We feed the birds. The regulars are the cute little birds – Chickadees, Titmouse, and Goldfinch. Adding a bright splash of color, we see Cardinals, Blue Jays, and House Finch. The Juncos and Mourning Doves clean up the seed on the ground, so who wouldn’t like them? On really cold days, when the ground is snow covered, the country birds come to town and our feeders are filled with swarms of Red Winged Blackbirds and brown Cowbirds. The cats are not particular about which birds are at the feeders, they consider them all good kitty TV. However, I think the woodpeckers are the most fun to watch.
The Red Bellied Woodpecker has been stashing treats in an old hickory tree outside the dining room window. When he comes to the feeders he has to use acrobatics to hold on, tucking his tail under the base of the feeder and arching his back into a C. He holds on and eats while smaller birds dart to and fro grabbing a sunflower seed and flying off with their lunch. A little Downy Woodpecker has been working on a hole on the dogwood tree in front. I watch him tap away while I do the dishes. Twice, in 5 years, I have seen a Red Headed Woodpecker on our property. His brilliant crimson head contrasting with the black and white of his feathers is a stunning study of black, white, and red. And one day last year I saw a Northern Flicker. He was gorgeous. I invited him to stay for the summer. But he flew away in spite of my hospitality.
I’ve thought of that Northern Flicker over the months so was surprised and delighted when he came to call the other day. Bird-watch cat, Finn, alerted me, with a throaty, “Mew”. I watched from my chair as Mr. Flicker flew from the tree, flashing the yellow under his wings, lighting on the feeder. It was empty at the moment, empty of birds and seed. He didn’t waste any time flying from the feeder to the stone window ledge where he landed and pecked at my window. He looked right at me, cocked his head this way and that, fretted a bit, puffed up his chest, rippling the black feathers of his crescent bib, and tapped at the window again. Finn crouched low on the window seat, his ears pointed forward, his head tilting from side to side – in admiration? It was, after all, a sight to see! Or was he wondering what Northern Flicker tastes like?
As quickly as he came the bird was gone, down the road I suppose, to see what the neighbors have in their feeders.
Both of my Northern Flicker sightings left me with a sense of wonderment – so many interesting colors and contrasts in one bird: A speckled belly, rosy breast and cheeks, yellow beneath his wings, and a splash of red crowning his head. His long pointed beak, good for tapping on trees and rapping on windows.
I once made a quilt with an appliqued Northern Flicker block but I have a new quilt in mind using the color and texture palate that Mother Nature dropped at my window.
As I pulled on my coat to venture out in the cold afternoon to re-fill the feeders I laughed that a strong willed bird was bossing me around!