Migration of the Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker ~ Lighting Up the Sky!

As an artist I’m always hoping to try and capture a magical moment on canvas.  The magic can be subtle or it can be dramatic, but finding the magic is always half the battle.  Whether you’re looking for a dramatic landscape, seascape, or searching for a specific kind of bird, finding yourself in the right spot at the right time isn’t always easy.  Patience and a lot of luck often help!  ☺

This is a story of both luck and patience.  I set out early one morning knowing that it was cool and breezy, perfect weather for the Eagles to be enjoying the winds over the James River.  With camera in hand, I headed out on my usual “I’ll be back in about twenty minutes” morning birding excursion in search of some magic.  

As soon as the Eagle spotted me he took off up river, on up to the next point on the corner.  I was in shorts and a sweatshirt, and found myself shivering.  It was the first cold morning of the year and I wasn’t expecting it.  No birds were in sight, so I figured I might as well try and follow the Eagle, maybe he wouldn’t be quite so camera-shy when I arrive this time.  

He was hiding in the tall pines and he hung around just long enough for me to get a few pics.  They weren’t the dramatic shots that I was looking for.  They were better than getting skunked, but nothing extraordinary.  As he flew off, I knew my time was running short.  

Cold and knowing I could be home with a hot cup of coffee; I was torn as to whether I should walk around the bend to where I sometimes see an occasional woodpecker.  I always hate to leave without at least checking my favorite birding locations.  

What if there is some magic around the corner?  I still had a little time.  “Don’t be lazy,” I told myself.  As I walked around the corner, I noticed quite a bit of activity along the treetops.  Flocks of smaller birds were flitting all around.  Many of them looked like they might be woodpeckers!  

I worked my way to an opening in the woods with my back to the sun.  I saw what looked like a Northern Flicker land on a bare tree branch, then a second one, then a third one, then a fourth one, then a fifth one, and then finally a sixth one!!!  What was going on???  

As they flew off, more took their place.  Again up to six at a time.  I kept expecting that to be it, as they flew out over the James.  As I snapped away, several times I detected a large dark shadow circling me, only to look up and see a Juvenile Eagle looking down.  I found myself shooting back and forth at the Eagle and the Woodpeckers!  

Something magical was going on.  I was quite sure I was witnessing the migration of the Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker woodpecker!  It was something this newbie birder had never seen before.    

The sky was a rich blue, the underside of the Flickers were bright yellow, and the activity lit up the sky!  I went from hoping to see one woodpecker, to seeing dozens.  

As the activity died down, I realized my hands were just about frozen and I was ready to head home.  Good thing we moved from Maine to a warmer climate!  ☺

Here are a few more of the photographs I took of this beautiful bird.  

If you want to learn more about the colorful Northern Flicker, I find the www.allaboutbirds.com website a good birding resource.  

I can already envision a number of paintings from this one morning outing.  I always feel lucky if I can come home with one image that is worthy of painting.  When I come home with many, then it really is a field day!

Thanks as always for your interest in my art, my photography, and my journal!


One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion...
— William R. Beebe
What's next? Drawing by William R. Beebe

What's next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe