as a blog he follows and linked to it on his own truly amazing blog! It was the first time I saw a world-famous birder posting a link to my "sometimes" blog of random rambles!!! Thanks, Jerry. This one is for you!
What triggered my look tonight was a reference to an amazing blog where Jerry discusses ages of Long-tailed ducks (LTD). Hey! This should have been a scientific paper! Probably the best shots of LTD ever and even included references! From a personal view as I scrolled down, I caught a ref to my blog. Cool!

Darn! I gotta do better this year maintaining my blog!!!

Thanks for the encouragement, my friends!!! Indeed, your feedback makes a huge difference! Really it makes a geat deal to me - and to all other bloggers! We bloggers all just kind of "throw stuff out there", and we know many people appreciate our stuff, but do you? Please give feedback to the bloggers who present things you enjoy! Yes the internet gives us free access to great things, but consider that some of your favorites can quit any time if we start to feel like it is a waste of time.

Yes, I will try to do better this year. I hope you liked my "Flicker Fest"!!!


Kim Smith said...

Great pics of your special visitors, Bob! And thanks for the shout out for my blog -- it's so cool that we're motivating each other to write more. I'm getting great satisfaction from the increased dialogue among my blogging friends!

"Dr. Bob" said...

Kim - So great you have more satisfaction with blogging! You are a great author! And many thianks fir getting me back on track!!!

"Dr. Bob" said...

I also need to note that after I posted this, my friend Rob Golda, put up a great blog about "what is a birder"! Oops! I quickly made my comment from a stereotype - yes, I have many - that was totally incorrect!!! Indeed, Rob is one of the best birders I know. And, aftre reading his blog, I question whether I am a birder within my own stereotype! I wil explore this further on my blog, but for now, please check Rob's response!

Anonymous said...

Just happened by your blog as I was looking up a bird I just saw on my feeder. Never saw this beauty before in my backyard. I live in Midwestern Illinois. Thought it was a woodpecker of some sort as we have several regulars, but I have this same bird at my feeder this morning! I love watching my birds!