“I identified my first bird!” Those were the words Raymond greeted me with when I had woken up and sleepily made my way downstairs one recent sunny Saturday morning at the Manse.
The story was this: shortly after Raymond got up and was, I suppose, making the coffee, he looked out one of the front windows and saw a woodpecker-type bird perched in a woodpecker-type pose on our newly planted elm tree. “I hope it doesn’t intend to peck at our little tree,” he thought to himself.
Apparently the woodpecker decided there wasn’t enough circumference (and there weren’t enough bugs) in the tree to be worth the bother, because he proceeded to hop down onto the lawn and start using his long beak to peck about in the grass, where doubtless he found some of those tasty grubs.
So Raymond observed for a while, noting the red spot on the back of the bird’s neck and the dark spot on its throat, and then went to our recently acquired National Audubon Society Field Guide to Birds (Eastern Region). And commenced to plowing through all the colour photos at the front of the book, until he was stopped dead by photo number 371, of the Northern “Yellow-shafted” Flicker. That was it!
“Flickers,” the Audubon guide says, “are the only woodpeckers in North America that commonly feed in the ground, searching for ants or beetle larvae on lawns or even sidewalks. During courtships and to proclaim their territory, flickers hammer on dead limbs or tin roofs.”
Raymond took the guide back to the window and, as he says, “cross-checked” what the book was telling him with what the bird was doing on our lawn. “And there it was,” he told me. “That was it.”
That’s our bird!